Q&A: YNYC discusses upcoming performance, perspective on St. Patrick’s Day

By Alexa Spieler

Via the Big Red Apple

The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus (YNYC) is emphasizing the arts in relation to St. Patrick’s Day during their forthcoming concert, “Lightning Illuminates: Irish Poetry and Melody.” In the performance, which is occurring on March 10, the YNYC will examine Irish texts and transform them through music, including a premiere of “The Seconding Coming,” utilizing the setting of Yeat’s poem, in a composition by Mohammed Fairouz. Ben Raynor, a member of the cultural arts group, spoke with WSN over email to discuss the upcoming concert and YNYC’s take on St. Patrick’s Day.

WSN: YNYC has the Irish Culture & Music concert in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day coming up. How would you say it’s different, in comparison to other St. Patrick’s Day celebrations?

BR: Before preparing for this concert, my exposure to St. Patrick’s Day had been limited to beer and cartoon leprechauns. However, the true purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the heritage and culture of the Irish people. YNYC has spent the last few months learning about the works of these writers and we hope to share that with our fellow New Yorkers. The music in many cases also puts a more contemporary spin on the recognizable Irish melodies.

WSN: “Lightning Illuminates: Irish Poetry and Melody” will examine Irish texts and transforms them through music. On a personal level, what are some of your favorite selections of Irish literature or favorite authors?

BR: Personally, it has to be James Joyce and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Our Assistant Artistic Director, Christopher Mueller, has composed a few arrangements of old classics to be featured in this concert. They are definitely becoming some of my favorites, as well.

WSN: How would you describe working under the leadership of Michael Kerschner?

BR: Michael is incredibly talented and expressive in his conducting style. He is never one to back away from a challenge, and he often puts his singers to the test with varying styles and textures. Michael also has a deep passion for fostering young composers and premiering their new compositions/works. YNYC runs an annual Competition for Young Composers that is known throughout the country for working with some of the finest up-and-comers in the choral composition world. This makes for a different and unique feel for each concert that we perform.

WSN: At the concert, you’ll be premiering a new piece composed by the young composer, Mohammed Fairouz. How would you best describe the new composition?

BR: YNYC is privileged to be premiering Mohammed’s new work, “Second Coming,” taken from the song by Yeats. Fairouz’s work highlights the tension of the poem’s text, which describes the arrival of the antichrist with imagery of the end of times shared by the biblical book of Revelations and the Koran. This effect is created through an almost maze-like musical aesthetic, in which the parts intertwine and switch and, in a way, gracefully battle to convey the transformation that the poem represents.

WSN: I think it’s extremely interesting that YNYC is very intent on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in a meaningful way, versus the emphasis on pub crawls. How do you hope this will impact those celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day? Do you think this is something other artists should aspire to do?

BR: The beauty of this concert is that it showcases both light-hearted Irish tunes, such as “Pub with No Beer” and “Drunken Sailor,” and more serious Irish texts. [like] “Second Coming” and “Anything Can Happen.” We hope that the concert will give attendees a well-rounded look at Irish texts and music and offer a respite for those who want to honor Irish culture, perhaps without pub crawls. Although the drinking songs are still a fun feature in the vein of a more traditional St. Patrick’s celebration!

WSN: Throughout the concert, YNYC is also incorporating an interesting social media campaign, with the help of utilizing Instagram. Tell us about the incorporation of Instagram with the concert.

BR: This overarching theme of this season is “Instachromatic.” Instagram is like music in so many ways — people will see one image and choose a filter for it based on their current mood or personal experiences, just as many people can hear the same song and interpret it in different ways. We want to encourage people to connect visuals with the songs and perhaps further illuminate the music the illustrations and photography.

WSN: As for the remainder of the year, what upcoming plans does YNYC have? 

BR: Young New Yorkers Chorus (YNYC) is composed of two groups. Our Women’s Ensemble will be hosting a concert on Sunday, May 31 entitled “Change.” Our Mixed Voice Ensemble will be performing its last concert “Heartbreak and Romance: on June 6

Alexa Spieler is the Arts Editor. Email her at aspieler@nyunews.com

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