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Hoboken women's choir brings the world to New York area
by Rachel Chang for Vocal Area Network
Posted May 20, 2010

Joan Lipman and Leonardo San JuanSince the Cantigas Women's Choir started eight years ago, the Hoboken, NJ-based group has highlighted the power of women's voices with songs from around the globe from countries as diverse as Iran, Korea, France, Canada, Turkey, Egypt and Peru. But this spring, the 54-member choir honors the music of Argentina through Leonardo San Juan's Magnificat, with the Argentinian composer himself guest conducting this North American premiere of his piece.

Cantigas founder and director Joan Litman was first inspired by San Juan's piece when she attended a rehearsal of the Coral Femenino de San Justo choir in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and heard them working on it. "I immediately thought, 'Wow, what a dynamite piece!' There's so much variety in the composition-- so much vigor!" Litman says.

Litman knew right away the piece was the perfect match for Cantigas, who first performed excerpts from the Magnificat in December 2008. Audiences responded so enthusiastically that Litman reached out to the composer himself. "Music is a universal language, and I found that Joan and I had an instant connection, musically and personally. She had studied the work to a great detail," San Juan says.

San Juan traveled to the United States and has been working on his composition in intense yet motivating rehearsal sessions for the last three weeks with the choir composed of diverse women ranging in age from high school students to grandmas. The group will debut the piece on Saturday, May 22, at 7:30 PM at St. Mathew Trinity Church at 57 Eighth Street in Hoboken, N.J., followed by a Manhattan performance on Wednesday, May 26, at 7:30 PM at the Church of St. Joseph at 371 Sixth Avenue in New York City.

The two concerts are timed perfectly to New York's celebration of the Argentine Bicentennial. In fact, Argentine Consul General Alejandro Bertolo even wrote a letter stating, "These concerts will contribute to promote bilateral cultural exchange as a means of continuing and enhancing relations between Argentina and the United States of America. The Consulate General of Argentina in New York would like to thank Cantigas Women's Choir with Joan Litman as Musical Director for highlighting music from Argentina in its spring concerts."

And the Argentinian premiere is only part of Cantigas's spring concert, entitled "From Arabia to Argentina." The group will also perform songs from Arabia and the Middle East including the Arabic traditional song Ah Ya Zane and Persian folk song Dee Belol, European music like the Romanian carol Colind de Florii and music of the Americas like Canadian Srul Glick's Psalm 47 and Psalm 23 and the Mexican huapango Las Amarillas arranged by Stephen Hatfield.

"We are performing some of our best repertoire from our eight-year history including Cantigas classics that bring energy and excitement to the women of the choir. But what really distinguishes this concert, of course, is premiering Leonardo San Juan's Magnificat with him here to conduct the work himself."

Rachel Chang sings with Cantigas.

Content Contact: Rachel Chang.
Revision Date: September 27, 2010.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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