Melodia returns to the stage -- with a bluegrass band
by Teri Duerr for Vocal Area Network
Posted May 16, 2022

Melodia--Light of a Brand New DayWhat do Dolly Parton, Carly Simon and Carole King all have in common? In addition to being great American singer-songwriters, these legendary women will be featured in “Light of a Brand New Day,” the spring concert on May 22 that marks the return of Melodia Women’s Choir to singing before a live audience. The 25-singer ensemble takes the stage to bring listeners a deep and spirited dive into American roots music—the celebrated genre at the crossroads of gospel and blues and country and folk. It’s a sound that is at once both familiar and revolutionary thanks to its rich history as a “voice” for change throughout U.S. history. Melodia promises to put the choir’s unique spin on favorites, old and new, reimagined this season as choral works for women’s voices.

“With all of the uncertainty and unrest in our world, we wanted to share music that offers some comfort and respite from life’s tumult and provides a glimpse of some iconic American musical moments,” said Melodia Artistic Director Cynthia Powell.

In addition to songs from Parton, Simon and King, Melodia will perform Southern Harmony selections arranged by renowned vocal ensemble Anonymous 4, as well as a trio of folk revival pieces that include Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. The Dylan classic is dedicated to former Melodia singer Olenka Dzhedzhora, who sent a message from her besieged home in Lviv, Ukraine, asking Melodia to “sing for me.” Also featured is a set of two new adaptations of from pioneering African American women composers: Night by Florence B. Price (the first Black American female composer to gain national recognition) and Sleep Song by Margaret Bonds (a collaborator of Langston Hughes and the first Black soloist to perform with the Chicago Symphony). The concert’s final song, Rosephanye Powell’s Still I Rise, promises to close out Melodia’s rousing evening with a message of hope and resiliency.

Helping to bring their sound to life will be the Melodia all-female bluegrass band, featuring Hilary Hawke on banjo, Barbara Merjan on drums, Ann Klein on guitar, Chelsea Starbuck Smith on violin, Eleonore Oppenheim on double bass, and Melodia’s collaborative pianist Taisiya Pushkar.  “We are so excited to be performing with the bluegrass bad we assembled for this concert,” said Melodia Executive Director Jenny Clarke. “It’s not every day a classically trained choral ensemble gets to sing with a group of amazing bluegrass musicians!”

“Singing together again as a group after the pandemic shutdown and learning a style of music that is mostly new to us has been an absolute joy,” continued Clarke. “We look forward to sharing these pieces with our live and virtual audience.”

Live concert: Sunday, May 22 at 3:00 PM, Holy Apostles, 296 Ninth Avenue (at 28th Street), New York City; more details at melodiawomenschoirnyc.org/melodia-womens-choir-in-concert/. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors in advance; tickets at the door are $25. Order tickets at www.eventbrite.com/e/light-of-a-brand-new-day-melodia-womens-choir-spring-concert-live-tickets-310821454337. COVID policy: audience members are required to provide proof of vaccination at the door. Masks are required at all times.

Virtual concert: Saturday, June 18 at 7:00 PM, broadcast via YouTube for those who cannot attend in person. Free admission; register at www.eventbrite.com/e/light-of-a-brand-new-day-melodia-womens-choir-virtual-spring-concert-tickets-313504489367.

For more about Melodia Women's Choir, visit melodiawomenschoirnyc.org.

Teri Duerr is a writer and editor (and music lover!) based in Brooklyn, New York.