A gift to New York--The 5th Festival of Universal Sacred Music on November 12
by Jeffrey James for Vocal Area Network
Posted October 15, 2011

New York Virtuoso SingersThe Society for Universal Sacred Music will give a very special gift to New York on Saturday, November 12: the 5th Festival of Universal Sacred Music, beginning at 2:00 PM in the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre of Symphony Space, Broadway and 95th Street in Manhattan. This will be a free, daylong festival produced by the Society, Roger Davidson, President, and co-sponsored by the United Nations Association, in the style of the Wall to Wall events that Symphony Space presents each year.

This year's Festival features some of the finest vocal ensembles in the world: Anonymous 4; The New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, Conductor and Artistic Director of the Society; The Western Wind; and The Riverside Inspirational Choir and The Canticum Novum Youth Choir, Edie Rosenbaum, Director.  Roger Davidson established the tone of the event when he wrote this for the show program, "May our message of universal love, compassion and peace resonate far and wide today, and through that message may the presence of God be felt in every performance. There is a wide variety of music this year -- and unlike previous festivals, it is all taking place in one day. I hope that this format will focus the collective energy of all the music in our festival toward the fulfillment of our mission – to foster music that reflects the unconditional love of God for us all throughout the world."

Harold Rosenbaum wrote this, "We have gathered a stunning display of talent from across this country, Europe and the Middle East to perform music which will inspire and remind us that we are all brothers and sisters on this planet. There is jazz, classical, gospel, Indian music, early American, folk, and much more. Come for an hour or stay the whole day. I can't think of a better way to spend a day in NYC than to enjoy this free event.

Let's meet the vocal ensembles.

Renowned for their unearthly vocal blend and virtuosic ensemble singing, the four women of Anonymous 4 combine musical, literary, and historical scholarship with contemporary performance intuition as they create ingeniously designed programs, interweaving music with poetry and narrative. The members of the group are Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genesky, Susan Hellauer and Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek. Visit them at www.anonymous4.com/.

Founded in 1988 by conductor Harold Rosenbaum, The New York Virtuoso Singers has become this country's leading exponent of contemporary choral music. Although the chorus performs music of all periods, its emphasis is on commissioning, performing and recording the music of American composers. The choir appears on 20 commercial CDs. More about them at www.nyvirtuoso.org/aboutus.htm.

Since 1969, the internationally acclaimed vocal sextet The Western Wind has devoted itself to the special beauty and variety of a cappella music. The Ensemble's repertoire reveals its diverse background -- from Renaissance motets to Fifties rock 'n' roll, from medieval carols to Duke Ellington, from complex works by avant-garde composers to the simplest folk melodies. Members are Michele Kennedy, Linda Lee Jones, Todd Frizzell, Elliott Z. Levine, David Vanderwal and William Zukof. Their website is at www.westernwind.org.

The Riverside Inspirational Choir performs gospel and spiritual works and is directed by Nedra Olds-Neal.

The Canticum Novum Youth Choir was founded in 2001 by its director, Edie Rosenbaum, primarily to collaborate with Harold Rosenbaum's choirs. Her goal in founding the group was to help children learn to appreciate classical music by giving them the chance to sing masterworks on a professional level. Mrs. Rosenbaum has been conducting children's choirs since her teenage years; she is also a member of The Canticum Novum Singers and has been a member of The New York Virtuoso Singers. They're online at www.nyvirtuoso.org/cn/youthchoir.htm.

Others on the program include Indian classical singer and composer Deepak Kumar Pareek; Israeli singer Maya Raviv; jazz singer Catherine Russell; pianist and composer Roger Davidson; chant singer David Newman; baritone Thomas McCargar with Brent Funderburk on piano; and the music of composer Sharon Farber with multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek, percussionist David Kontesz and guitarist Freddy Schiftan as principal instrumentalists.

You can see videos of many of these performers at www.youtube.com/user/UniversalSacredMusic and you can join the Festival's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Society-for-Universal-Sacred-Music/85880356374.

During the performances, the theater’s inner lobby will feature a photography show about the nature of light by Aicha Skandrani, a Tunisian born artist who currently lives in France. The Riverkeeper organization will also be present at the event. The United Nations Association issued this statement which again sums up the spirit of the day, "The UNA-USA Southern New York State Division is proud to co-sponsor the 5th Festival of Universal Sacred Music. Our organization promotes international understanding, a concern for global issues and awareness of the common spirit of all humanity. Central to the founding purposes of the United Nations is 'to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.' This principle reflects the harmony that the Society for Universal Sacred Music will again display in the Festival at Symphony Space."

The November 12 Festival is free and open to the public. For more information about the performers and a schedule of the day's events, please visit www.universalsacredmusic.org/2011/11/12/2011-festival/ or call 914-241-0303. Symphony Space is ADA accessible. For MTA transportation information, visit tripplanner.mta.info. For directions to Symphony Space, visit www.symphonyspace.org/about/map.

Jeffrey James is a principal in Jeffrey James Arts Consulting.
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