By Tod Machover.
I had been discussing collaborating on Philadelphia Voices with Alysia Lee for several months, so it was a great treat to finally attend Saturday morning rehearsal of her Sister Cities Girlchoir at First Presbyterian Church in Fishtown. The girls ranged in age from about 12 to 18, and they showed an incredible amount of concentration for a Saturday morning; this came from practice and also from Alysia’s leadership and precise-but-expansive musicianship. The choir did some rhythmic exercises, then learned some melodies, then sang in counterpoint, then added movements to the music, and finally gathered in a large circle so that all of this could be consolidated and shared. The purity of tone and passionate delivery was infectious. After all of this, Alysia gave me a chance to work with the girls; I was pretty intimidated after seeing how well they worked without me! But we tried some additional rhythms, first counting 1-2-3-4, and then 1-2-3-4-5, as precisely and vividly as we could. I asked what word they knew that had five syllables...and someone finally guessed: “Philadelphia”. We experimented with the city name for 15 minutes or so, speaking, then singing, then shouting, both together and not-so-together. At the end, I gave the girls a challenge of helping to create Philadelphia Voices by thinking of words and phrases that convey the essence of the city to each of them, and then making melodies or texts to express those feelings. They will all work on this on their own and in Saturday rehearsals, and then we’ll get back together in a few weeks to share results. I am sure that some of this material will end up in Philadelphia Voices; the Sister Cities Girlchoir will be among the several hundred voices on stage for the premiere performances in Philly and at Carnegie Hall. Exciting!
Features Tod Machover's article on A Symphony for Lucerne on page 23.