I had the fantastic opportunity to photograph an exceptional performance at the St Ann Church, Brooklyn Heights with the Grace Chorale Chorus of 85 artists in collaboration with the Vertical Player Repertory and orchestra.
Grace Chorale of Brooklyn: Jason Asbury, Music Director
Vertical Player Repertory: Judith Barnes, Artistic Director
The Constitution, A Secular Oratorio
by Benjamin Yarmolinsky
Composer Ben Yarmolinsky has set the text of the U.S. Constitution to be sung, chanted, and celebrated, just as many ancient laws have been sung throughout history. He has chosen a corresponding 18th-century musical style, the Handelian oratorio, as the model for his setting of “The Constitution”. The work comprises choruses, arias, and recitatives, similar to The Messiah, but with a recognizably American sound that combines jazz rhythms, blues, folk, gospel, as well as Handelian flourishes to give voice to the Constitution’s words in a clear, vigorous, and highly singable style. They even had some dance choreography to emphasize certain passages.
Even when concentrating on my job as a photographer of it I was in awe of the impressive performance and the sheer scale of the vocal colors. Absolutely amazing!
This collaboration VPR is the orchestral premiere of “one of the most unique and fascinating works in New York” —Operawire
The soloists are:
Liz Lang, soprano*
Michelle Trovato, soprano*
Linda Collazo, mezzo soprano*
Andrew Egbuchiem, countertenor*
Byron Singleton, tenor*
Blake Burroughs, bass-baritone*
Isaac Mann, baritone
Gavin McDonough, baritone
Jason Asbury, conductor
Judith Barnes, director
James Rutherford, consulting director
Karni Dorell, set design
D Frutkoff, stage manager
Note from the Director:
Given the lamentable drift towards fascism and oligarchy in our world today, the importance of engaging with the document that defines our rights and freedoms as citizens, aspiring citizens, and residents of this country can’t be overstated. Words set to music linger in the memory, and artistic engagement can transform us viscerally in ways that intellectual study sometimes does not. Experiencing these carefully crafted legal phrases set as song invites these concepts to enter us and work upon our understanding. I hope our collective experience of this piece, as performers and audience members, will spark our resolve to uphold the precious constitutional ideals of justice, freedom, human dignity, and participation in government, ideals which are in perpetual need of our conscious awareness and protection. Know your rights. They may not be what you think.