The Glass Box at Merkin Hall Complete Program Notes

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The Glass Box

Young People’s Chorus of New York City and Yale Choral Artists

Merkin Hall

June 18, 2018

Complete program notes:

Young People’s Chorus of New York City

Forever Is My Song

Francisco J. Núñez

Out of the Mist, Above the Real (An Irish Cantata)

  1. Who But I?

Daniel Brewbaker


Pekka Kostiainen

Três Cantos Nativos Dos Indios Kraó

Traditional Brazilian

Traditional Brazilian

Traditional Brazilian
Arr. Marcos Leite

Borderless (World Premiere)

with Haven String Quartet

Arturo O’Farrill

To Sing

Michael Gordon

“West Side Story” Medley

Leonard Bernstein

Arr. Matt Podd

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

Yale Choral Artists and Young People’s Chorus of New York City

The Glass Box

Paola Prestini

Yale Choral Artists

You Do Not Walk Alone

Dominic DiOrio

the national anthems

  1. our land with peace
  2. our hearts are glowing
  3. fame and glory
  4. keep us free
    • Sarah Yanovich, Sarah Brailey, Kate Maroney, Gene Stenger, Stephen Hrycelak, soloists
  5. our common fate
    • Sarah Brailey, soloist

Dominic DiOrio

Yale Choral Artists and Young People’s Chorus of New York City

You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Willie Dixon

Arr. Francisco J. Núñez


Young People’s Chorus of New York City® (YPC) is a multicultural youth chorus internationally renowned not only for its superb virtuosity and brilliant showmanship, but as a model for an inclusive society that is being replicated globally. This year YPC is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its founding in 1988 by Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur Fellow and Musical America’s 2018 Educator of the Year. For the past three decades this groundbreaking program has harnessed the power of music to fulfill the potential of every child and has established the youth chorus as a significant and often untapped instrument for making music. Under the leadership of Mr. Núñez and YPC Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez, over 1,700 children from ages 8 to 18 participate annually in YPC. More than 425 choristers sing in its core after-school program, and over 1,200 children participate through YPC’s School Choruses program in 18 New York City schools, in addition to more than 100 children in YPC’s two thriving after-school community choruses in Manhattan’s Washington Heights and Goddard Riverside Community Center.

The repertoire for YPC ranges from renaissance and classical traditions through gospel, folk, pop, contemporary, and world music. In addition, YPC has extended and invigorated the repertoire for young voices by commissioning over 100 pieces of new music from many of today’s most distinguished composers. YPC’s commitment to artistic excellence and diversity inspires frequent invitations for collaborations and performances from a global array of festivals, cultural institutions, and cities on four continents. In the coming weeks YPC performs in British Columbia, 18 cities on its fifth tour of Japan, and returns to Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival for two performances of the New York production premiere of Bernstein’s MASS, a theater piece for singers, players, and dancers.

YPC was named New York’s first radio choir by WNYC, New York Public Radio; the first children’s chorus to open Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival; and has won over a dozen gold medals in international choral competitions, including the only U.S. chorus to win first place in the 54-year history of the European Broadcasting Union’s Euroradio choral competition. Among its many other awards and honors are the 2017 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, a Chorus America Education Outreach Award and two Chorus America/ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming. In 2011 YPC was presented with America’s highest honor for youth programs—a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

Concert Chorus:

Eve Barenberg

Alyssa Blake

Georgia Bomar

Fei Bu

Thenjiwe Buthelezi

Eve Calderon-Caswell

Kendra Castro

Miriam Ciacca

Katharine Cook

Zaria Dickerson-Parker

Madeline Dominguez

Michaela Duryea

Dea Elezaj

Eloise  Esseks

Amberlis Fernandez

Lennon Franklin

Naya Griles

Chyanne Gyemfi

Alexia Heurtelou

Nyota  Holmes-Cardona

Raychel Jackson

Bianca Jeffrey

Jessica Jiao

Kai Kelly

Gia Khanna

Nefelie Kiskinis

Irena Kogarova

Riya Koshy

Gabrielle Kuker

Victoria Manning

Natalie McCormick

Francesca Michielli

Mina Moore

Anna Moustakerski

Jasmine Neal

Kayla Phanor

Iandra  Ramos

J’Noir Richardson

Aiyana Roman

Thea Rose

Hannah Rudt

Jeniecy Scarlett

Alexa Schwartz

Thalia St. Hubert

Skye Tarshis

Kaia Tien

Theodora Tomuta

Tais Torres

Caroline Watters

Cierra Willis

Sylvie  Winkler

Young Men

Aaron Agudelo

Dylan Batista

Jordan Batista

Sean Beauge

William Brooks

Samuel Chachkes

Nicolas De Azevedo

Byron De Leon

Sebastian Garcia

Andy Guzman

Jackson Hill

Dwayne Lewis

Brandon Louisor

Ronan  McKinnon

Howell-John   Nunez

Adam  Osman-Krinsky

Marcelo Ranghelli-Duran

Isaac Reeves

Elliot Sadoff

Johnathan Screen

Tucker Smith

Alec Spector

Maximilian Stein

Santiago Vargas

Elliangel Vega

Karll Velez-Domingo

Aundre Williams

Zaccariah Wright

Martin Zakoian

Francisco J. Núñez

Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur Fellow, is a composer, conductor, visionary, leading figure in music education, and the artistic director/founder of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC).  Since he founded YPC in 1988, Mr. Núñez has heightened an awareness of the ability of children to rise to unforeseen levels of artistry.  Mr. Núñez also leads the University Glee Club of New York City, its fifth conductor since the all-men’s chorus was established in 1894.  He is sought after nationwide as a guest conductor by professional orchestras and choirs, as a master teacher, and a frequent keynote speaker as a leading authority on the role of music in achieving equality and diversity for children in today’s society.  Mr. Núñez composes countless compositions and arrangements in all musical formats and styles for choirs, orchestras, and solo instruments and has received an ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and the New York Choral Society’s Choral Excellence Award.  ABC-TV has honored him as its “Person of the Week” and Fox News has profiled him for “changing young lives with music.” Musical America named him its 2018 Educator of the Year, NYU Steinhardt honored him with its Distinguished Alumnus Achievement Award; and he has received Honorary Doctor of Music degrees from both Ithaca College and Gettysburg College.

Jon Holden

Jon Holden has been the principal pianist for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City since 1990.  He has accompanied the ensemble in the world premieres of more than 100 new works, as well as on recordings, radio and television appearances, and hundreds of concerts and competitions on four continents. In addition to YPC, Jon is the principal pianist for the NYU Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the University Glee Club of New York City, and a pianist for Broadway orchestras. Jon received a Masters Degree in Music from Yale University and a Ph.D. from New York University, where he is has been a faculty member since 1995.

Paola Prestini

Paola Prestini is “the imaginative composer” (NY Times), “Visionary-In-Chief” (Time Out NY), Co-founder and Artistic Director behind the Brooklyn venue National Sawdust. She was recently named an “Innovator” on the list of Top 30 Professionals of the Year by Musical America, the country’s oldest classical music magazine; she is on Brooklyn Magazine’s latest list of “influencers of Brooklyn culture…in perpetuity” alongside such household names as Chuck Schumer and Spike Lee; she is one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (The Washington Post); and on the “Top 100 Composers in the World” list by NPR. Prestini’s music and works have been commissioned by and performed at The Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, BAM, Barbican Centre, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, New York Philharmonic, and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, among others. Since 1999 when she co-founded the multimedia production company VisionIntoArt while at the Juilliard School, (now relaunched as National Sawdust Projects), she has collaborated with poets, filmmakers, conservationists and astrophysicists in large-scale multimedia works (often in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects). She was a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, and studied with Peter Maxwell Davies, Samuel Adler and Robert Beaser at the Juilliard School.

Royce Vavrek

Royce Vavrek is a librettist and lyricist whose opera Angel’s Bone with composer Du Yun was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music.  He is known for his diverse collaborations with composers including David T. Little (Dog Days, JFK), Missy Mazzoli (Song from the Uproar, Breaking the Waves, Proving Up), Ricky Ian Gordon (27, The House Without a Christmas Tree), Joshua Schmidt (Midwestern Gothic), Paola Prestini (Yoani, The Hubble Cantata) and Gregory Spears (O Columbia). Upcoming projects include Film Stills, a quartet of operatic monologues for mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, directed by R.B. Schlather and composed by Du Yun, Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly and Paola Prestini; Jacqueline with composer Luna Pearl Woolf; Song of America: Beyond Liberty created for Thomas Hampson with director Francesca Zambello; and a new opera with David T. Little through the Met/LCT commissioning program.  Royce is co-Artistic Director of The Coterie, an opera-theater company founded with Tony-nominated soprano Lauren Worsham.  The company is currently developing a series of short operatic films adapted from Aaron Teel’s novella-in-flash Shampoo Horns, a project supported by the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. He holds a BFA in Filmmaking and Creative Writing from Concordia University, Montreal and an MFA from the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at NYU.  He is an alum of American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program.  Twitter/Instagram: @rvavrek

Arturo O’Farrill

Arturo O’Farrill, pianist, composer, and educator, was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City.  He received his formal musical education at the Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. Arturo’s professional career began with the Carla Bley Band and continued as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists, from Dizzy Gillespie and Lester Bowie to Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte. An avid supporter of the arts, Arturo has performed with Ballet Hispanico, Ron Brown’s EVIDENCE Dance Company, and the Malpaso Dance Company, for whom he has written two ballets. Arturo has received commissions from Meet the Composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Music Project, the Apollo Theater, Symphony Space, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Young People’s Chorus of New York, and the New York State Council on the Arts.  Arturo is a six-time Grammy Award-winner, most recently for Three Revolutions from the album “Familia-Tribute to Chico and Bebo,” presented to him earlier this year for Best Instrumental Composition.  Others include Afro-Latin Jazz Suite from “CUBA: The Conversation Continues” (Motéma) in 2016 for Best Instrumental Composition, in addition to a 2016 Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Recording.  In 2007, he founded the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of Afro Latin music.

Kevork Mourad

Kevork Mourad is an Armenian artist from Syria who has exhibited around the world and is represented by the Galerie Claude Lemand. His technique of spontaneous painting brought him to collaborations in which art and performance develop in counterpoint to each other. As an artist-performer, he is an active member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, with which he has performed, among others, at the Brooklyn Museum, Nara Museum in Japan, Art Institute of Chicago, and the American Museum of Natural History, (and with whom he appears in the 2016 documentary The Music of Strangers). He has performed around the world in such prestigious institutions as the Lincoln Center Atrium, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard University, the Rubin Museum of Art, Tanglewood, the Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal, the Dutch Royal Palace for the Prince Claus Foundation, the Elbphilharmonie, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He recently had two large works exhibited at the Rose Art Museum in Boston. This past February he created and performed the visuals for the LA Master Chorale’s production of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The 2016 recipient of the Robert Bosch Stiftung prize, he is currently at work on an animated short film about Syria.


Yale Choral Artists

Yale Choral Artists is a professional choir recently founded by the Yale School of Music and the Yale Glee Club to enhance and enrich Yale’s strong commitment to the choral arts. The choir is a project-based ensemble comprised of leading singers from around the country and is directed by School of Music faculty member Jeffrey Douma. Current members of the Choral Artists also perform in the ranks of such acclaimed ensembles as the Trinity Wall Street Choir, Chanticleer, the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, Voices of Ascension, Conspirare, and many others, and are also leading concert soloists, particularly in the area of early music.

The Yale Choral Artists made their debut in an all-Handel program led by guest conductor William Christie at Yale and in Zankel Hall in February of 2012. They have since performed as a featured ensemble at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, the Yale International Choral Festival, and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, have appeared in two productions with the renowned Mark Morris Dance Group, and have presented premiere performances of new works by Hannah Lash, Ted Hearne, and David Lang. Recent projects include their first collaboration with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in a program of Britten and Pärt, a performance of David Lang’s The National Anthems  and Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir, a program of motets from the 15th century to the present day, an appearance at the New York Philharmonic Biennial, and a performance of new works by Yale composers Hannah Lash, David Lang, and Ted Hearne with the Yale Philharmonia. In 2017, they performed to much acclaim the premiere of Martin Bresnick’s new oratorio, Passions of Bloom: Whitman, Melville, Dickinson, as well as a program pairing Poulenc’s virtuosic cantata Figure humaine with Josquin’s Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales.


Arianne Abela

Sarah Brailey

Molly Netter

Sarah Yanovich


Eric Brenner

Kate Maroney

Emily Marvosh

Virginia Warnken


Colin Britt

Noah Horn

Steven Soph

Gene Stenger


Stephen Hrycelak

Glenn Miller

Edmund Milly

Tian Hui Ng

Jeffrey Douma

Since the fall of 2003, Jeffrey Douma has served as Director of the Yale Glee Club, hailed under his direction by The New York Times as “one of the best collegiate singing ensembles, and one of the most adventurous.” He also serves as Professor of Conducting at the Yale School of Music, where he teaches in the graduate choral program, as founding Director of the Yale Choral Artists, and as Artistic Director of the Yale International Choral Festival.

Douma has appeared as guest conductor with choruses and orchestras on six continents, and has prepared choruses for performances under such eminent conductors as William Christie, Valery Gergiev, Sir Neville Marriner, Sir David Willcocks, Dale Warland, Krzysztof Penderecki, Nicholas McGegan, and Helmuth Rilling.

An advocate of new music, Douma established the Yale Glee Club Emerging Composers Competition and Fenno Heath Award, and has premiered new works by such composers as Caroline Shaw, Jennifer Higdon, Dominick Argento, Bright Sheng, Martin Bresnick, Ted Hearne, Hannah Lash, David Lang, Rene Clausen, and James Macmillan. He also serves as editor of the Yale Glee Club New Classics Choral Series, published by Boosey & Hawkes. His original compositions are published by G. Schirmer and Boosey & Hawkes.

Douma earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting from the University of Michigan.

Haven String Quartet

Featured in the New York Times and on NPR, and sought after for both their command on the concert stage and their mastery as teachers, Haven String Quartet has been described as “exquisite” by the NH Register.

Its four members represent the world’s top conservatories and bring outstanding chamber music performances to New Haven neighborhoods and throughout the region with a full season of concerts, recitals, educational workshops, and performances for diverse audiences in public spaces.

The Quartet serves as the permanent quartet-in-residence and teaching faculty for Music Haven, and  spearheads the organization’s tuition-free strings program for youth, which has been recognized as a top 50 after-school arts program in the country by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities for six years. Each member of HSQ teaches a full studio of 15-20 Music Haven students in private lessons, group classes, studio classes, chamber groups, and an advanced chamber orchestra.

Program Notes & Texts

Forever is My Song

Music by Francisco J. Núñez

Text by Eric Gamalinda

The kulintang is a potent cultural symbol in the Phillipines. It is native to the southern island of Mindanao among indigenous peoples who have constantly been subjected to war (from the Spanish era to the present day), poverty, and displacement – and their culture is being threatened out of existence. The idea of children singing about the kulintang, therefore, is a very significant symbol: innocence and hope in the face of sorrow and war. (Eric Gamalinda)

When others grow old

I will always grow young

And my tender soul

Will sing like the kulintang

When they talk of war

I will sing my praise of love

They say no but I say yes

They say yin and I say yang

In a time of orphans

I remember how my mother sang

And in the dead of night

How bright the music rang

When all is weakened by the pang

Of loss,

I am made of metal,

My voice as strong

As the brass gong’s clang.

I will not disappear

I will always be here

My world is my poem

And forever is my song

For I am the future

And I have just begun

Out of the Mist, Above the Real (An Irish Cantata)

  1.     Who But I?              

Music by Daniel Brewbaker

Words after Amergin

Out of the Mist, Above the Real,” an Irish Cantata, resulted from the confluence of several cultural and personal journeys…The cantata and the poems on which it is based express a search for ancient origins, a passionate yearning to find the most distant, primal, earthly, and heavenly progenitor of existence.

Who But I?” is set to an incantation by Amergin, presumed by legend to have been the first Druid priest/poet to arrive on Irish shores. His origins lie in the ancient Irish mists of time. The words invoke the myriad forms through which consciousness and the all-pervading anima mundi, the soul of the world, are made manifest, and their embodiment by the speaker/singer through a mystical transformative power known as “Shape-shifting.” The uilleann pipes represent this primal cry of original genesis. The children represent the power of knowledge and experience, and man’s unity with nature. (Daniel Brewbaker)

I am Wind upon the Sea,

I am Wave of the Ocean,

I am Murmur of the Billows,

I am Ray of Golden Sun,

I am Hawk above the Cliff,

I am Wild Boar in Valour,

I am Point of Lance in Battle,

I am Stag of Seven Tynes.

Who but I can throw the Light upon the Meeting of the Mountains,

Who but I will cry aloud the Ageless Phases of the Moon,

Who but I can know the place where Sun returns at Time of Rest?

Who but I?

Satakieli (Nightingale)                                                          

Music by Pekka Kostiainen

Text by Mika Waltari

Jossain laulaa lintu hopeinen,                                               Somewhere a silver bird sings

Lintu kuolematon nuoruuden,                                                Immortal bird of youth

Auki sulaa ovi jäätynyt sydän,                                               The door to the frozen heart melts open

Hetkesi on tullut juuri nyt.                                         Your moment has just arrived.

Finnish composer and choral conductor Pekka Kostainen composed “Satakieli” for the Philomela Female Choir, who premiered the piece in Helsinki in 1989. The piece sets four lines of text from Finnish writer Mika Waltari’s poem “Viimeinen kevätyö” or “Last Springtime.” The contrasting textures and close harmonies in Kostainen’s setting suggest the freeing effect of a nightingale’s song on a cold and sleeping heart. (Emma Hathaway)

Três Cantos Nativos Dos Indios Kraó

Traditional Brazilian  

Arr. Marcos Leite

Freely based on melodies sung by the Kraó tribe – a group of native Brazilian Indians who live in the Xingú river area of the Amazônia forest of northwestern Brazil – Três Cantos Nativos Dos Indios Kraó takes the listener on a journey through the Brazilian rainforest. The work is divided into three short sections or cantos. Because the meaning of the text is unknown, Leite treated each word as a group of phonemes, emphasizing the natural rhythms and percussive nature of the text. (Emma Hathaway)

RAM Dekekeke korirare hê

Jaramutum korirare

Patchô iunerê djô sire

Patchô parrare adjôsirê

Iunerê kaporra djô sire

Kamerrêra kidéri kema

Tiôiremô uaritete ahâm


West Side Story Medley                                                                               

Music by Leonard Bernstein

Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Arr. Matt Podd

Since it debuted on Broadway in 1957, West Side Story has become one of the most iconic, most beloved, and most performed musicals in the history of American musical theater. The brainchild of Jerome Robbins (choreography), Arthur Laurents (script), Leonard Bernstein (music), and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), West Side Story tells a “Romeo and Juliet” based tale whose message has resonated with audiences for generations: love can overcome hate. Matt Podd’s “West Side Story Medley” combines five songs from Bernstein and Sondheim’s score: “Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” “America,” and “Somewhere.” Through these five excerpts, the medley captures West Side Story’s distinct combination of youthful playfulness and earnest anticipation for a world with fewer divisions – “a new way of living.”  (Emma Hathaway)

Could be! Who knows?

There’s something due any day;

I will know right away, soon as it shows.

I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,

Gonna come true, coming to me!

Could it be? Yes it could.

Something’s coming, something good, if I can wait!

Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,

But it is gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,

Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock

Open the latch!

Something’s coming, don’t know when but it’s soon;

Catch the moon, one-handed catch!

Around the corner or whistling down the river,

Come on, deliver to me!

Who knows?

It’s only just out of reach,

Down the block, on a beach, maybe tonight.

Tonight, tonight, won’t be just any night,

Tonight there will be no morning star.

Tonight, tonight, I’ll see my love tonight

And for us, stars will stop where they are.

Today the minutes seem like hours,

The hours go so slowly, and still the sky is light.

Oh moon, grow bright,

And make this endless day endless night. Tonight!

I feel pretty, oh so pretty,

I feel pretty and witty and bright,

And I pity any girl who isn’t me tonight.

I feel charming, oh so charming,

It’s alarming how charming I feel,

And so pretty that I hardly can believe I’m real.

See the pretty girl in the mirror there.

Who can that attractive girl be?

Such a pretty face, such a pretty dress,

Such a pretty smile, such a pretty me!

I feel stunning and entrancing

Feel like running and dancing for joy,

For I’m loved by a pretty wonderful boy!

I like to be in America!

O.K. by me in America!

Ev’rything free in America for a small fee in America!

I like the city of San Juan

I know a boat you can get on.

Hundreds of flowers in full bloom.

Hundreds of people in each room!

Immigrant goes to America!

Many hellos in America!

Nobody knows in America, Puerto Rico’s in America!

There’s a place for us,

Somewhere a place for us.

Peace and quiet and open air

Wait for us somewhere.

There’s a time for us,

Someday a time for us,

Time together with time to spare,

Time to look, time to care

Some day! Somewhere!

We’ll find a new way of living,

We’ll find a way of forgiving, somewhere.

There’s a place for us,

A time and place for us.

Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there

Somehow! Someday! Somewhere!


Music by Arturo O’Farrill

Words by Eric Gamalinda and Luisa Muhr

I would’ve been a candidate for DACA.  My parents brought us here on a temporary visa and we ended up being undocumented for 15 years.  I found out when invited to perform internationally only to be told that if I left the country I would not be able to return.  I traveled under a Mexican passport with a reentry permit and a green card for several years.  I married a US citizen and tried to naturalize only to be told I was automatically a citizen because my mother was born in Detroit and my father immigrated in 1976.  Yes, it does seem completely arbitrary.

This piece was inspired by the idea that citizenship is not a national reality.  That political and national borders are constructs created by men who want to parcel the earth into profitable portions that enrich only those who subscribe to them.  The imposition of walls, checkpoints and borders are an unnatural phenomenon that is contrary to the true order of the planet.

Our home is the earth and we are one people.  Nothing less than this is acceptable.  The United States land stolen from an indigenous nation and therefore every one of us is an “immigrant”.

Humans share more than physiology.  The root components of language, the sounds that our mouths naturally make are common to all.  By the creative spirit imbedded in us, they result in the thousands of languages we speak.

The sounds in “Borderless” come from research done by a wonderful artist named Luisa Muhr.  The base componentry of keywords that are found throughout the piece are also fragments of words from many languages.  Ma-n-ti-ca from ancient Greek means divination.  T-o-ke-ta from Japanese derivation means the “hold down” is broken.  Bi-tza-nu from Hebrew means we perform.  A-ga-pe is ancient Greek for the most important word of all, Love.  And finally, the root sounds, Da-ca, the dreamers act proposed by President Barack Obama to end the nightmare of undocumented young people who only know the United States as their home.

The text is from the pen of master poet, Eric Gamalinda and describes the reality as opposed to the construct, the dream versus the possibility, the truth versus the condition we find ourselves in.  We find solace in the words that dare propose such a truth, that proclaim such a victory.  “I will keep the light on, and wait for you to enter the dream”

I wish to thank Maestro Francisco Núñez, Young People’s Chorus of New York City, Eric Gamalinda and Luisa Muhr for giving me the opportunity to write this piece and share the dream. – (Arturo O’Farrill)


I dream of a world

where the world is everyone’s home.

My place of birth is love.

My language is music

that everyone can sing.

My faith is the one that says

the light of heaven shines on all.

My color is the color

of everything that is beautiful to me.

I belong to one people,

the race of you and me.

The earth is my country,

I look after it as it looks after me,

and for everything I’ve lost

something else is given back in full.

Is this the world of dreams,

or the world of possibilities?

I will name it Here and Now.

I will leave all roads open

and hope that I will find you,

and you will find me.

I will keep the light on

and wait for you

to enter the dream.

To Sing                                                                                                          

Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon composed “To Sing” for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City in 2017 on the issue of free speech. The piece, premiered at the Songbridge Festival 2017 with Vox Aurea and the Indonesian Children and Youth Choir Cordana, was inspired by the energy and passion of the large scale demonstrations that took place in the United States throughout 2016 and 2017. As Gordon participated in these marches, he heard chants of hope, protest, and liberty. He reflects: “The right to criticize our own government is basic human right, yet more than half of the world lives without this freedom. In many countries, newspapers, TV, internet, literature and the arts are censored.” He condensed these many ideas and expressions of freedom to one line: Everybody has the right to sing this song.

Everybody has the right to sing this song.

Todos tienen el derecho a cantar esta cancion.

Everybody has the right to sing this song.

You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Words and Music by Willie Dixon

Arr. Francisco J. Núñez

Written by American blues musician, songwriter, and producer Willie Dixon, “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” was first recorded by the legendary blues-rock musician Bo Diddley in 1962. In this first rendition, Bo Diddley addresses a potential lover, trying to persuade them through a series of metaphors that they cannot judge him by his looks, just as they cannot “judge a book by looking at the cover.” Recorded by a wide variety of artists since 1962, “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” has become much more than a pointed love song, taking on broader social connotations about overcoming baseless stereotypes. In January 2018, R&B singer SZA recorded the song alongside six emerging artists as part of Mastercard’s “Start Something Priceless” campaign, with the intention of inspiring a diverse audience to pursue their passions in the face of adversity. The Young People’s Chorus of New York City premiered Francisco Núñez’s choral arrangement of the song as part of the “Start Something Priceless” campaign as well. The driving rhythm and bright, percussive style of Núñez’s gospel-inflected arrangement sounds as a joyful celebration of difference and shared humanity. (Emma Hathaway)

You can’t judge an apple by looking at a tree
You can’t judge honey by looking at the bee
You can’t judge a daughter by looking at the mother
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

Oh can’t you see, Oh you’ve misjudged me?
I look quite different but I’m your brother
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.

You can’t judge sugar by looking at the cane,
You can’t judge a woman by looking at her man,
You can’t judge a sister by looking at her brother,
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.

You can’t judge a fish by lookin’ in the pond,
You can’t judge right from looking at the wrong,
You can’t judge one by looking at the other,
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.

You Do Not Walk Alone

You Do Not Walk Alone is a setting of a traditional Irish blessing. Its meaning speaks of those who give support in times of trial. We rely on the good graces and hope of others even in our darkest moments. My musical tapestry is one of unadorned a cappella mixed chorus, using soft dissonances and free-flowing counterpoint. The voices are sometimes asked to divide, creating a sonic wash of color and overtones. Together in song, we do not walk alone.

This work was commissioned by and is dedicated to the Macalester Concert Choir and their director, and my good friend, Michael McGaghie. – (Dominick DiOrio)

May you see the light on the path ahead

When the road you walk is dark.

May you always hear, even in your hour of sorrow,

The gentle singing of the lark.

When times are hard,

May hardness never turn your heart to stone,

May you always remember when the shadows fall

— You do not walk alone.

the national anthems

David Lang

Every country has a history – how it came to be, how its wars were won or lost, how strong its people are, or how proud, or how sad.  We group ourselves into nations, but it has never really been clear to me what that means, or what we get out of it.  Are we grouped together because we believe something together and are proud of associating with others who believe the same way?  Or are we grouped together because our ancestors found themselves pushed onto a piece of land by people who didn’t want them on theirs?  It seems that all nations have some bright periods and some dark periods in their past.  Building a national myth out of our bright memories probably creates a different character than if we build one out of the dark.

I had the idea that if I looked carefully at every national anthem I might be able to identify something that everyone in the world could agree on.  If I could take just one hopeful sentence from the national anthem of every nation in the world I might be able to make a kind of meta-anthem of the things that we all share.  I started combing through the anthems, pulling out from each the sentence that seemed to me the most committed.  What I found, to my shock and surprise, was that within almost every anthem is a bloody, war-like, tragic core, in which we cover up our deep fears of losing our freedoms with waves of aggression and bravado.

At first I didn’t know what to do with this text.  I didn’t want to make a piece that was aggressive, or angry, or ironic.  Instead, I read and re-read the meta-anthem I had made until another thought became clear to me.  Hiding in every national anthem is the recognition that we are insecure about our freedoms, that freedom is fragile, and delicate, and easy to lose.  Maybe an anthem is a memory informing a kind of prayer, a heartfelt plea:

There was a time when we were forced to live in chains.

Please don’t make us live in chains again. (David Lang)

our land with peace

our land with swords

all of us are brave

we have one wish

we have one goal

we swear by lightning

and by our fragrant blood

heaven gave us life

and we alone remain

we fight for peace

our country calls us

and we hear her call

we hear the sound of our chains breaking

we crown ourselves in glory and we die

death is the same for everyone

but dying for our land will make us blessed

for we are young and free

land with mountain

land with river

land with field

if you need our death

our blood, our heart, our soul

we are ready

we lift our heads up to the rising sun

our peace

our values

our skies

our hearts

our songs

our tears

our time

our land

our seed

our pride

we have no doubts or fears

our faithful friends

are faithful in the battle

our land, we swear to you

our blood is yours to spill

keep watch, angels

keep watch, stars

keep watch, moon

our parents knew how to fight

the sun will shine on us forever

when the wicked come

let them prepare for death

for we would rather die

than live as slaves

our land, you fill our souls with fire

our blessed land

our parents left this land to us

our hearts defy our deaths

a vivid ray of love and hope descends

upon us and our land

bless us with long life

our land is love and beauty without end

harvest our vows, which ripen underneath your sun

our land, to lead a peaceful life

we give our lives

we were wounded

we were bruised

then we rose up

our past is sleeping in our forests

you are our garden

and our grave


our hearts are glowing

sing brother, sister

our freedom must be sung

we were slaves

we were scorned

but now, our future is ours

our flowers

our fields

our fertile soil

we will die before we let

the wicked step upon them

we are not slaves

we are the seed that sprouts

upon the fields of pain

we are one blood

on our land we were born

our heads were bowed –

now raise them

we are wild with joy

and if we have to die

what does it matter?

our children know

the fight has made our faces glow

sweet shelter

kissed by our sun, our trees, our wind

we don’t fear death

die for our land and live

we know our selves

by our terrifying sword

ours is our land

ours is our beautiful land

our land is where

our heroes rest

our earth

our sky

our peace

our blood

these are our gifts

we broke our chains

united, firm, determined

our face is brighter than our sun

we are our loyal guardian

in each of us the hero remembers how to fight

we walk the path of happiness

to our rightful place

with our last breath

we thank ourselves


fame and glory

fame and glory

no valley

no hill

no water

no shore

the bloody flag is raised

the wicked howl

they come to cut our throats

to throw us back in chains

no sorcerers

no poison

no deceivers

no fear

we strive

we work

we pray

our star rises up

and shines between two seas

our heart and hand

are the pledges of our fortune

with mind and strength of arm

we recognize ourselves

by our terrifying sword

with heads, with hearts, with hands

we will die before we are made slaves

our historic past

our sun, our sweat, our sea

our pain, our hope

the flower of our blood

branches of the same trunk

eyes in the same light

the sea, the land, the dawn, the sun are singing

our parents never saw the glory that we see

we turn our faces up

there is a star, the clearest light

bring us happier times and ways

each day is like a thousand years

victory, victory, victory

long live our land, our people, our body, our soul

the light in our eyes is the brilliance of our faith

will we see you?

our woe or our wealth

our eyes turn east

we are awake


keep us free

be our light

until pebbles turn to boulders

and are covered in moss

our light and our guide

golden sun, golden seed

fill our hearts with thanks

when our hearts beat as one

show us the way

until the mountains wear away

and the seas run dry

be safe and be glorious

build our own fortune

move forward

our sons sing

our daughters bloom

our parents and our children

await our call

our peace

our rain

be green

we are your sacrifice

fortunate and faithful

the sun drives off the clouds

we risk everything

we sing new songs

for you, for you, for ever

our love, our zeal, our loyalty

our land, where our blood spills

our fields will flower with hope

our land gives us our name

and we will never leave

we walk the path we have chosen

we will die while we are on it

our land, sweet is your beauty

a thousand heroes

our full measure of devotion

our language is a burning flame

our flag flies in the wind

our unwavering land

our rocky hills

from where our lights rise up

our name is freedom

our blood waters it

we pray for you

woven from a hundred flowers

we won’t let the wicked wash their hands

in this guiltless blood of ours

may our blessings flow

let nothing dim the light

that’s shining in our sky

a single leap

into the dazzling sky

obey our call

we are not many

but we are enough

be happy

and may our land be happy

interpret our past

glorify our present

inspire our future

we are coming forth

with strength and power

our seas roar at our feet

shout our name

shout it again

there is no middle ground

between the free man and the slave

may the light be denied us

if we break our solemn vow

the burning of the heart

in our chests is alive

our land will not die

as long as we live

the rays of the sun

are a mother’s kiss

we swear by the sky

by the spreading light

now, or never

we will make our fate ourselves

it was, it is, it will always be

at last, our pride is worth our pride


our common fate

our brighter day

our loyalty and love and vow

our crown

our virtuous honor

our sacred hymn of combat

our light, reflecting guidance

our sword with no flaw

our sepulcher of ages

our only land

our voices on high

our noble aspiration

our thunders, wildly beating

our fire in every vein

our tears, flowing down our cheeks

our everlasting mountains

our milk, our honey, our people working hard

our different voices, our one heart

our breath of life

our death, our glory and our land

our fight – there is a fight to fight

our fair land, its hills and rivers

our memories of days long gone

our morning skies, grown red

our sacred home, our suns that never set

our future is the future, our meaning is the meaning

our shields are wisdom, unity and peace

our sacrifice of every drop of blood

our love, our service, our untiring zeal

our prayer for us, unseen

our fires of hope and prayer

our thunderbolts, our fire

our star, and it will shine forever

our light and song and soul

our song forever more

our own dear land

our fate, which smiles once more

our sacrifice, our blood, our souls

our enemies, scattered and confounded

our land, our home, our free, our brave

our land, our grave

our glory, for as long as the world shines

our many ways before and our many ways today

our rock, our beacon

our scream out loud

our steps, resounding on the long and tiring road

our song – echoing over and over again

our brothers and sisters under the sun

may the rains come

The Glass Box

Music by Paola Prestini

Text by Royce Vavrek

Visuals by Kevork Mourad

The Glass Box” is a concert work for double chorus that follows the illness of young refugees in Sweden who fall into a coma-like sleep when their families are slated for deportation, a syndrome known as uppgivenhetssyndrom, or “resignation syndrome.”  Known only to occur in Sweden, the victims, called “de apatiska” (the apathetic) withdraw from the world, their minds and bodies giving up on life.  The only cure is the reversal of the government’s immigration decision.

The experience is viewed from the perspective of both children and parents whose request for asylum is twice denied.  The children’s identity is entrenched in Swedish culture and thus they stop speaking, eating, moving, and finally they rest in bed like invalids, their bodies unresponsive to any external stimuli.

Throughout the work, the sensory experience of the sleeping children is explored.  A filmed wall of children in their beds in a deep sleep paint, an almost hallucinogenic portrait of the illness’s haunting effects. The choirs are loosely assigned identities, the parents going to the SATB chorus, and the children to the treble chorus. Electronic moments enhanced by improvisation depict water rushing a glass box, and a moment where children write letters to their missing friends is enhanced by an electronic score enhancing the multitude of voices and experiences. Lyricism is injected with cluster chords, and mono-thematic moments that tell the story in cantata-like form then explode into fully contrapuntal and poly-thematic writing.

In the culmination of the work, the children slowly come out of their comas when news that the family has been granted permanent residence, leading to the final words in the work: “the sun shone through the slatted lines, kissed our face, and welcomed us home,” which are painted in distorted courante-like lines that dissolve into cluster chords on “home”, depicting the uncertainty of our times. – (Paola Prestini, Composer; Royce Vavrek, Librettist)

Prologue (Glass)

We float in a glass box.

Holding our breath,

As taking air into our lungs

Would cause all things to shatter.

We float deep inside of the ocean.

The darkness of many fathoms

Suspended endlessly in stillness.

One word spoken

Could cause everything to shatter.

Water pours in

Through every crack.

Water pours in

Deep in the ocean.

We float in this state.

Our bodies shut down,

Sleeping without dreaming,

As our dreams of safety


We float in a glass box.


Part 1: Once upon a time

Once upon a time

We are refugees.

Once upon a time

We are happy,

Energetic all the time,

Good human beings,


Amazingly kind,

Awesome at sports,

Soccer especially,


Once upon a time

We are refugees

In a country that looks,

That feels

That is home.

A country

That is home,

Once upon a…

Once upon a…

Today a letter came.

Our new home,

Our Swedish home…

“You must leave”

Once upon a…


The letter came.


Once upon a time

Time stands still.

At the kitchen table

We translate

For our parents



Go where?

Might as well be the moon.

On the moon,

We’d be welcome.

Part 2: Unwanted Refugees

In the homes of unwanted refugees,

The children sleep.

Not a peaceful sleep,

A shut-down sleep.

Our bodies revolting


Falling away from the world,

Losing the will to live.

Sleeping beauty scared of her prince.

Sleeping children waiting for exodus.

Losing the will to live.

Part 3: Sacrifice (Solo)

My body liquefies.

My hands, my feet soften…

My eyelids want to close,

Want to remain closed.

My throat no longer cares to swallow.

My brain, my ears in a vice.

I sacrifice my consciousness

For my family.

Part 4:

Totally passive.

Totally immobile.

Totally withdrawn.

Totally mute.

Passive, immobile, withdrawn, mute.

Passive, immobile, withdrawn…

We can’t eat or drink or laugh or cry.

We can’t swim or run or fly or love.

The soul takes flight to the world that is invisible…

An invisible world of sleep

Without swimming or running or flying or love.

Totally withdrawn.

Totally immobile.

Permanent residence

Is the only treatment.

Part 5:

Dear… (add names)

These weeks,

These months,

This year without you

Has been so hollow.

You are my best friend.

I want to hug you.

I want to laugh with you.

Cry and jump and sing with you.

You make everyone happy.

Your classmates miss your smile.

We miss your questions

And your sportsmanship

And your friendship

Your empty desk

Brings darkness to the classroom,

You are pure light.

Part 6: Glass (reprise)

We float in a glass box.

Holding our breath,

As taking air into our lungs

Would cause all things to shatter.

We float in this state.

Our bodies shutting down,

Sleeping without dreaming,

As our dreams of safety


Part 7: Lullabye

Love, love, my love,

stop dreaming of the war,

of exile, or even of the moon.

Love, love, my love, my love,

a letter came

Love, love, come back to us

Our lives are here

love, love, my love, our love.

Part 8: Residence

The mother reads the letter:

The Migration Board

finds no reason to question

what is stated

About the child’s health.

The child is in need

Of a safe

And stable environment

In order to recuperate.

Permanent residence is granted.

The message is read to the sleeping child.

The sleeping child continues to sleep.

The sleeping child doesn’t listen.

The mother’s voice changes,

She is decisive,


Slowly, the child will respond.

Slowly, the child will wake.

The only country the child knows,

Is Sweden.

Epilogue (We are Refugees)

Once upon a time

We are refugees

In a country,

Waiting for permission

To exist.

Once upon a time

We lost the meaning of life,

And found it again

After a dreamless sleep.

After the box,

The glass,


Once upon a time,

Our eyes opened

The sun shone through slatted blinds

Kissed our faces

And welcomed us