Listen to the virtual Brooklyn Youth Chorus sing “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Tonight, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus will once again take to the stage — sort of.
The New York-based ensemble, led by Dianne Berkun Menaker, will take part in a virtual reimagining of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual gala. It’s the latest in the chorus’ digital efforts, begun in March when the coronavirus crisis made concepts like “sheltering in place” and “social distancing” part of everyday lives.
“Singing is a way to relax and de-stress and it’s simply a joy to interact with friends who share the same musical passion,” Menaker wrote in a statement. “In this time of distancing and isolation, having the chance to lift your voice in song … is more important than ever, even if the format looks and feels different than usual.”
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The 600-member organization, which normally meets at its Brooklyn headquarters, has been teaching kids through a combination of interactive video call rehearsals and recorded lessons. The season will end with class-by-class opportunities for the children to perform for one another. It’s “not the same as participating in an in-person choral rehearsal, but we hope that the results will continue to be engaging, fulfilling, and rewarding to all of our students,” Menaker said.
These outreach efforts also include a virtual fundraiser hosted by the nonprofit, which took place May 7. As part of that, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus shared its online-only performance of “You Will Be Found” (see above) from the hit Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” Later this month, the group will debut a new composition with Anthony Roth Costanzo, a star at the Metropolitan Opera, as part of a new initiative to support creatives affected by Covid-19.
The chorus also posts updates regularly on social media — a combination of throwback photographs to past gigs and video greetings from members and employees.
Menaker wrote that she finds these modifications heartbreaking, if necessary. Indeed, singers were referred to as “super-spreaders” of Covid-19 in a recent study, as outbreaks have been traced to group singing at funerals, church services and rehearsals.
Members of the ensemble have always used music as a way to speak out in troubled times — it’s baked into who they are, as a group that frequently examines issues of race, gender and sexual identity, Menaker told The Story Exchange when we first profiled the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. It’s also always been a force for connection, as the Grammy-winning ensemble’s students come from neighborhoods scattered throughout New York City’s five boroughs.
All the more reason why “we can’t wait until we can once again gather together as a chorus, but until then we love hearing more of your individual voices raised in song,” she wrote. Until then, she added, “thank goodness for technology.”