Richard and I saw *Dancing Voices* at John Jay College on 10/20/17, presented as part of Lincoln Center’s White Lights Festival. *Dancing Voices* is a new-ish piece by Meredith Monk, one of my favorite contemporary composers. She wrote it for Waelrant Children’s Choir in Belgium in 2010, it’s a sort of scrapbook of music from throughout her career (and having been at it for over 50 years, she’s got a lot to choose from). This version of *Dancing Voices* was written for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City and a few adult professionals (singer Katie Geissinger, singer and pianist Allison Sniffin, and members of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble).
The first half was for about thirty of the youngest kids in the group (elementary school- and middle school-age) and was by far the stronger of the two halves, because the music itself was stronger. These were the prime years of Monk’s composing career, we heard music from 1969 to 1994. Thrilling, transcendent, fascinating music.
I was so impressed with those kids, they’re extraordinary musicians with great training. The music is very complex, and they performed it with grace and beauty. Still, it was a relief to see that they’re still kids - - the second piece had some dancing in it, and a couple of the boys didn’t quite know what they were doing, which was adorable and hilarious. The neighboring girls, of course, steered them in the right direction.
The second half had two pieces in it, “Three Heavens and Hells” (written in 1992, this was the premiere of the choral version) and “ascent” from *Songs of Ascension* (2008). These pieces weren’t as satisfying as her earlier work, but they grew on me. This half was performed by the high school-age contingent of the YPC, conducted by their artistic director, Francisco Nuñez.
The concert as a whole was meaningful and inspiring. I kept thinking of what an extraordinary experience it must be for those young people, to get to sing with and collaborate with Meredith Monk.