A Conversation with the Creators of She Is Called: Dear Stranger
Available On Demand

Join the creators and artists behind She Is Called: Dear Stranger, a new production from Brooklyn Youth Chorus, for an in-depth discussion about the development of this unique project.

In a discussion moderated by interdisciplinary performer and radio host Helga Davis, Brooklyn Youth Chorus Founder and Artistic Director Dianne Berkun Menaker will join director Charlotte Brathwaite, creative team members Sunder Ganglani and Tareke Ortiz and singers of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus to talk about the origins of the project, the development process and the creation of the She Is Called: Dear Stranger website experience.

Dianne Berkun Menaker is the Founder & Artistic Director of Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Under her visionary leadership, the Chorus has become one of the most highly regarded ensembles in the country and has stretched the artistic boundaries for the youth chorus. Hailed by The New York Times as “a remarkable choral conductor,” Ms. Berkun Menaker has prepared choruses for performances with acclaimed conductors, including Alan Gilbert, Gustavo Dudamel, Marin Alsop, James Levine and Charles Dutoit. Most notably, she prepared the Chorus for its 2002 debut with the New York Philharmonic in John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls , the recording for which the Chorus won a Grammy Award in 2005. Ms. Berkun Menaker has also prepared the Chorus for appearances and recordings with artists such as Barbra Streisand, Sir Elton John, Philip Glass, The National, David Byrne, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, John Legend, Natasha Bedingfield and Alicia Keys. She has developed an active commissioning program, born out of a desire to showcase the Chorus’s versatility and uniquely beautiful sound and has collaborated with some of the most important composers of our time. Ms. Berkun Menaker is a regular choral clinician and teaching artist for such organizations as the New York Philharmonic and The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall and has also presented workshops and master classes for New York University, New York State School Music Association, the American Choral Directors Association and the New York City Department of Education. She is the creator of the Chorus’s Cross-Choral Training® program, a proven holistic and experiential approach to developing singers in a group setting encompassing both voice and musicianship pedagogy.

Charlotte Brathwaite’s (Director) genre defying works illuminate the realities and the dreams of the marginalized and center unheard, unseen and overlooked stories. Dealing with subject matter from the historical past to the present and the distant future, her work brings to light issues of social justice, race, sex, power and the complexities of the human condition.  Recent projects include Chapter & Verse: The Gospel of James Baldwin, created with Meshell Ndegeocello, which was active September – December 2020 with new content each month via print, video and a toll free hotline, and The Future is Present (TFP), a collaborative performance laboratory that amplifies the life-affirming demands of young black and indigenous activists. Future projects include: Omar, an opera composed by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Ables inspired by the life of Omar Ibn Said and Forgotten Paradise: Grazettes Sun, a feature-length film and traveling installation on historical trauma and the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Sunder Ganglani (Dramaturg) is respected for his collaborative practice across disciplines that brings particular attention to the social dimensions of contemporary performance. As Co-producing Artistic Director at The Foundry Theatre in New York City, Sunder commissioned, developed and produced new works including Ariana Reines’s TELEPHONE, Claudia Rankine’s THE PROVENANCE OF BEAUTY and most recently W. David Hancock’s MASTER. After attending the Yale School of Drama, Ganglani has gone on to work with artists including visual artists Izhar Patkin, Wardell Milan and Ak Jansen; composer/ musicians Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Rhiannon Giddens, Justin Hicks and Nathalie Joachim; and directors Charlotte Brathwaite and Lileana Blain-Cruz. His work focuses on the interaction between audience and performance and crafts environments that encourage intimacy and exchange. Ganglani also sits on the board of The Stop Shopping Choir, with whom he screams and sings on the street.

Formed in Composition and Ethnomusicology at the Nacional School of Music, UNAM, México, Tareke Ortiz’s (Composer and Sound Designer) musical influences come from Latin American music, political theater of the 70’s and 80’s and his classical, contemporary training. His work has been part of several international art venues and festivals around the world: Stratford Festival in Canada, La Corriente in Nicaragua, Fringe Arts in Philadelphia, Kimmel Center, Les Couleurs du Monde in Amiens, France, Sanskrit Institute in India, Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto Italy, Festival Celebrate Mexico Now in New York, Cumbre Tajín in Veracruz México, Contemporary Scene Festival in the Arts Circle in Madrid, Arts Arcade in New Zealand, The Kitchen, Joe’s Pub, Pangea, La MaMa etc. where he has been a resident artist for more than 20 years and Lincoln Center among other places in New York, The Gate Theatre and the Tate Britain Gallery in London. He has worked as a composer with several directors from various geographies and genres like José Antonio Alcaraz, Marta Luna, José Antonio Cordero, Sebastián Sanchez Amunategui, David Pilot, Federico Restrepo, Dan Rothenberg, John Jarboe, Andrea Paciotto, Charlotte Brathwaite and Peter Sellars. Linguistic rights, violence prevention and creation of intercultural technologies of work concerning arts with indigenous communities of Mexico and the immigrant population in the US, creative and cultural management are some of his main focuses. He is currently a member of the National System of Art Creators: SNCA and Board Director of the System of Support for the Arts and Cultural Programs of México’s Ministry of Culture.

Helga Davis is a vocalist and performance artist with feet planted on the most prestigious international stages and with firm roots in the realities and concerns of her local community, whose work draws out insights that illuminate how artistic leaps for an individual can offer connection among audiences. Davis was principal actor in the 25th-anniversary international revival of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass's seminal opera Einstein on the Beach. Among the collaborative and works written for her are Faust's Box, by Italian contemporary music composer Andrea Liberovici; Oceanic Verses by Paola Prestini and You Us We All by Shara Nova and Andrew Ondrejcak. Robert Wilson describes her as “a united whole, with spellbinding inner power and strength.” She also starred in Wilson’s The Temptation of St. Anthony, with libretto and score by Bernice Johnson Reagon; and The Blue Planet, by Peter Greenaway. She is the recipient of the 2014 BRIC Media Arts Fireworks Grant and completed her first evening-length piece, Cassandra. Current projects include Silent Voices with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with text by Hilton Als; Jomama Jones Blacklight by Daniel Alexander Jones; Requiem for a Tuesday with bass-baritone Davóne Tines and dancer/choreographer Reggie Gray; Yet Unheard, a tribute to Sandra Bland by Courtney Bryan, based on the poem by Sharan Strange. She has conceived and performed First Responder and Wanna as responses to Until and The Let Go by multidisciplinary artist Nick Cave. She is artist in residence at National Sawdust, host of the eponymous podcast HELGA on WQXR/New Sounds and was the 2018-19 visiting curator for the performing arts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Charlotte Brathwaite photo by Barbara Anastacio

Sunder Ganglani photo by Ak Jansen

Tareke Ortiz photo by Rodrigo Vazquez

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