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Song of the son: Youth chorus sings notes from a father - Brooklyn Paper

Song of the son: Youth chorus sings notes from a father

Sweet songs of youth: The Brooklyn Youth Chorus’s Men’s Ensemble will perform at National Sawdust on Jan. 8.
Radhika Chalasani

Let’s hear it from the boys!

A chorus of young men will give voice to the troubles facing boys growing up in a chaotic world, in the first part of a concert series of socially aware new tunes. “Amplify,” playing at National Sawdust on Jan. 8 as part of the Ferus Festival of new work, will feature the Brooklyn Youth Chorus’s Concert Ensemble and its Men’s Ensemble, which includes male singers aged 12 to 21. The latter group will sing words drawn from a letter from a black father to his son, the first song in “A Songbook for Social Justice,” according to its composer.

“It’s a collection of songs I’m composing, each one by a different writer created around issues concerning social justice, equity, and incarceration,” said National Sawdust curator Daniel Bernard Roumain, who has previously written songs for the youth choir. For this song, Roumain took a letter that spoken-word poet and playwright Marc Bamuthi Joseph wrote for his son, and set the words to music.

The song is especially appropriate for an ensemble of young men, said Roumain, because they are still struggling to define themselves.

“This ensemble is all men, teens. I think young men are being challenged in a lot of ways to think and rethink who they are, their relationships to one another, even sexuality,” said Roumain, who lives in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

A lot of the composer’s music incorporates hip-hop, rap, and R&B, and this song includes elements of artists Frank Ocean and Drake, said Roumain, which also helps the number appeal to its young performers.

“As a composer my only job is to write well for their voices,” he said. “My other job is to listen to them and write songs they want to sing and that echoes the music we are all listening to.”

Roumain has not actually heard the young men sing his song yet, but is confident it will be glorious.

“There’s no question they are going to sing it really well,” he said. “I’m excited to work with them again.”

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus concert will also feature songs composed by two other National Sawdust figures: the venue’s co-founder and artistic director Paola Prestini, and current artist-in-residence Angélica Negrón; along with work from other contemporary composers.

“Amplify” at National Sawdust (80 N. Sixth St. between Wythe and Kent avenues in Williamsburg, www.nationalsawdust.org). Jan. 8 at 8 pm. $29.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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