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she is called

An evening-length multi-composer choral theater work reconstructs female identity and unlocks new possibilities for people of all genders.


Brooklyn Youth Chorus seeks support for “she is called,” an evening-length multi-composer choral work exploring the history of the political/cultural construction of female identity. This work is curated by a creative team that includes BYC’s Artistic Director, Dianne Berkun Menaker; Co-Creator Helga Davis; Director Charlotte Braithwaite; video designer S. Katy Tucker; writer and LGBTQIA activist Janani Balasubramanian; and consulting composer Tareke Ortiz. They will lead a diverse group of predominantly female composers to frame an intersectional inquiry into “female” experience. “she is called” will expose the fissures in what we understand about gender categories, breaking them open to unlock new possibilities for people of all genders. The full project will encompass a projected 70 minutes of music for chorus and mixed ensemble by 9-10 composers.

The commissions that make up “she is called” interrogate texts that have defined “female” experience from biblical times to the present day. The title work, by David Lang, is a recitation of every use of the word “she” in the Old Testament. Alev Lenz’s “The C-Word” will create a multi-voice a capella recitation of all the words beginning with C, “contain…control…content… confidence” – shattering women’s association with a single, genital slur. Nathalie Joachim’s “Blood Sisters” explores sisterhood and bloodlines in the wake of the loss of one of her own biological sisters. Iranian composer Gity Razaz’s selection, “She Sings,” will shine a light on the Iranian prohibition on women performing music in public. Paola Prestini will draw from an 1890s text of “don’ts” for women riding bicycles. Anjelica Negrón will explore internalized patriarchal views that shape the life of women in Latin America, juxtaposing memories of phrases said to her in her own childhood in Puerto Rico (“Girl, close your legs”) with liberatory verses by the Puerto Rican poet Julia De Burgos (“I am the essence”). Other works by Toshi Reagon, Tania Leon, and Shara Nova, are in development. Nine composers have confirmed their participation to date.

Between the commissioned songs, spoken word text will make the viewpoints and experiences of young people central to the work. Helga Davis will develop text from chorister interviews and workshops.

Unifying the work is the distinctively versatile and beautiful sound of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus: rigorously trained, culturally and socioeconomically diverse New York City young people, mostly female-identifying, ages 12-18. These 50 young people will be collaborators in the project, providing ideas, text, and creative feedback that will shape the development of the work.

Rehearsals will take place as part of regular Concert Ensemble rehearsal schedule between June 2020 and April 2021. Workshops with choristers to develop text will take place in fall 2020.

The work will premiere at UCLA’s Royce Hall in April 2021. We are also in conversation with NYC venues including Lincoln Center’s White Lights Festival, American Composers Orchestra Festival, and National Sawdust. We plan to pursue additional national touring, and are in conversation with multiple venues including Stanford University.

Start and End Dates



Brooklyn, New York

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn Youth Chorus is a collective of young voices led by Founder & Artistic Director Dianne Berkun Menaker. “A polished ensemble of miniature professionals” (The New York Times), the world-class chorus performs fluently in multiple musical genres. Achievements include a 2005 Grammy® for a recording of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls; annual performances…

In Collaboration With

Chicago, Illinois
Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn, New York


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