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Singers brave heat wave for Philip Glass premiere in Times Square

July 11, 2012|By Marcia Adair

My, my, where does the time go. Where, where does it go go, does it go, my time, where does it go?

America's minimalists, once bright young things rebelling against the tonal austerity of serialism via rhythmically complex but harmonically gentle loops, are now contemporary music's elder statesmen.

Terry Riley turned 75 in 2010, Steve Reich in 2011, and the 2012 birthday boy is Phiip Glass.

The chances of Fame and Fortune smiling upon you as a composer of classical music are, in the main, negligible. When it does you get to celebrate your birthday for 12 whole months, sometimes longer depending on when in the concert season the actual day falls.

Happy returns for Glassmost took place recently with a performance in Times Square. His 1997 opera "Monsters of Grace" was reworked into a piece for soloist and an  eight-part chorus commissioned by NPR.  The idea was to create something that could be sung easily without any rehearsal, so as many people as possible could participate in what NPR called a "flash choir."

On the NPR website,  staffer Anastasia Tsioulcas wrote, "A big part of what we do is to try to make all kinds of music engaging and accessible -- and wouldn't it be great to invite anyone who wanted to come and sing in a world premiere by one of the most celebrated composers of our time?"

About 200 people turned up in Midtown Manhattan along with conductor Kent Tritle and soprano soloist Rachel Rosales to give "The New Rule" its premiere.  In sweltering heat, in the middle of the tourist crush, the singers sang the words of the medieval Sufi poet Rumi, urging passersby to "Break the wineglass, and fall towards the glassblower's breath."  

"Somehow," continued Tsioulcas, "-- beautifully, magically and only briefly -- this fleeting chorus became the heartbeat of Times Square."

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