Rite of Spring Project

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November 17 at 7 PM and November 18 at 3 PM, The United Palace Theater (175th Street and Broadway)

Beginning in October 2007, 80 New York City public high school students will work collaboratively with a team of educators and musicians from both Berlin and New York City in order to develop an original piece of music inspired by Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The 80 student participants will be divided into two groups—a vocal group of 60 and a percussion group of 20—to examine Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring by exploring both the conceptual themes within the piece and the percussive elements of the music. The students will then create both the original text to be spoken or sung and its musical accompaniment. Songs: Ritual Rhythms aims to awaken an enthusiasm for active and creative involvement in music and strives to encourage participants’ own creativity.

After three weeks of intensive workshops and rehearsals, the students will perform the piece live before an audience of over 3,000 at The United Palace Theater in Upper Manhattan. Additional musical support will be provided by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Songs: Ritual Rhythms Education Team

Cathy Milliken, Mary King, Anna Klein, two Berliner Philharmoniker percussionists

Songs: Ritual Rhythms Participants

Percussion Students
Thurgood Marshall Academy, 20 students

Vocal Students
Choir Academy of Harlem, 15 students
Coalition for Social Change High School, 15 students
Professional Performing Arts School, 30 students

Cathy Milliken on Songs: Ritual Rhythms

In 2002, the Berliner Philharmoniker, performing in Berlin, first took part in a special dance project based on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The music itself is wonderfully compelling and strong, and the performances of the young dancers in Berlin, choreographed and shaped by Royston Maldoom, were momentous. After conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker for the Berlin performance, Sir Simon Rattle said, “Without doubt, it was one of the most memorable and emotional evenings that we have had, one that seems to have a powerful resonance for our relation to the whole city.” So the invitation to revisit the dance project now in 2007 in another context is very exciting as well as challenging.

Dance and song have been an essential part of human expression since the beginning of human existence. Today, in a world where we are fed musical pablum, finding one’s own voice physically and emotionally becomes even more essential. The decision to extend the dance project to include voice gives all those involved in the project the chance to perform their own music, to experience their own creativity in exchange with others, and to be encouraged to find their own voices.

The Songs: Ritual Rhythms part of The Rite of Spring Project brings the musicians of the Berliner Philharmoniker and its education team into schools in New York to create texts and songs based on the theme of rites and sacrifice, the central themes of The Rite of Spring. The themes are examined on personal and political levels and reflect issues and preoccupations close to the lives and times of all the participants in the project.

Catherine Milliken
Director, Education Department
Berliner Philharmoniker

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