Central City Chorus, under the direction of Phillip Cheah, will give the world premiere performance of Counting Time in Central City, Frank J. Oteri’s three-movement unaccompanied choral suite based on the poetry of Charles Passy, on the final concert of its 35th season on Saturday, June 4, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church in New York City. In addition to Oteri’s piece, which was commissioned especially for the chorus’ 35th anniversary season, the concert will feature a broad range of American choral music from early shape-note pieces from The Sacred Harp and Southern Harmony to pieces by William Billings and Samuel Barber, plus contemporary works by Frank Ticheli, Meredith Monk, Stephen Paulus, and Zachary Wadsworth.
“America is the great melting pot of the world, and that rich and constantly evolving diversity is reflected in its music. The theme of the chorus’ 35th anniversary season has been Journeys and Tapestries, so it is fitting that the final concert of the season explores the multi-faceted choral music of the United States,” said Cheah. “Being actively engaged in New York City’s vibrant musical life has been at the core of Central City Chorus’s identity since the chorus began, so to celebrate the conclusion of this milestone year in our history, we wanted to include a commissioned work about the city written by a New York City-based composer.”
“Counting Time in Central City is inspired by the chorus and its history in many different ways,” said Oteri, who grew up in midtown Manhattan and has remained here for his whole life. “When Phillip asked if I’d be interested in writing a piece to honor the 35th anniversary of this extraordinary all-volunteer group whose concerts I have enjoyed for many years, I immediately thought about what I was doing 35 years ago. In the spring of 1981, I was about to graduate from the High School of Music and Art. Our class’s 35th reunion is actually happening a week after the premiere of this piece. Back then, I was singing in the high school’s Senior Chorus, along with my friend Charles Passy, whom I knew since we were in second grade together. I was already writing music, and Charles was writing poetry. But in all these years I had never set any, so I had to use his words this time. The first two movements play around a lot both melodically and rhythmically with 7s and 5s, since 35 is 7 times 5, and the last movement plays in similar ways with 6 times 6 to prepare us for the 36th season of Central City Chorus next year!”