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The Netherlands Chamber Choir Bringing '150 Psalms' to New York

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150 Psalms to Utrecht, New York, and Brussels: all 150 psalms, 150 composers, 1,000 years of choral music

In 2017 the Netherlands Chamber Choir will celebrate its 80th anniversary with the project 150 Psalms. All 150 psalms will be performed. From 150 different composers, representing 1000 years of choral music. Three of the most important performing art festivals will host the project: Utrecht Early Music Festival (1 & 2 September 2017), White Light Festival of Lincoln Center in New York City (2-11 November 2017) and Klara Festival in Brussels (20-22 March 2018). The Netherlands Chamber Choir, initiator of 150 Psalms, invited three of the world’s best vocal ensembles to join them in this project: The Tallis Scholars (UK), Det Norske Solistkor (NO) and The Choir of Trinity Wall Street (USA). Together they will perform 12 concerts
with all 150 Psalms in each episode. Lectures, debates, workshops and an interactive exhibition together form a peripheral program that aims to place the Psalms at the center of current affairs. An undoubted highlight of each day will be provided by an internationally acclaimed speaker who will reflect on the major themes from the Psalms, as seen from the perspective of his or her field.

Read the New York Times article on the musical project of the Netherlands Chamber Choir. 

Background

The Psalms portray things on a human scale. This is not the word of God being poured out over man, but the voice of man who is wrestling with life’s big questions. Both Christians and Jews have found inspiration and hope in the Psalms, and the Koran also refers to them as holy scripture. The themes found in the Psalms are equally universal: loss, compassion, consolation, and hope. Today we see refugees searching for a safe haven, leaders who abuse their power, people who place fear above courage, or courage above fear. Topical themes, for thousands of years already. 150 Psalms regards the Psalms as a mirror of society: great themes from 3,000 years ago are still relevant today.

Motivation

The Psalms are without doubt the most important literary source for the choral music of the last 1,000 years. Every Psalm has been set to music numerous times by the greatest composers the Western world has produced. At the same time, in silence and seclusion, centuries ago, people devoted themselves to reciting all the Psalms, during the course of a week, according to a so-called psalm reading plan. Nowadays Christians and Jews are still wont to recite these Psalms. These two facts led to the idea of 150 Psalms: a new perspective on an ancient ritual. Following the example of this ritual, all 150 Psalms will be
heard. Not in one week, but in a weekend. Not by one composer, but by 150 composers. Commissions were given to the following composers: Michel van der Aa (NL), David Lang (USA), Nico Muhly (USA), Mohammed Fairouz (USA/UAE), Zad Moultaka (LEB), Evelin Seppar (EST), Isidora Ċ½ebeljan (SER), William Knight (UK). Amongst the speakers in the Netherlands are Michael Ignatieff and Tom Holland.

 

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