Boston Children's Chorus Debuts Work by Bill Banfield

By 
Michelle McKenzie
November 10, 2010
Bill Banfield, Berklee professor and director of Africana Studies, also serves as composer-in-residence for the Boston Children's Chorus.
Photo by Bill Gallery

The Boston Children's Chorus will present the world premier of "Love Says" on November 13 at 2:00 p.m. The piece was written specifically for the chorus by composer-in-residence Bill Banfield, D.M.A., based on the poetry of AIDS activist and music therapist Samuel Hanser.

Banfield, a professor of Africana studies, music, and society and the director of Africana Studies at Berklee, is composing three pieces of music for the chorus to debut throughout the 2010–11 season.

"It's great because he writes in an idiom that we're not used to," said BCC artistic director Anthony Trecek-King, who noted Banfield worked with the chorus two years ago to craft an arrangement of another piece. "There's a heavy jazz influence. It's a different language for us."

BCC's top two choruses, the Premier Choir and Young Men's Ensemble, will premiere "Love Says" during their fall concert on November 13 at Old South Church in Boston. The work is based on a poem Banfield found in a book of poems by Hanser, a native of Newton, Massachusetts who died in January, and also explores spiritual, emotional, and celestial energy in works by Palestrina, Tallis, Grau, and Whitacre. Samuel Hanser was the son of Suzanne Hanser, chair of music therapy at Berklee.

Banfield was recently named composer-in-residence with BCC, which received a prestigious Gabriel Award earlier this year citing its "artistic, creative, and inspirational media presentation" for the broadcast of its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert. It is a multiracial, multiethnic arts education organization that purposefully unites area children ages 7–18 across differences of race, religion, and economic status. The BCC's mission is to harness the power and joy of music as a catalyst to unite the diverse communities and inspire social change.

To that end, the choir commissioned Banfield to compose new works, the first being "Love Says." The poetry setting of Hanser serves as a celebration of this young poet's creative artistry from several angles: the joy of creative expression and living.

Banfield was recently commissioned to write a new symphony for internationally renowned group Sweet Honey in the Rock, with performances of major symphonies across the country beginning in 2012. It is the first joint commissioned work of its kind for Sweet Honey. Banfield, signed to local management leader Ed Keane, was also recently hired by Quincy Jones to write a national music curriculum for United States public schools to learn about U.S. popular music. His music has been performed and/or recorded by Regina Carter, Billy Childs, Nneena Freelon, Alphoso Johnson, Delfeayo Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, and Patrice Rushen, among others, and he has received recognition and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Jerome, Lily, Lila Wallace, McKnight, Unisys, and Telluride foundations.

More information is available at bostonchildrenschorus.org, billbanfield.com, and manyblessingsbysam.com.

About Boston Children's Chorus

The Boston Children's Chorus harnesses the power and joy of music to unite our city's diverse communities and inspire social change. Our singers transcend social barriers in a celebration of shared humanity and love of music. Through intensive choral training and high-profile public performance experience (locally, throughout the U.S., and around the world), members learn discipline, develop leadership skills, and proudly represent the city of Boston as ambassadors of harmony.