From Harlem to Williamsburg, twelve participatory musical parades will welcome winter as they wind through streets, parks, and other public spaces in four of the city’s five boroughs. Amateurs and professionals, singers, fiddlers, bell ringers, smartphone users – all are invited to take part.
Like Make Music New York’s annual flagship event on June 21, the first day of summer, Make Music Winter is a free, outdoor musical event that turns audiences into music makers. Inspired by Phil Kline’s annual Unsilent Night – the well-loved boombox parade that takes place in NYC on December 12 this year – Make Music Winter’s innovative projects transform New York’s cityscape for a single day. Now in its fifth year, Make Music Winter has taken its place as a keenly-anticipated highlight of the season.
Participating organizations include the Bronx Music Heritage Center, Brooklyn Bridge Park,, DUMBO Improvement District, El Puente, Friends of the High Line, North Flatbush Business Improvement District, Prospect Park Alliance, and Trans-Pecos.
Featured artists include acclaimed composer/vocalist Joan La Barbara, traditional Puerto Rican ensemble BombaYo, percussionists Amy Garapic, Noam Hassenfeld, Bobby Sanabria, and Jorge Vazquez, dancers from the City Stompers, conductors Thomas McCargar and Malcolm Merriweather, composers Ravi Kittappa and P. Spadine, and others. A full schedule, with starting times and exact locations, is also available at www.makemusicny.org.
Along with many returning favorites, Make Music Winter includes three new events.Alpine Echoes, with avant-garde vocalist Joan La Barbara, uses the hilly environs of Washington Heights as a natural setting for anyone who might crave the Alpine (and Appalachian) thrill of yodeling across an urban valley. The ever-popular bicycle parade through Prospect Park, which started with BLINK in 2013 and continued withWheels in 2014, turns into a trilogy with RPM by P. Spadine of Ashcan Orchestra. Riders will travel in groups, following scores transmitted from lead bikes using special helmets embedded with lights, which will cue bicycle bells of different pitches. All three parts of the trilogy will be performed. And (harmless) drones will strike Astoria with Decantations, composer Ravi Kittapa’s parade of sruti boxes, easily playable Indian drone instruments.
As in previous years, The Gaits smartphone soundwalk will proceed along the High Line, Puerto Rican carols will be sung in parrandas in The Bronx and Williamsburg,Bell by Bell ringers will chime their way through DUMBO, and Flat Foot Flatbushfiddlers will lead dancers in an old-timey dancing procession through Prospect Heights. Read on for the whole story!
Program for Make Music Winter (listed alphabetically)
- Alpine Echoes: Joan La Barbara, the acclaimed vocalist known for her “extended techniques,” will lead a call-and-response vocal piece for singers of all levels, yodeling across dramatic height differentials in the hills of Washington Heights. The event begins at noon, at the top of the stairs on Fort Washington Ave and W. 187th Street.
- Bell by Bell: Artist Tom Peyton distributes seventy color-coded bells to the crowd, one color per note. At the front of the parade, a team of conductors waves corresponding colored flags to lead the group in slowly moving music, written by a variety of composers. When the conductors raise their red and green flags, everyone with red and green bells start ringing, and so on for each color, creating a sonorous, atmospheric soundscape in DUMBO’s cavernous spaces. The parade begins at 6:00 pm at the DUMBO Archway and ends at Brooklyn Bridge Park (at Old Dock Street). All are invited to join.
- Decantations: Composer Ravi Kittapa and pianist Karl Larson invite the public to perform the New York premiere of Decantations III, Kittapa’s piece featuring the sound of sruti boxes (easily playable Indian drone instruments). Beginning at 3:00 pm, performers split into three groups and walk divergent paths around Astoria, playing a variety of sustaining instruments and electronic devices, while interacting with the sounds of the neighborhood. After 30 minutes everyone converges in Athens Square Park to create a large and varying drone resolving to a finish.
- Flat Foot Flatbush: For the second year, dancers, fiddlers, and pickers will parade down Flatbush Ave playing old-time tunes while flat footing, a form of percussive dancing from Appalachia. Led by dancer Megan Downes and the City Stompers, the event begins at 4:00 pm with a workshop/performance across from the Barclays Center (604 Pacific Street), and dances up Flatbush beginning at 5:00 pm, ending with a happy hour at Ideya Brooklyn. All are invited to play, sing, and dance – no experience necessary. Dancers should bring tap shoes, or an old pair of sneakers from which they can make their own at the workshop. Musicians should email the organizers by December 18 to receive the music.
- The Gaits: a High Line Soundwalk: Composers Lainie Fefferman, Jascha Narveson, and Cameron Britt have created a free smartphone application that turns footsteps into twinkling metallic sounds, electric guitar chords, dulcimer notes, water splashes, car horns, and applause. By connecting them to small, wearable speakers, smartphones become instruments effortlessly played by strolling, sauntering, or sprinting down the High Line. The piece begins at 5 pm at the southern end of the High Line, at the base of the Gansevoort Stairs. To join, download the free Gaits application to your phone; speakers will be available on loan for the first 100 participants. In addition, prior to the event, Friends of the High Line’s Solana Chehtman and composers Lainie Fefferman and Jascha Narveson will discuss the inspiration behind The Gaits in a free discussion held at 3 pm in the Apple Store (401 West 14th St).
- Kalmibascope: Participants are invited to join the Kalimbascope Ensemble, and promenade at dusk with the music of the enchanted thumb piano. Composer J.C. King leads a kalimba parade through the streets of Ridgewood and Bushwick, ending at Maria Hernandez Park. The parade will be accompanied by real-time electronics, giving the music an air of mystery and fascination. The parade begins at 4:30 pm at Trans Pecos (915 Wyckoff Ave). All are encouraged to bring their own kalimbas (though kalimbas will be available for the first 25 participants to borrow).
- Melrose Parranda: The Bronx Music Heritage Center (BMHC) inaugurates its annual Melrose procession series with a focus on the Puerto Rican tradition of caroling called parranda. At 4:00 pm, a parranda with the Puerto Rican music of plena, and singing holiday songs from the island, will be led by Jorge Vazquez, Bobby Sanabria and others. Join the procession at the 149th St./3rd Avenue subway stop as we wind our way through Melrose into beloved local landmarks, ending with a jubilant jam session and refreshments. Come ready to sing, dance, and play! This event is co-sponsored by City Lore.
- Pilgrimage: Early Music singers led by conductor Malcolm J. Merriweather walk from West Park Presbyterian Church (Amsterdam and W. 86th) to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (112th Street in Harlem), carrying lanterns while singing medieval melodies once sung along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. All singers are invited to join, from absolute beginners to early music specialists. The pilgrimage begins at 6:00 pm and culminates in a triumphant arrival at the Cathedral with organ accompaniment. Presented in association with West Park Presbyterian Church and the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.
- Prelude: Amateur and professional singers led by Thomas McCargar walk together under a half-dozen bridges and archways in Central Park, while singing an arrangement of the Prelude movement of Bach’s G-Major Cello Suite No. 1 very, very slowly. The result is a half-hour, slow-motion harmonic wash of sound and echoes conceived and produced by James Holt. All vocalists welcome; no sight-reading experience is necessary. The parade begins at 4:00 pm at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. To join, download the iPhone application or mp3 tracks that synchronize the singers, available at makemusicny.org/winter-2015/prelude, and bring earbuds.
- RPM / BLINK / Wheels: This musical trilogy encircles Prospect Park with the sounds of tuned bicycle bells. Seasoned and casual cyclists are invited to perform three pieces for bicycle bells: Merche Blasco “BLINK” from Make Music Winter 2013, Nissim Schaul “Wheels” from MMW 2014, and this year’s premiere “RPM” by P. Spadine. Riders will travel in groups through Prospect Park, following scores transmitted from lead bikes using special helmets embedded with lights, which will cue bicycle bells of different pitches. The groups will variously come together and split up along the park’s bike paths, creating concentric circles of sound and echo. Color-coded bicycle bells will be distributed to the first 50 participants at the beginning of the parade. The parade begins at 4:00 pm at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza; all are invited to join with their bicycles.
- La Trullita Navideña de los Sures: El Puente, BombaYo, and El Puente CADRE (Community Artists’ Development & Resource Exchange) present their third annual parranda – an afternoon of singing, drumming and Caribbean holiday celebration in Los Sures, the Southside of Williamsburg. The Trullita begins at 4:30 pm at El Puente Headquarters (211 S. 4th Street, Brooklyn); all are invited to join. Advance rehearsals in the neighborhood will be announced shortly at www.makemusicny.org.
- Village in Volume: Following the tradition of STOMP and MMNY’s Soho Gamelan Walk, percussionists Amy Garapic and Noam Hassenfeld lead participants through Greenwich Village, playing composed and improvised music for handheld objects and street furniture encountered en route. Setting off from Washington Square Park at 4:00 pm, participants will play on bottles, newspapers, and frying pans, stopping to play on benches, railings, and scaffolding. At several stops, players will be joined by middle-school students from Drumming on Everything, who will contribute their own compositions. All are encouraged to bring some type of object to drum on. Hassenfeld and Garapic will provide drumsticks and a selection of additional objects.
As with all Make Music New York events, Make Music Winter is free to the public, no tickets required. Further information on Make Music New York is available at www.makemusicny.org.