Current Bennington Children’s Chorus Director Kerry Ryer-Parke and former director Barbara Kourajian were honored before the performance
Current Bennington Children's Chorus Director Kerry Ryer-Parke and former director Barbara Kourajian were honored before the performance (Derek Carson)

NORTH BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Children's Chorus's 25th anniversary concert on Sunday saw two directors honored, the world premier of a piece, and the performance of a piece written by a chorus member.

Janneke van de Stadt, president of the group's board of directors, made a retrospective speech on the band's 25 years, before inviting current director Kerry Ryer-Parke and former director Barbara Kourajian to center stage to be recognized for their contributions to the chorus.

Kourajian started the BCC in 1987, while working for Southern Vermont College. Ryer-Parke, who majored in music at Bennington College, took over as director in 1995. The chorus is made up of children between the ages of 7 and 18.

Of the two new pieces the group performed, one, "This is About Putting Humans on Other Planets," was written by Bennington College professor and composer Nick Brooke for the concert. The other, "Song for Anne," was written by Williams College senior Maia McCormick, who has been working with the chorus as a conducting assistant. Brooke's work was commissioned specifically for this concert, and McCormick's was first performed by the BCC at a Holocaust Rememberance Day service. Both Brooke and McCormick conducted their respective pieces.

Brooke, known for his 2013 album "Border Towns," has had his works performed by numerous groups, including the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the Nash Ensemble of London, Orchestra 2001, Dan Druckman, and Speculum Musicae.


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Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, Brooke has degrees in music composition and philosophy from Oberlin College and a Ph.D from Princeton.

The piece itself is based on a letter Brooke received while working for the Union of Concerned Scientists, his first job out of college. The subject of the letter was a solution to global warming, and Brooke adopted the text as his lyrics and the opening line as his title. "Many thanks to Kerry, Nat, Deb, and the Bennington Children's Chorus for the chance to work and play with them!" wrote Brooke in the program notes, "I've tried to put most everything they like in the piece: rounds, tricky meters, and shouting."

"I had recently spent a semester studying in Amsterdam where I had the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank house and soak up some of the history," wrote McCormick, "So when I was called upon to write a piece in remembrance of the Holocaust, an Anne Frank text seemed the obvious choice. This text, set in the original Dutch, expresses Anne's frustration with her confinement, but still hints at her remarkable ability to see beauty around her, despite her plight."

In total, throughout the performance, the students sang in eight languages, including Dutch, Japanese, Russian, Latin, Bulgarian, and Italian. The music they performed encompassed several centuries as well, from William Byrd's 1500's piece, "Non Nobis, Domine" to Brooke's modern composition.

The chorus's fall season begins on Sept. 18. Those who are interested in more information can contact the chorus manager, Lauren Gotlieb, at 413-346-8616, or visit benningtonchildrenschorus.com for more information.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB