Festival of Women’s Voices – 6/16

Hoboken’s Cantigas Choir to perform at United Nations

They don’t speak the same language, they don’t live the same culture, and their lives are a hemisphere apart — but Cantigas Women’s Choir of Hoboken, NJ, and United Nations International School Mothers Choir of New York City are hosting Coral Femenino de Caballito women’s choir from Buenos Aires, Argentina, in their North American debut concert, FESTIVAL OF WOMEN’S VOICES, on Saturday, June 16, at 7 p.m. at the United Nations International School at 24-50 FDR Drive in New York, NY (between 23rd and 25th Streets). The suggestion donation is $10 ($5 for students and seniors).

The three choirs will individually perform an international repertoire celebrating the power of women’s voices, with music from Greece, Scotland, India, Iraq, Syria, and Argentina. The highlight of the concert will feature all three groups combining forces for Rollo Dilworth’s “Dream Keeper,” Eric Whitacre’s “Five Hebrew Love Songs,” and selections from Leonardo San Juan’s Magnificat, directed by Mr. San Juan himself.

“It’s a real blessing for us to be hosting the Argentine choir,” says Cantigas and UNIS Mothers Choir director Joan Litman. “All of the choirs are made up of ‘regular’ women who are lawyers, teachers, economists, and writers in their own time, but come together to share their love of music.”

“We’re honored to host the Coral Femenino de Caballito from Argentina to share the jewels of their own musical culture. For many, this is their first trip to New York City. Much of their repertoire is based on traditional Argentine songs — this music is very rarely heard in the United States. Cantigas had the privilege of working with their conductor, Leonardo San Juan, two years ago for the North American debut of his Magnificat. All have agreed that his musicianship was the highpoint of working with him — now Cantigas will have the opportunity to sign with him again, joined by the women of his chorus.”

Coral Femenino de Caballito’s tour has been made possible with the institutional support of the Republic of Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Relations (Department of International Commerce and Culture), which has recognized this performance and his participation as being “of cultural and artistic interest.”

Cantigas Women’s Choir, named after a medieval Spanish song form called a “cantiga,” is celebrating its 10th anniversary season. The choir brings women of the community together to explore the rich tradition of women’s singing and performs a broad spectrum of global music, both ancient and contemporary. The Cantigas Women’s Choir advocates through song for those whose hearts need to be uplifted and whose voices need to be heard, performing regularly with the inmates of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, N.J., as well as at other community events like the Cancer Survivors Support Network in Bayonne, New Jersey, and the Empty Bowls hunger relief benefit in Hoboken. In the winter of 2010, Cantigas traveled to Philadelphia to perform in the Eastern Division of the American Choral Directors Association. In May 2010, the choir performed the North American premiere of Magnificat by Argentine composer Leonardo San Juan, who traveled to the United States to conduct the concert. Cantigas is based in Hoboken, N.J.

Coral Femenino de Caballito (CFC) was founded in 2001 by director Leonardo San Juan. Since the group’s beginning, it has performed a great variety of classical music written for women’s choirs. The CFC has premiered works composed by Mr. San Juan includingMagnificat (2006) and Gloria (2009). In 2008, the choir was invited to perform in Montevideo, Uruguay, as guests of the National University of Uruguay’s choir. San Juan has also organized a choral tour of the city of Buenos Aires for the Les Pastoureaux Choir of Waterloo, Belgium, highlighted by a concert with Coral Femenino de Caballito at the Basilica de Maria Auxiliadora, attended by the Ambassador of Belgium to Argentina. The choir has performed in a variety of religious and cultural venues in Buenos Aires and Uruguay. San Juan composed his own Magnificat and Gloria specifically for the choir.

Leonardo San Juan (Director, Coral Femenino de Caballito) was born in Buenos Aires in 1972. As a student in Argentina’s National Conservatory, Leonardo San Juan studied French horn, voice, piano, conducting, and composition. After completing his studies, he was named as Distinguished Professor of Choral Direction (Profesor Superior de Dirección Coral) at the Juan José Castro Conservatory in 2001. Mr. San Juan then entered and won the 2002 International Scholarship Prize Contest of the Italian-Argentine Society, enabling him to study choral and orchestral direction in Rome under internationally renowned Italian conductors. In 2004, after returning to Buenos Aires, San Juan won First Prize for choral composition in the prestigious competition organized by the Center for the Advanced Study of Contemporary Music (Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Música Contamporánea). Mr. San Juan is currently musical director of adult choirs in the greater Buenos Aires area, leading them in performances at the National Cathedral of Buenos Aires, The Teatro Coliseo, and Teatro Roma. He is currently on the faculty of the José Hernández Superior Institute of Music, in Vicente López.

Joan Isaacs Litman (Director, Cantigas Women’s Choir and UNIS Mothers Choir) is a native of Los Angeles and has directed choirs in the New York metropolitan area for 33 years. Her choirs have performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Juilliard School. Ms. Litman is a member of the music faculty of the United Nations International School in Manhattan where she also directs a children’s choir. Ms. Litman was the winner of the first Excellence in Teaching award from Westminster Choir College and was awarded Educator of the Year by the Organization of American Kodály Educators in 2009. With a longing to stimulate trust and enjoyment of often misunderstood cultures, Ms. Litman has focused her musical research on traditional songs of the Middle East, including writing the book Song Caravan: Songs of the Middle East. She has studied and taught both students and teachers throughout the United States, and was privileged to guest conduct (and learn from!) choirs in Damascus, Syria, Tripoli, Lebanon, and Tokyo, Japan in 2010 to 2011. Ms. Litman is a Founder and Music Director Emerita at Mustard Seed School, Hoboken, N.J.

Erasmia Voukelatos (Assistant Director and Accompanist, Cantigas Women’s Choir) is a Canadian of Greek descent and has been active as a chamber musician and solo pianist, teacher, music director, and concert series presenter. Concerto appearances include Mozart Concerto in A Major and Haydn Concerto in D Major with the Canadian ensemble Mercredi Musique and Bach’s keyboard Concerto in D Minor, which was released on The Best of Brooklyn CD. She currently teaches piano and elementary and is on the music faculty at the Far Brook School in Short Hills, NJ. She enjoys collaborating with her husband, violinist Ashley Horne, and together they founded My Music Garden, a music enrichment program for schools. Voukelatos has been with Cantigas since its formation.

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