For most of Thursday it was business as usual in Times Square. Neon lights swirled overhead, taxis honked their call and response and the hum of thousands of passersby contributed to the customary din and discord.
At around 6:30 pm a crowd was gathered at 46th street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, but this was no usual crowd. It was a choir of hundreds of volunteer singers participating in Make Music New York, a citywide festival that transforms cacophonous public spaces into stages for thousands of performances every June 21.
Passersby were delighted to hear Bach and Handel emanating from choir, but the highlighted composer was Philip Glass. It was the debut of The New Rule, his eight-part mixed choral piece featuring translated text by medieval Sufi poet Rumi.
The New Rule, commissioned by NPR to honor the composer’s seventy-fifth birthday, was made with amateur and professional singers in mind and anyone was welcome to participate. “There were no auditions. You just had to print the music and come,” said Donald Gallagher, a painter and member of the Reverend Billy Church of Stop Shopping Choir.
Gallagher was joined by fellow singers/performers from the Stop Shopping choir, including opera singer Ashlie Lauren Smith and Nehemiah Luckett, the choir’s music director and composer. “I think more music should be done this way. More people should be singing, not afraid to hear their own voices,” said Smith.
The heat, printer problems and lack of rehearsal were only minor challengers for these seasoned singers who were excited to participate in a Philip Glass piece for the first time. “The music was very hypnotic. It was really quite wonderful,” said Gallagher.
“It’s a lot of fun to listen to and more fun to sing,” said Luckett. Even in Times Square.
The Stop Shopping Choir’s next performance will be at the Highline Ballroom on July 1.
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