NYFOS founders and music directors Steven Blier and Michael Barrett conceived NYFOS’s cultural vision with a simple but powerful insight: everyone has a primal need to be sung to.
To meet that need, and survey its full breadth and depth, Blier and Barrett have reinvented the classical solo song recital as an ensemble endeavor of discovery, creating for audiences a song experience in which each of member of the audience feels, “They are singing this wonderful song to me — for me. I’ve never heard anything like it before!”
A remarkably labor-intensive preparatory process is required to create each unique program. The directors seek out rarely-heard songs relating to a chosen theme, using the songs to explore the character of another culture or region, or the personal voice of a composer or lyricist. The songs are arranged for performance by two or more singers with piano and/or additional instruments, combining the songs to comment on the theme, and on each other. Songs drawn from high and low performance genres may be set side by side, revealing surprising resemblances as well as contrasts; implicit plot and dramatic tension are built into the arrangement of songs in a series of groups or scenes. During an extended ten-day rehearsal period the cast contribute their own ideas and interpretations, shaping their own characters and the program as a whole.
NYFOS’s performance model has emerged from this ongoing experiment. Each evening of song, story (and sometimes dance) weaves music and words into compelling theater. NYFOS Artistic Directors Blier and Barrett lead, from the piano, an ensemble of versatile singers fluent in a wide range of languages and styles. Direct, intelligible communication of text, reinforced by musical means, is paramount, with the aim of enabling each audience member, regardless of his or her level of preparation or education, to grasp each song’s message, and follow moment by moment the development of the larger message and dramatic arc of the program.
Every NYFOS performance is a lively entertainment, a learning opportunity and a community-building experience for artists and audience. With learning and performance at the core of its mission, NYFOS has quite naturally branched out to provide professional training residencies for young vocalists in partnership with premier performance and conservatory organizations. Through recordings and broadcasts NYFOS expands its audience beyond the walls of its concert halls. NYFOS’s artist alumni, senior and junior, bring its creativity and energy wherever they perform.