Renaissance Street Singers
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The Renaissance Street Singers is a New York City-based choir that performs polyphonic sacred music a cappella in free concerts in public spaces and street corners around the city. In cold weather, the choir often performs in Grand Central Station. Formed in 1973 by Manhattan resident John Hetland, the group consists of about 25 people who love this kind of music and who wish to share it by singing for passers-by. Despite the religious origin of the music, there is no religious message to the performances. Concerts are normally on Sunday afternoons, two or sometimes three times a month, always free. Donations offered by listeners are politely refused.
The music performed is a slowly changing list of about 25 motets, mass sections and other sacred compositions, primarily from the 15th and 16th centuries, by composers like Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, William Byrd, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Nicolas Gombert, and Manuel Cardoso.
Their website, www.streetsingers.org, gives additional information and the current schedule.
The music they perform comes from old 'Complete Works of ...' volumes in the Performing Arts Research Library of the NY Public Library. From a photocopy of a chosen piece John Hetland transcribes it to computer, translates the text (usually in Latin), fits the words to the music. Sometimes this involves transposing the music to a suitable key.
- Hillaby, Sue, "A Sidewalk Renaissance," The Village Voice, Sept. 8, 1975, p. 87.
- "The Talk of the Town: Sweet Music," The New Yorker, June 28, 1993 (by Richard Brookhiser)
- Yap, Diana Michèle, "OK Chorales: Renaissance fare," Time Out New York, Aug. 10-17, 2000, p. 51
- Pantuso, Phillip, "Singing Sacred Songs in Secular Spots," The New York Times, April 5, 2013.
- In 2013, the choir was featured on National Public Radio's program "All Things Considered". See