Melodia Women's Choir

Melodia Women's Choir is a fresh voice on the New York choral scene. An ensemble of 32 singers, Melodia explores and performs rarely heard music for women’s voices in many different styles, and nurtures emerging women composers through commissions, residencies and performances.

Cynthia Powell, Artistic Director
Cynthia Powell, Melodia’s conductor since the group’s inception, is a graduate of Westminster Choir College.  She currently serves Director of Music at West End Collegiate Church, NYC, and Organist/Choirmaster of Temple Sinai in Tenafly. Powell also conducts the Stonewall Chorale of NYC. As a pianist and organist, she toured the U.S. and Europe with Meredith Monk's opera ATLAS, Monk's Celebration Service and Quarry at the Spoleto, USA Festival, and has performed with Monk at the Walker Arts Center, the Lincoln Center Festival, the World Financial Center, and the Whitney and Guggenheim museums. She premiered the new choral version of Monk’s Book of Days with the Stonewall Chorale at Merkin Hall, and recently led them in Monk’s Songs of Ascension at the BAM Next Wave Festival.
Jenny Clarke, Executive Director

Jenny Clarke combined her life-long love of choral music and her career as an arts administrator to form Melodia in 2003. She has a BA in Music and English from Leeds University, England, and an MA in Arts Management from NYU. Jenny has worked extensively in producing and arts administration in music, theatre and dance, including at the Royal Festival Hall, London Sinfonietta and the Royal Court Theatre in London and, currently, at Symphony Space and the American Music Center in New York City.

Hailed by The New York Times as a “best-kept secret” with an “impressively absorbing” debut album, Becca Stevens has established
Becca Stevens, composer
herself as a singer/songwriter of enormous talent whose songs expand and blur the boundaries of folk, jazz, and pop while engaging the the listener through keen poetic observation, rich musical language, and beguiling singing. Her musical roots are in classical guitar, the folk music of her native North Carolina, and jazz, with additional influences ranging from West African rhythms to eccentric pop. Along with being band leader and composer/arranger for the Becca Stevens Band, Becca’s career takes her in many directions – from recording and touring internationally with jazz pianist Taylor Eigsti and as lead singer of Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra, to writing lyrics and recording with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Logan Richardson.

Becca began her artistic career while still in diapers, singing and performing with her family band, the Tune Mammals. In 2002 she received her high school diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts where she studied classical guitar, and then went to The New School in New York City where she received a BFA with high honors in vocal jazz and composition. It was at The New School that Becca met the musicians who would eventually make up the Becca Stevens Band.

Are there any particular pieces you're featuring for Timeless?
Cynthia Powell (C): Our emphasis for this concert is on Britten’s Missa Brevis, & Poulenc’s Litanies a la vierge noire. Both of these works are among the real classic pieces for treble voices and represent two of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

We chose them because they are significant, amazing pieces, and we haven’t performed them yet. And of course, Becca Steven’s new work, Soli Deo Gloria, which Melodia commissioned, will receive its world premiere on the program. It’s fresh and hip, and at the same time, it’s a very spiritual piece.

Becca Stevens (B): The world premiere of my first choral work "Soli Deo Gloria", commissioned by the Melodia Women's Choir.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
C: I began as a pianist and (later) organist. Both my father and brother were pianists, and my mother was a child performer in vaudeville, so there was always music in house. I decided in High School to concentrate on choral music, and studied choral conducting at Westminster Choir College. That music was for mixed voices, i.e., men and women singers. When Jenny Clarke approached me 8 years ago about conducting a women’s chorus she was founding, I became acquainted with a whole new body of repertoire. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I’ve learned so much.

B: I was quite literally born into a music. The first sound I heard in the emergency room was my father playing an irish fiddle tune for me. Also by the time I was born my Dad had already founded our family band called "The Tune Mammals". By the age of two I was performing with them. My two siblings and my parents and I would put on musicals and sing children's songs for other kids at schools and festivals around North Carolina.

I met Cynthia when she was the choral director for a Meredith Monk piece I performed in. I gave her a CD and after checking it out she contacted me about the possibility of writing a commissioned work for Melodia.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
C: I think that making music I love with other people who love it as well is about the best thing in the world to do.

B: Play piano with my 8 month old niece.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
C: The biggest challenge is to create exciting programs that people will want to come and hear. After all, audiences for choral ensembles are a fairly rarified group. I want to explore all the ways to make concerts fresh and exciting so that people who might not be concertgoers or classical music lovers become ‘sold’ on the power of great music. We compete with very hip media that is available to people 24/7, so we must constantly recreate ourselves to offer music of substance and quality, but in such a way as to not appear stuffy or elitist. 

B: In my performance career, trying not to forget lyrics and guitar chords amidst the thrill of performing.
In my composing career, regularity; Trying to make time to write regularly.
In my teaching career, seeing a student get discouraged or say "I can't".

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
C: I’m doing exactly what I imagined myself doing. I am the director of music and organist of a church in NYC, I conduct an SATB chorus (the Stonewall Chorale), and I conduct Melodia Womens Choir.  I probably did not imagine myself playing in a synagogue every week, but I do, and I love that job as well!

B: I think I always knew I would be a singer or some kind of performer. I never knew that it would take this shape though. Playing stringed instruments and accompanying myself developed later in the scheme of things. There was a period of time when I was much younger, from the ages 4ish - 14ish when I was into musical theatre and being on broadway was a dream of mine. Now my dreams are very different, and I'm lucky to be living a lot of them.

What Melodia song or performance would you want someone to hear if you could only choose one to share?
B: Soli Deo Gloria is the only one that they are performing of mine right now. There is a version on my myspace page of my voice singing all the parts.

What other artists out there do you love?
C: I love great satire, so Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, along with Rachel Maddow and Michael Moore are in the top slots right now. But there are so many wonderfully creative artists, writers, poets, theologians who are telling it like it is. My list is long, but includes people like the poets Billy Collins and Mary Oliver, theological writers John Shelby Spong and Peter Rollins, Meredith Monk (a multi-disciplinary artist/musician and performer). Many, many others.

B: This question stresses me out because there are so many!! At least you didn't ask for favorites, and you asked "out there" so I'll assume that means living and working. I'll just list some that come to mind:

My family
My students
Irish Folk Music
Bassekou Kouyate N'Goni Ba
Joanna Newsom
Dirty Projectors
Joni Mitchell
Bobby McFerrin
I'm also very moved by Shakespeare. I know he's not living but his work definitely is. The same goes for J.S. Bach & Michael Jackson.

What does your future hold?
C: I’m open to the future. Right now, I cherish each day and try to make the most of each moment. I’m caring for my mother, who is 92 and needs my help, so I am making myself available to her as much as I can, given my work commitments. She brought me into the world, for which I am very grateful, so I want to make her life as easy and pleasant as possible as she lives out her old age.

B: My second record is coming out on February 22nd on Sunnyside Records. I'll be performing the release party that day either at Joe's Pub or the new stage at Rockwood Music Hall and then touring quite a bit to promote the release of that record. Leading up to that I'm touring with pianist Taylor Eigsti to promote the release of his new record "Daylight at Midnight" and spending Christmas and New Years performing in the Swiss Alps. Then in March 2011 I'll be performing my Carnegie Hall debut with Brad Mehldau on a piece commissioned by Carnegie and written by Brad Mehldau. 

Melodia Women's Choir of NYC Presents Timeless

Saturday, November 20 at 8PM
Church of the Holy Apostles
296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street, NYC
*Reception following concert

Sunday, November 21 at 3PM
West End Collegiate Church
368 West End Avenue at West 77th Street, NYC

Tickets are $20/adv, $25/door
($15/adv students and seniors with ID)
Visit or call
Brown Paper Tickets: 800-838-3006
Information: 212-252-4134