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The Crossing: Tiny Desk Concert

When the vocal ensemble named The Crossing — also known as "America's most astonishing choir" — warmed up behind the Tiny Desk, it reminded me once again how joyful and powerful it can feel to sing together with a group of people. Singing in a choir is a music-making activity shared by more than 54 million Americans, according to recent research by Chorus America.

While the Philadelphia-based choir and its forward-thinking director Donald Nally enjoy the accolades, including a pair of Grammy awards, the most important thing for them is the clear, precise singing of brand new music. They have commissioned and debuted nearly 110 new works by composers including Caroline Shaw, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Gavin Bryars and Shara Nova, whose brand new work, Titration, was the focus of this performance. The Crossing performed the work's world premiere in Montana just four days before visiting NPR.

Nova's music, which "looks at how we deal with difficult emotions," she says, requires a wide range of tone and color from the choir. Voices softly enter in translucent layers, a reminder of Renaissance traditions, or bark in a way that conjures up the early American shape-note singing style.

During sound check, Nally stopped the singers to coax a slightly different pronunciation or tweak a volume. And through it all, they sang with power and precision — and with smiles on their faces.

SET LIST

From Titration by Shara Nova

  • Turn Ya Head
  • Safety In Peril or Calm
  • I'm So Mad I Could Spit Nails
  • Pulses
  • MUSICIANS

  • Donald Nally: conductor
  • Kevin Vondrak: assistant conductor 
  • Choir

  • Katy Avery
  • Karen Blanchard
  • Micah Dingler
  • Joanna Gates
  • Dimitri German
  • Steven Hyder
  • A.J. Keller
  • Lauren Kelly
  • Anika Kildegaard
  • Maren Montalbano
  • Daniel O'Dea
  • Kyle Sackett
  • Rebecca Siler
  • Tiana Sorenson
  • Daniel Spratlan
  • Daniel Taylor        
  • Shari Wilson
  • TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Tom Huizenga
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin 
  • Director/Editor: Kara Frame
  • Series Creator: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Michael Zamora, Pierre Kattar
  • Audio Assistant: Neil Tevault
  • Production Assistants: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Maia Stern
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.
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