Sunday, November 26, 2006

PS22 Chorus member JUSTIN sings a solo version of "Ode To My Clothes" by Tori Amos

"Ode To My Clothes" will be sung by the entire chorus at their upcoming winter concert, but here's a sneak preview of the song performed by soloist Justin. He is singing both the melody & the harmony, and does an absolutely brilliant job. Click on the link below to hear.

PS22 Chorus feat. Justin -- Ode To My Clothes (by Tori Amos)

Thanks a trillion to Raspy at Afterglow for hosting this & more!! XO2

Saturday, November 04, 2006

PS22 Chorus gets a visit from Latin Grammy nominee, LENA!

On November 1, 2006, the PS22 Chorus received a visit from the Cuban super-star, Lena! Lena was nominated for Best New Artist, and her beautiful song (duet with Latin music sensation, Alejandro Sanz), "Tu Corazon", was also nominated for the Song of the Year at this year's Latin Grammies. She sang a solo version of her Latin Chart-topping mega-hit for us and we were all, needless to say, blown away!! Then she listened to the chorus, and Mariah & Justin sing a solo piano version of Justin & Mr. B's original song, "Bethlehem". She was extremely moved by the passion the kids put into their singing and, of course, by their extreme talent! See for yourself...

An autographed copy of her self-titled debut CD!

Lena with some aspiring song-writers of the PS22 Chorus

Lena surrounded by a whole bunch of altos!

Lena surrounded by a whole bunch of sopranos!

Lena with Mr. B

PS22 Chorus article on hugely popular Tori Amos site, Undented!

These Kids, They Twinkle
by Beth Winegarner
Undented managing editor

Mr. B tuning guitar

[Staten Island], N.Y. — Fifth-graders at New York’s PS22.... have found their voices—and even a touch of stardom—by singing some of Tori Amos’ best-known songs.

Tori [Amos fan] Gregg Breinberg started teaching at PS22 in 2000, where he spends three days a week giving the school’s older students lessons in the rudiments of music, including ear training, instruments and music notation. The other two days, he focuses his energy on the fifth-grade chorus, adapting Tori’s music—and other classic, gospel and pop songs—for the voices of 60 kids, leading them in performances for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CNN anchor Paula Zahn and many others.

Breinberg earned his bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition from SUNY New Paltz, but couldn’t find his niche among the students there, most of whom were focused on classical or jazz styles. It was only when he recalled his love of teaching music at summer camps that he returned to college, earned his master’s degree in education in Wagner College in Staten Island and started to teach at PS22.

The results — for Breinberg and for his students — have been transformative.

“[The] music brings out something in kids who felt like they just didn’t belong and had nothing to offer,” Breinberg said.

Breinberg has adapted a variety of songs for his students’ voices—everything from Destiny’s Child and Gregorian Chants. But it’s their versions of Tori’s songs such as “Carbon,” “Twinkle” and “Purple People” that have earned the chorus major kudos from Tori fans—and even a mention in author Neil Gaiman’s blog.

Mr. B and friends with Tori

Once in a while, a student blossoms after performing Tori’s songs with the PS22 chorus. David and Deon, the boys who soloed on “Not the Red Baron” and “Flying Dutchman,” respectively, barely spoke to anyone when they first came to PS22, but rocketed into popularity and confidence after their classmates heard them sing.

Parents, too, love what happens as Breinberg helps children discover their voices.

“It’s so wonderful to see a parent overwhelmed by a talent they didn’t even know their child had,” he said. “Many of my best soloists didn’t even know that they could sing.”

Breinberg arranges one to two of Tori’s songs each year. By now, the PS22 chorus has performed an album’s worth of her songs, including “Twinkle,” “Winter,” “Wednesday,” “Hello, Mr. Zebra,” “Humpty Dumpty,” “Purple People,” “Carbon,” “Not the Red Baron,” “Flying Dutchman” and “Cornflake Girl,” as well as Tori-esque versions of songs such as Tom Waits’ “Time,” Chas & Dave’s “That’s What I Like, Mick,” The Doors’ “People Are Strange,” and classics like “Common People,” “Sentimental Journey” and “God Bless the Child.”

Although most of the students are not familiar with Tori as a professional pop singer, they adore her music, Breinberg said. When they performed for DJ Judy Torres, they enthusiastically asked to sing “Carbon” for Torres. Tori’s version of “That’s What I Like, Mick” is also an enduring favorite. “It’s a fun kinda song [and] I liked the topic—all the things you want!” said one student, Mariah.

“I thought [‘Purple People’ and ‘That’s What I Like, Mick’] were really inspiring,” said another student, Justin, in a letter to Tori. “I also like that song ‘Flying Dutchman’ because it matches the way I sing. I hope to become a great singer like you.”

Chorus with Paula Zahn

In the 2005-06 school year, Justin performed with the chorus although he was only in fourth grade. This year, he’s back and has been invited to perform at the nationally televised Martin Luther King memorial observance in Albany, NY in January 2007. The whole chorus will sing Oct. 30, 2006 at the YMCA of Greater New York’s Arts & Letters Auction and Reception. Their version of “Carbon” was used in a YMCA promotional CD, and their cover of “Time” was used in the soundtrack for a Sept. 11-themed movie co-written by Breinberg and Leslie Johnson.

Many of the tracks have been heard on the Internet, and videos of the PS22 chorus singing “Twinkle” and “Carbon” have surfaced on YouTube. Breinberg is hoping that one day Tori will hear their voices for herself, but in the meantime, he’s just happy to get these kids singing.

“They are my heroes, knowing the obstacles so many of them have to overcome, yet they get up and come into school smiling and sharing their positive energy,” Breinberg said. “They are little miracle people.”

Friday, November 03, 2006

Some bonus Rainbow Room photo/video footage!

Justin & Mariah with Marcia Gay Harden, their new biggest fan!

During the soundcheck, Academy Award-winner Marcia Gay Harden teaches Justin (and the chorus) the most important lesson in show biz! And his reaction is priceless when he finds out who is giving him the advice!! When she talks to the kids, you can see for yourself just what an amazingly kind and gentle soul she is.

UPDATE: After this amazing night, Marcia Gay Harden was so taken with the chorus, that she invited the kids to sing at her home for Christmas! Check out the pics here!

Some great photos from the Rainbow Room with Academy Award-winner Marcia Gay Harden....

photos by Stew Ransom (c), Ana Balcarcel, & Leslie Johnson

Marcia Gay Harden with some of the PS22 Sopranos!

The PS22 "Happy Workers" hard at work, but making it look easy!

Justin and Mariah blow the Rainbow Room audience away with their duet on Justin & Mr. B's original song, "Bethelehem"....

A well-deserved standing ovation for the PS22 Chorus!

Nelson is looking rather chipper after a job well done!

Mrs. Burns, Marcia Gay Harden, & Mr. B were all smiles, in awe of the kids' dazzling performance!