Often, when one hears about a battle of the bands, “a capella choral group” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But at this year’s Battle of the Boroughs, an annual competition hosted by The Greene Space and WNYC/WQXR, the showcase of talent ranges from the rhythm and blues-tinged rock of Staten Island’s Mick Watley Band and The Great Apes from Queens to more Afro-Caribbean influences from Brooklyn’s Brown Rice Family and BODOMA Garifuna Cultural Band, hailing from the Bronx. Manhattan’s KHORIKOS stands out not only because they don’t play instruments but they are also the only contestants representing western classical choral music. After several rounds of “battle” already, these five acts go head-to-head on Friday, June 29th at The Greene Space to see which borough will take home the top prize.
Artistic Director and Founder Jesse Peckham (left) created KHORIKOS out of a desire to bring classical music to a wider audience, which is what brought the group to the Battle of the Boroughs. “We’re trying to peel away the façade, the formalities and traditions that aren’t necessary to help bring it down to where it should be, in the hands of all the people,” says Peckham, who at just 18, began conducting the Beethoven Chamber Orchestra in Hradec, Czech Republic, as well as directing the Czech World Orchestra for several years before forming his own New York-based ensemble in 2005. KHORIKOS performs everything from medieval polyphony to new works by living composers such as Javier Farias, Jan Jirasek, and Augusta Read Thomas, creating music programs that span across centuries and bringing choral music out of the history books and into a contemporary context.
“KHORIKOS thought it would be an interesting opportunity for us to bring classical music into the mainstream by connecting it to an audience that hasn’t heard much of it before,” says Alec Galambos, one of the ensemble’s conductors. And indeed, they struck a unique chord with the audience, who chose the group from among 13 others to represent Manhattan. KHORIKOS’ home base is The Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua, an iconic church located in SoHo. “We love it,” says Peckham. “This is a great space. We choose to sing in a church as many choirs do because it supports the sound; it just glows.” And as the oldest church in the U.S. founded for ministry to Italian immigrants, St. Anthony’s is also a testament to New York City’s diverse spirit and multicultural ethos, which KHORIKOS embodies as well. Adds Vanessa Hylande, Peckham’s wife and CEO of Dorian Artists Corp., who manages the ensemble: “A lot of people come to New York to be in New York City. Manhattan is sort of like the hub that pulls it all together, (so we are) doubly proud to be representing Manhattan.”
The Battle of the Boroughs takes place at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, 44 Charlton Street, New York on Friday, June 29 at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets or tune in to the live webcast at http://www.thegreenespace.org/theultimatebattle/.