UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Bang on a Can All-Stars will present a chapter in Pennsylvania labor history with a presentation of ensemble co-founder Julia Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning experimental-classical composition “Anthracite Fields” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 30, in Eisenhower Auditorium. The Penn State Concert Choir, conducted by Christopher Kiver, will accompany the ensemble.
A folk and classical music-inspired piece, “Anthracite Fields” debuted in Philadelphia in 2014 and earned the Pulitzer the following year. The five-movement oratorio for choir and sextet commemorates the history of coal-mining life in Pennsylvania at the turn of the 20th century. A Los Angeles Times reviewer called the work “an unforgettably haunting, harrowing evocation of the plight of Pennsylvania’s coal miners.” A recording of the work received a 2015 Grammy nomination for best contemporary classical composition.
Wolfe, co-founder of Bang on a Can (with composers Michael Gordon and David Lang) and a professor of music composition at New York University, has written myriad works for string ensembles, quartets and full orchestras, as well as for film and theater. A New York Times critic described her quartets as combining “the violent forward drive of rock music with an aura of minimalist serenity.”
She has mined the history of labor in America to inspire her most recent compositions — coal in “Anthracite Fields” and man vs. machine in “Steel Hammer. In addition to the 2015 Pulitzer, the Philadelphia area native is the recipient of many awards and grants, including the 2015 Herb Alpert Award and a 2016 MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. “Steel Hammer,” which Bang on a Can All-Stars performed at the Center for the Performing Arts in 2009, was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.
Bang on a Can All-Stars, the touring arm of “marathon” performing ensemble Bang on a Can, is a cross-genre music organization dedicated to presenting new concert music. A San Francisco Chronicle writer called the amplified sextet “the country’s most important vehicle for contemporary music.” Since its founding in 1992, the ensemble has released recordings of compositions by a variety of artists, including Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Glenn Branca.
Penn State Concert Choir has performed throughout the United States and in several foreign countries at venues including Heinz Hall and the Kimmel Center, and with The Rolling Stones at Heinz Field. Kiver, choral director at Penn State’s School of Music, teaches choral conducting and literature courses.
For more information about the production and a related Classical Coffeehouse event, visit the Center for Performing Arts online or call 814-863-0255.