World Premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields Highlights Mendelssohn Club’s 140th Season

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                  CONTACTS:

July 16, 2013

Janelle McCoy, Executive Director
Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

Edward McNally, Above The Fold

Philadelphia’s Beloved Choral Treasure Begins Its 15th Decade on October 25. 2013
With Evening of Great Works for Chorus and Organ at The Kimmel Center

 (PHILADELPHIA) As part of its 140th season, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia will present Anthracite Fields, the world premiere of a new work by the award-winning American composer Julia Wolfe.  The 140-member chorus will give four performances of the work in the historic Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral on April 26 and 27, 2014. Anthracite Fields is inspired by Wolfe’s own research into Pennsylvania coal mining culture and interviews with miners and their families. Wolfe’s folk-classical hybrid will incorporate the architecture of the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral’s sanctuary space as a dramatic backdrop. Mendelssohn Club will by joined by the musicians of the internationally renowned Bang on a Can All-Stars for all four performances of this important world premiere.

Anthracite Fields will be the fourth of five concert programs presented by the historic chorus this coming season.

The concerts will take audiences across a range of musical genres and performance spaces. Mendelssohn Club will open and close the season in Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center.

On Friday, October 25, the symphonic chorus will join forces with the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest mechanical-action concert organ in the United States. Michael Stairs will command the magnificent instrument and Michael Barone, host of American Public Media’s Pipedreams, will provide special commentary from the stage.

The program of great works for chorus and organ will include compositions by Benjamin Britten, Louis Vierne, Marcel Dupré, Charles Ives and Zóltan Kodály.

In bold contrast to its annual holiday favorite, A Feast of Carols, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill in December, Mendelssohn Club will explore how composers have confronted the horrors of war during a very special program in February. The Sound of Spirit: Pärt/Haydn will be fill the Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square with powerful and moving works written two centuries apart by the Austrian Franz Josef Haydn and Arvo Pärt of Estonia.

In June 2014, audiences of all ages will gather again in Verizon Hall to enjoy some of Philadelphia’s most talented young musicians as Mendelssohn Club joins the Philadelphia Sinfonia in Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony with Maestro Gary White conducting.

“In many ways, these five concert programs convey the soul and essence of this chorus,” says Alan Harler, artistic director of Mendelssohn Club since 1988. “We’re revisiting a select few of the essential masterworks as well as exploring some very serious and exciting musical ideas for the first time, including a commission of a new choral work by one of the world’s best composers. And we’re sharing these experiences in the greatest modern hall in Philadelphia, as well as some of the most evocative historic spaces in the city.”

Harler is quick to add, “As beautiful and fascinating and emotionally involving as each of these concerts will be in their own way, everyone in the chorus, and in fact, everyone associated with Mendelssohn Club, is thrilled to be able to present Julia Wolfe’s newest choral work as part of our 140th season. The premiere of this commission, Anthracite Fields, will be a major milestone for our singers and for everyone who experiences the work live in The Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral next April.”

Anthracite Fields was commissioned through Meet the Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program, which is made possible by generous support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund. Additional support was made possible through the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia Alan Harler New Ventures Fund; The Presser Foundation; The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; the National Endowment for the Arts; and The Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia.


2013-14 Season Concert Details

Kimmel Center Organ Concert
featuring organist Michael Stairs

 October 25, 2013 | 7:30 pm

Verizon Hall
KimmelCenter for the Performing Arts
300 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA19102

Tickets available through Ticket Philadelphia (215) 893-1999

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia opens its 140th anniversary season with a program of great works for chorus and organ. Highlights from the early and mid-twentieth century include Benjamin Britten’s Festival Te Deum and Jubilate Deo, in honor of Britten’s birth centenary. Louis Vierne’s Messe Solennelle and Marcel Dupré’s Four Motets will represent the great French organ tradition. And the program concludes with two works with American connections: Charles Ives’ setting of Psalm 90 and Zóltan Kodály’s Laudes Organi, which was commissioned by the American Guild of Organists.

The concert features organist Michael Stairs on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest mechanical-action concert organ in the United States. Michael Barone, host of American Public Media’s Pipedreams will provide special comments.


A Feast of Carols
with The Mendelssohn Brass and organist Michael Stairs

December 14, 2013 | 5 pm

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Chestnut Hill
22 E. Chestnut Hill Ave.
Philadelphia, PA19118

Tickets: $28, $38 online | $30, $40 at the door 


Come celebrate the holidays with the voices of Mendelssohn Club in one of our most popular concert series!  Experience the beauty of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, listen and sing along to carols old and new, and enjoy the quaint charm of the shops and restaurants of Chestnut Hill.  Featuring organist Michael Stairs, the Mendelssohn Brass and works in honor of our Composer-in-Residence Donald St. Pierre.



The Sound of Spirit: Pärt/Haydn
with The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

February 23, 2014 | 4 pm

Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square
1904 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA19103

$28 & $38 online | $30 & $40 at the door 

Despite being separated by over two centuries of music, Arvo Pärt and Joseph Haydn both sought to make sense of the lengthy wars of their times, each touched in some way by the grim realities of war and each providing his own individual response through composition.

Written during the incessant French aggression against the Austrians, Haydn’s Mass in Time of War embodies the sounds of battle juxtaposed to prayers for peace.  Similarly, Pärt sought to find common ground as a way to bridge warring factions through his music. Performed on this program is an encore performance of Arvo Pärt’s Adam’s Lament, praised by critic David Patrick Stearns as “seethingly passionate” and “harmonically explosive.” Two shorter works by Pärt, including the North American premiere of his Estonian Lullaby and Salve Regina, complete the program.


Anthracite Fields by Julia Wolfe
with Bang On a Can All-Stars

April 26, 2014 | 4 pm & 7:30 pm
April 27, 2014 | 4 pm & 7:30 pm

The Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
13 South 38th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Tickets $28 online | $30 at the door

Experience the mining lore of the anthracite coal fields of central Pennsylvania through this new, folk-classical hybrid by composer Julia Wolfe, runner-up for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in music. The sound and lyrics of Anthracite Fields is inspired by Wolfe’s personal research and miner family interviews.  The premiere performances will incorporate the The Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral’s sanctuary space as a dramatic backdrop. Mendelssohn Club joins forces with the internationally renowned Bang on a Can All-Stars for this very special series of four concerts over two days.
NOTE: A special Anthracite Fields website will be available online in the summer of 2013 to enable music lovers everywhere a chance to follow the  development of this new Julia Wolfe work in the months leading up to it world premiere in April 2014.

Beethoven Symphony No. 9
with the Philadelphia Sinfonia

June 8, 2014 | 4 pm
Verizon Hall
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Tickets available through Philadelphia Sinfonia at

Don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to hear all 140 voices of the magnificent Mendelssohn Club Chorus along with some of Philadelphia’s most talented young musicians. Mendelssohn Club joins the Philadelphia Sinfonia in Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony with Maestro Gary White conducting.

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

 For the past 140 years, Mendelssohn Club Chorus has been devoted to sharing great choral music as a way to connect artists, audiences and communities.  Mendelssohn Club, one of America’s oldest choruses, continues to expand its repertoire in the 21st century by collaborating with a wide range of musical organizations, each of which is devoted to representing or reaching out to new audiences in innovative ways. Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia performs choral music to create a shared transcendent experience among its singers and audiences. Through the excellence of its adventurous performances, Mendelssohn Club advances the development of choral music as an art form. )

Earlier this year, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia received the prestigious Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, which recognizes choruses that demonstrate a commitment to fostering and promoting new music. “Few organizations have so strategically embraced innovation and collaboration,” says Tom Kaiden, former Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. “Mendelssohn Club constantly finds new ways to bring the audience into the experience. It’s why they are one of the most exciting choruses in America today.”


Alan Harler, Artistic Director

Artistic Director Alan Harler, who received the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art, is known for pairing new works and the masterworks. During his twenty-five year tenure with Mendelssohn Club, he has commissioned over 55 new compositions, including David Lang’s battle hymns (2009), Jennifer Higdon’s On the Death of the Righteous, and Pauline Oliveros’s Urban Echo: Circle Told (2008). Maestro Harler conducted Mendelssohn Club in a critically acclaimed recording of the Moran Requiem for Argo/London Records in 1994.


For information about Mendelssohn Club’s concerts and programs, or to order tickets for the 2013-2014 season, visit


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