The William Penn Foundation Awards Major Grant to Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
and Leah Stein Dance Company to Develop World Premiere Performances of TURBINE
Along the Schuylkill River in May, 2015
$216,000 Grant Will Support Premiere of Composer Byron Au Yong’s Work Featuring 88 Singers
and Nine Dancers Performing Together Outside of the Fairmount Water Works
PHILADELPHIA – Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia announced today that they have received an award of $216,000 from The William Penn Foundation for the TURBINE project. The large-scale, site-responsive choral work, will have its world premier at the Fairmount Water Works along the Schuylkill River on May 16 & 17, 2015. Mendelssohn Club Artistic Director Alan Harler will conduct two performances of TURBINE featuring more than 88 singers and nine dancers and an original choral score by Seattle-based composer Byron Au Yong.
TURBINE was co-commissioned by Mendelssohn Club and Leah Stein Dance Company (LSDC) in connection with the 200th anniversary of the Water Works, America’s first urban public water supply system. In connection with that historic milestone, Fairmount Park Conservancy will promote the TURBINE performances as a special focus of their “Love Your Park” weekend next May.
During TURBINE, Mendelssohn Club singers and members of Leah Stein Dance Company will travel and flow along the river, above the shore, and along the long paths of the site, often parallel to the river itself. The audience will be integrated into these pathways. The shoreline will be included in the performance as the potent edge where water and land meet. TURBINE will also be maestro Harler’s final appearance as Artistic Director. He is retiring at the end of the 2014-2015 season after 28 years and will continue to work with Mendelssohn Club in the role of Conductor Laureate.
“Everyone involved with this important project is thrilled by today’s announcement,” according to Charlotte E. Sibley, Chair of the Board of Mendelssohn Club, which is celebrating its 141st season this year. “A grant of this size represents a major vote of confidence in Mendelssohn and all the organizations and artists involved.” Sibley was quick to add, “Not only does this grant empower us and LSDC to produce such a bold new work by Byron Au Yong, it makes it possible for all of us to participate in celebrating this wonderful Philadelphia landmark.
“Along with our North American premiere of the Bach Mendelssohn St. Matthew Passion in February, “ says Charlotte Sibley, “our world premiere of TURBINE next spring offers the entire Philadelphia community two wonderful opportunities to see Alan Harler and the Chorus doing what they do best, which is presenting the very best of the masterworks and the most exciting new choral works happening anywhere.”
“We saw this project as a unique opportunity to creatively engage the community with the Water Works and the Schuylkill River,” said Andrew Johnson, Program Director of Watershed Protection for the William Penn Foundation. “The Water Works has a significant place in Philadelphia’s history, initially as provider of safe, clean drinking water to Philadelphia residents, and now as a provider of environmental education. As the Foundation continues its work to improve water quality, we are pleased to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Water Works and leverage this milestone as an innovative way to educate people about this important resource.”
The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase education opportunities for children from low income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advances philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. With assets of over $2 billion, the Foundation distributes approximately $90 million in grants annually. Learn more about the Foundation at www.williampennfoundation.org
The joint grant proposal submitted to The William Penn Foundation described two over-arching goals for TURBINE: 1)”to bring public awareness and appreciation for the Schuylkill watershed, specifically the Water Works site, through a multi-faceted interpretative work that directly engages the public,” and 2) ‘to bring awareness of and appreciation for Philadelphia’s history, and the role this site played in that history, specifically, the need for clean, publicly provided water.”
During the entire school year, LSDC will be in residence at Science Leadership Academy for a portion of the project is supported in part by the NEA. Ms. Stein and the students will explore ideas about sound & movement as well as urban legends about the role of water in Philadelphia’s history. LSDC also secured funding from New Music USA in support of composer Au Yong’s commission and two residencies in Philadelphia while he studies the site’s history and engages in a charrette with LSDC.
This is how choreographer Leah Stein describes TURBINE: “Although America’s great industrial centers rose from the banks of rivers that provided cheap power and transportation, Philadelphia was and remains dedicated to maintaining a clean watershed. TURBINE seeks to reach Philadelphia’s public, particularly in the West Philadelphia, Fairmount, and Art Museum neighborhoods, as we artistically interpret the importance of the Schuylkill watershed and the Water Works’ role in it.”
Stein says, “At every point in the performances, which will take place an hour before sunset, the audience will be encouraged to actively participate by using all their senses to experience the Schuylkill River and historic Water Works site. Singers and dancers will be moving and overlapping with each other and the audience throughout the landscape. At certain moments, Byron Au Yong’s musical composition will use sections of ‘silence’ that will enable the sounds of the river and the surrounding city to play a vivid role in the work.” Stein believes strongly, that “by the end of the work, anyone participating…singers, dancers or members of the public…will have a much deeper appreciation of that river and the organic role it plays in the life of our community and this place we all call home.”
TURBINE – Background of an 18th Century Landmark and a 21st Century Creative Collaboration
TURBINE is the next collaboration between Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia in partnership with the historic Fairmount Water Works along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. This historic site is a landmark in Philadelphia history, demonstrating a key moment in understanding the tides and movement of water and in architectural invention. The legacy of the Water Works and its historic location along this urban river offers a resonant metaphor of the sustenance of life.
The city of Philadelphia was settled between the shores of the Delaware River, named for the American Indian tribe, and the Schuylkill River (meaning “hidden” in Dutch), a 130-mile waterway coming down from the Appalachians. Nestled in this watershed, Philadelphia became the first large American city to consider delivering clean water to its citizens a municipal responsibility– the vehicle for which became the Fairmount Water Works, a technological marvel of its time.
Frederick Graff built the Water Works on the eastern bank of the Schuylkill, initially using the power of steam engines to lift the water from the river. This evolved to waterwheels by 1822. Powered by the river, pumps raised water into reservoirs high atop the nearby hill, “Faire Mount.” The reservoirs were positioned 56 feet above the highest point of the city, thus allowing gravity to feed fresh water its citizens. The Fairmount Water Works opened to the public in 1825. Soon, visitors from around the world arrived to admire the technology and the views along the beautiful riverbank.
A dynamic conversation between TURBINE’s creative team began in 2013 when Alan Harler introduced Byron Au Yong to Leah Stein. In their works, both the composer and the choreographer are informed and inspired by the physicality of sound and the acoustics of space. Au Yong collaborates with choreographer Leah Stein to write music that is directly influenced by the architecture, landscape, and acoustic elements of the historic site as well as the movement of the singers and dancers. The choreography will also be inspired by the site elements as well as the choral score that Au Yong creates.
# # #
7:00 pm, Saturday & Sunday, May 16 & 17 2015
with Leah Stein Dance Company
Byron Au Yong, Composer
Alan Harler, Conductor
In celebration of the Water Works’ 200th anniversary, Mendelssohn Club joins forces with the Leah Stein Dance Company and composer Byron Au Yong to present the world premiere of TURBINE, an immersive work for singers, dancers, and instruments, featuring choreography and music shaped in response to the site’s architecture and landscape. Join us as we celebrate “LOVE Your Park Week” by exploring the Water Works and Schuylkill watershed through movement and sound.
The Water Works
640 Water Works Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Free and Open to the public.
# # #
Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
Since its founding fifteen decades ago, 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.
During its long, rich history, Mendelssohn Club played a role in forming the Philadelphia Orchestra; gave the Philadelphia premiere of the Brahms Requiem, provided more than 300 singers for the American premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, gave the world premiere of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13; and was nominated for a GRAMMY for its recording of the Vincent Persichetti Winter Cantata. The 140-voice chorus is a highly artistic, auditioned chorus, made up of 16 professional core singers; music teachers, professors, therapists, and instrumentalists, as well as those with music training but who have other nn-music-related professions. That the chorus’s projects are recognized both for their artistic achievement and as the critical gathering place that it provides for a community passionate about singing speaks to the integral role that it plays in the region, particularly Philadelphia’s singers, instrumentalists, composers, collaborating organizations that they employ and the audiences that they inspire.
Mendelssohn Club believes in taking artistic risks that stretch and challenge its singers and audiences; in supporting the talent, passion, and dedication of its singers, and in the powerful communal experience that comes from shared music-making; in respecting the commitment and appreciation of the audience members; and in ensuring Mendelssohn Club’s long-term stability as an important cultural resource in the region and as an influence in the world of choral music.
“With a passionate commitment to artistic excellence, repertoire diversity, audience engagement, and commissioning new works, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, under the direction of Maestro Alan Harler, continues to be a dynamic, vibrant, and relevant choral ensemble in the greater Philadelphia community.”
Rollo Dillworth, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Chorus America
For information about Mendelssohn Club’s concerts and programs, or to order tickets for the 2014-2015 season, visit www.mcchorus.org. You can also find Mendelssohn Club on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mcchorus.
Alan Harler, Artistic Director
Throughout his distinguished musical career as Artistic Director of Mendelssohn Club, Alan Harler has been a strong advocate for new American music. During his tenure with Mendelssohn Club, he has commissioned over 55 new compositions, including Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields (2014), David Lang’s battle hymns (2009), Jennifer Higdon’s On the Death of the Righteous (2009), Pauline Oliveros’ Urban Echo: Circle Told (2008) and Robert Moran’s Requiem: Chant du Cygne (1990). Other major commissions included Charles Fussell’s Specimen Days (1992), Robert Stern’s Returning the Song (1994), Cynthia Folio’s Touch the Angel’s Hand (1994), James Primosch’s Fire Memory/ River Memory (1998), Charles Fussell’s High Bridge (2003), and Andrea Clearfield’s The Golem Psalms (2006).
In 1994, Harler conducted Mendelssohn Club in a critically acclaimed recording of the Moran Requiem for Argo/London Records. Under his baton the chorus also released Metamorphosis in 2011. The CD featured Mendelssohn Club commissions by Philadelphia-based composers Jennifer Higdon, Andrea Clearfield, and James Primosch. In recognition of Harler’s contribution to new music, in 2007 Mendelssohn Club established the Alan Harler New Ventures Fund, an endowment to ensure the future commissioning and production of new works and innovative collaborations.
Alan Harler has been honored frequently by his peers nationwide and by leading arts organizations and educational institutions. In 2009, his provocative programming vision was recognized by Chorus America with the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art. That same year, he was also honored by the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia with an Honorary Lifetime Membership for Distinguished Contribution to Musical Life of Philadelphia.
Harler received the 2007 Elaine Brown Award for Life-long Service to Choral Music given by the Pennsylvania Division of the American Choral Director’s Association. That same year, he conducted the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of Handel’s Messiah, an honor typically offered to orchestral conductors. In 1995, he was elected to the Board of Chorus America, the national association of professional and volunteer choruses, a position he held for several years.
Harler also served from 1981 to 2010 as Laura H. Carnell Professor and Chairman of Choral Music at Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music. As conductor of the Temple University Concert Choir, he conducted many Philadelphia concert premieres, including Moran’s Hagoromo, Alfred Schnittke’s Requiem, and Arvo Pärt’s Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Joannem. In 2005, Temple University presented him with its Creative Achievement Award.
Alan Harler has been an active conductor outside of Philadelphia, having performed regularly at the Festival Casals in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Aspen Choral Institute. He has also given master classes and conducted performances in Taiwan and China under the sponsorship of the Taiwan Philharmonic Association. He has prepared choruses for many of the country’s leading orchestras and conductors including Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Ricardo Muti, David Roberstson, Max Rudolph, Wolfgang Sawallisch and Klaus Tennstedt.
Harler currently serves as a Conducting Mentor with the Conductors Guild, making himself available for consultation with young conductors internationally. At Mendelssohn Club, he works with a young apprentice conductor each year through the Conducting Apprenticeship Program.
Alan Harler and his vision for the Bach-Mendelssohn St. Matthew Passion,
February 8, 2014 in the Chapel at Girard College
Long-time Artistic Director Alan Harler, who flew to Oxford University last year to study the original scores, puts the Bach-Mendelssohn’s edition of the St. Matthew Passion in a special historical perspective for the chorus. “We can’t think of a better work to research and present, especially considering how much of our own history is reflected in the original performances of this particular score.” Harler explains, “Not only did Felix Mendelssohn spark a Bach revival with his performances of his edition of the St. Matthew Passion, but the beloved composer/conductor also energized community singing in a very large ensemble format. In the years following the extremely popular 1829 and 1841 concerts, Mendelssohn Clubs, Choruses and Societies were founded all over Europe and North America, including our own chorus right here in Philadelphia over 140 years ago.”
“For the past five decades,” Harler admits, “I have longed to conduct Bach’s St. Matthew Passion having conducted the St. John Passion and Mass in B Minor numerous times. Yet, in my long career of teaching and conducting, the timing just never aligned with the resources required.” Harler explains that, “A symphonic chorus as large as Mendelssohn Club never seemed appropriate to this work because of the intimate size of the group required in Bach’s original score. The score poses other challenges for a chorus of any size, including the delicate and quite difficult coloratura passages and the Baroque period practices related to instrumentation, vocal affect, etc.” “But all that changed,” says Harler, ”when I heard a recording of conductor Cristophe Sperlins’s performance of Mendelssohn’s version. Here at last was a St. Matthew Passion that was compatible with the 125 voices of Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia!”
Leah Stein Dance Company
Leah Stein Dance Company strives to bring dance to a wide spectrum of people from diverse backgrounds, age groups and communities. Inspired by the physics of movement and the forces of nature, Artistic Director Leah Stein seeks to deepen and enliven a sense of place. The Company is a dynamic group of talented dancers who work collectively to realize Stein’s vision.
Leah Stein Dance Company (LSDC) creates dance works for the stage and outdoor sites that highlight the interaction between people, their culture and the physical environment. LSDC works with untraditional approaches to creating dances with a focus on juxtapositions and interrelationships between movement, sound, object and place. Collaboration is central to the mission and most works include musicians, visual artists, and local communities.
Leah Stein Dance Company was founded in 2001. LSDC has built upon Stein’s vision of creating dances for unusual sites, presenting unique works for the stage, and developing collaborative relationships with diverse artists and communities. LSDC has received numerous commissions, developed residency projects at schools and festivals and created several major dance pieces.
The Company includes dancers of different backgrounds, each bringing a strong individual voice to the work.. Leah Stein Dance Company’s On Site Philadelphia program began in 2004 with “Cornerstone” presented at the Christ Church Burial Ground by the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. This unusual site work quietly resonated in the stillness of the burial ground with bursts of color and surreal imagery now and then as if to awaken the moment from the past. Since that inaugural production, LSDC has performed in various sites around the city, including “Bardo” (2005) in an empty lot on Broad Street Philadelphia presented by the Live Arts Festival, “GATE” (2007) at the Eastern State Penitentiary, “Urban ECHO: Circle Told” (2008) at the Rotunda, “Battle Hymns” (2009) at the 23rd St Armory, “Mill Tones” (2010) at RittenhouseTown, the first paper mill in North America, and two performances (2010 and 2011) at Shofuso, the Japanese House and Garden in Fairmount Park. In 2012, LSDC presented “Hoist” at the Maas Building in North Philadelphia and in 2013, we presented “Adjacent Spaces” at the Shiloh Baptist Church.
Byron Au Yong
“As the son of immigrants in America, I search for ways music connects people with the places they call home. I am blessed to call Seattle home; where the mountains & water retain power alongside 21st century technology. This informs my songs of dislocation created to honor the ritual of people who gather to listen.”
Byron Au Yong
Dedicated to intercultural collaboration, Byron Au Yong works with choreographers, scientists, sculptors, technologists, writers, and experts in multiple disciplines. Examples include Farewell: a fantastical contemplation on America’s relationship with China, commissioned by Spectrum Dance Theatre, Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas, 64 musical miniatures based on the I Ching 易經, and Stuck Elevator, a comic-rap-scrap-metal-opera.
Byron Au Yong (歐陽良仁) combines western classical music, Chinese folk elements and American musical theatre with a penchant for the avant-garde. His interdisciplinary projects, scored for voices with Asian, European and handmade instruments have been performed in concert halls, festivals, theaters, museums, and site-specific locations.
Works include Stuck Elevator, premiered at the American Conservatory Theatre, Tzu Lho: Simmering Songs performed by the Stanford Chorale, Surrender: A T’ai Qi Cantata, for 24 moving voices commissioned by The Esoterics, YIJU: Songs of Dislocation developed at the Jack Straw New Media Gallery and Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas performed in 64 waterways throughout the Pacific Northwest.
International projects include Salt Lips Touching premiered outside a Confucian Temple at the Jeonju Sanjo Festival in South Korea, Edge performed at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg in Germany and Forbidden Circles performed at the Fukuoka Gendai Hogaku Festival and International House of Japan.
Au Yong has worked with the top taiko ensembles in North America including On Ensemble and TAIKOPROJECT. In addition, he curated the exhibition A Bridge Home: Music in the Lives of Asian Pacific Americans for the Wing Luke Museum, where he serves on a Community Advisory Committee.
Honors include a Creative Capital Award, Ford Foundation Fellowship and Meet the Composer Commission. Internationally, Au Yong has received support from Aldeburgh Music in the UK, the Dragon Foundation in Hong Kong, the Darmstadt Institute in Germany, and Foundation Gaudeamus in Holland.
Recordings of Au Yong’s music are available on New World Records, Periplum and Present Sounds Recordings. He lives in Seattle near the Pike Place Market. His namesake comes from Lord Byron and Ouyang Xiu (歐陽脩), two poets who wrote about love.
# # #