On Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 9pm, New York’s electric chamber ensemble, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, joins forces with The Choir of Trinity Wall Street led by conductor Julian Wachner to perform Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work Anthracite Fields at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. Wolfe and scenographer Jeff Sugg join John Schaefer, host of WNYC's New Sounds and Soundcheck, in a pre-concert talk in the hall at 8pm. This is the first New York performance of Anthracite Fields since its pre-Pulitzer premiere in 2014.
Julia Wolfe’s haunting, poignant and relentlessly physical Anthracite Fields, is an examination of the coal-mining industry so musically and socially provocative that it netted the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music. In Anthracite Fields, Wolfe draws on oral histories, interviews, speeches, geographic descriptions, local rhymes, and coal advertisements to create a work that gives an intimate look at a particular slice of American life. With visually stunning projections by scenographer Jeff Sugg and music that is at times elegiac, hard-driving, and tender, Anthracite Fields is a deeply moving oratorio which honors the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region during a time when the industry fueled the nation. Mark Swed of The Los Angeles Times remarks, “[Anthracite Fields] captures not only the sadness of hard lives lost…but also of the sweetness and passion of a way of daily life now also lost. The music compels without overstatement. This is a major, profound work.”
Named after the technical term for the purest form of coal, anthracite, Anthracite Fields was written after Wolfe did extensive research about the coal mining industry in an area very near where she grew up in Pennsylvania. She writes, “In some ways the piece is a return to my small town Pennsylvania roots. In looking north – the left turn onto route 309, the road-rarely-taken – I delved into a local history.” She continues, “My aim with Anthracite Fields is to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region during a time when the industry fueled the nation, and to reveal a bit about who we are as American workers.”
Cited by the Pulitzer committee as, “a powerful oratorio for chorus and sextet evoking Pennsylvania coal-mining life around the turn of the 20th Century,” the work premiered at the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia in April 2014 followed by a performance at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL in May 2014. The New York Times wrote, “In Ms. Wolfe’s polished and stylistically assured cantata, the overall coherence of the musical material helped her expressions of outrage to burn cleanly and brightly.”
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