World Premiere of Lisa Bielawa’s Voters’ Litany Presented by the Cathedral Choral Society on Mar. 13
World Premiere of Composer Lisa Bielawa’s Voters’ Litany
Presented by the Cathedral Choral Society to Mark the 102nd Anniversary of the 19th Amendment
Sunday, March 13, 2022 at 4pm
Washington National Cathedral | 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
Tickets and Information at www.cathedral.org/event/i-have-something-to-say
On Sunday, March 13, 2022 at 4pm, the world premiere of Lisa Bielawa’s Voters’ Litany will be presented by the Cathedral Choral Society and Orchestra, led by Steven Fox, at Washington National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave NW). For this program, I Have Something to Say, the Cathedral Choral Society has commissioned three of today’s leading women composers – Lisa Bielawa, Jessie Montgomery, and Augusta Read Thomas – that demonstrate the impact of speaking up and speaking out. As part of the day’s activities, audience members will also get to dictate a postcard to a real or imagined President as a part of Sheryl Oring’s work I Wish to Say.
Bielawa explains of Voters’ Litany, “While it has been 102 years since women in the United States got the vote with the historic passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Voters’ Rights is still a vital issue in our country today. The diversity of American citizenry is storied, issuing out of complexity and struggle as well as freedom and opportunity.”
The texts for Voters’ Litany are excerpted from postcards created through Sheryl Oring’s ongoing project I Wish to Say. Launched in 2004, I Wish to Say consists of performances where Oring and sometimes a pool of typists set up stands in well trafficked public areas where people can walk up and dictate their messages to the current President, or – in election years – to the next President.
Bielawa clarifies, “The piece does not focus on the qualities or identities of the Presidents and candidates addressed (these encompass all sitting Presidents and Presidential candidates in primary and general elections since 2004), but on the emotional reality of American people in relation to their elected leaders. In German when one votes, one ‘gives one’s voice’ (‘I voted’ = ‘Ich habe gestimmt’ [I gave my voice]). Voters’ Litany is dedicated to all of those who give their voices, through singing and by voting.”
Featuring a range of powerful female compositional voices, the March 13 program also includes the world premiere of Jessie Montgomery’s I Have Something to Say; the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’ Far Past War, plus her piece Ring Out, Wild Bells; two pieces by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel: Overture in C and Gartenlieder, Op. 3; two selections by Dame Ethel Smyth: Mass in D (selections) and The March of the Women; and an organ work by Nadia Boulanger.
About Lisa Bielawa: Composer, producer, and vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition and takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Her music has been described as “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart,” by The New York Times. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a 2020 Discovery Grant from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers. She was named a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society for 2018 and was Artist-in-Residence at Kaufman Music Center in New York for the 2020-2021 season.
Bielawa consistently executes work that incorporates community-making as part of her artistic vision. She has created music for public spaces in Lower Manhattan, the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, on the sites of former airfields in Berlin in San Francisco, and to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1997 Bielawa co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers, and for five years she was the artistic director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.
She received a 2018 Los Angeles Area Emmy nomination for her unprecedented, made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser, created with librettist Erik Ehn and director Charles Otte. Vireo was filmed in twelve parts in locations across the country and features over 350 musicians. Vireo was produced as part of Bielawa’s artist residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California and in partnership with KCETLink and Single Cel. In February 2019, Vireo was released as a two CD + DVD box set on Orange Mountain Music.
In addition to Voters’ Litany, recent and upcoming large-scale participatory works include Broadcast from Home, Voters’ Broadcast and Brickyard Broadcast. Described by The Washington Post as “spellbinding,” …Broadcast from Home was realized online during the first four months of Covid lockdown, featuring over 500 submitted testimonies and recorded voices from six continents. Voters’ Broadcast; commissioned as part of the Democracy & Debate theme-semester by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with support from its School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and developed in partnership with Kaufman Music Center, stimulated voter engagement, political awareness, and community participation through the act of giving voice to the concerns of citizens during the lead-up to the 2020 Presidential election. Brickyard Broadcast is a spatialized work for hundreds of musicians commissioned by North Carolina State University that was premiered in a Virtual Reality environment in November 2020. Bielawa’s other recent and current work includes a concerto for violinist Jennifer Koh, a solo work for cellist Matt Haimovitz, and an orchestral song cycle for mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin.
Bielawa’s work has been premiered at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, SHIFT Festival, Town Hall Seattle, and Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Summer Series, Rouen Opera, Helsinki Music Center, Arsenal de Metz, MAXXI Museum in Rome, among others. Orchestras that have championed her music include The Knights, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, American Composers Orchestra, the Orlando Philharmonic, and ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra). Premieres of her work have been commissioned and presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Rider, Seattle Chamber Music Society, American Guild of Organists, Radio France the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C, and more. She is recorded on the Tzadik, TROY, Innova, BMOP/ sound, Supertrain Records, Cedille, Orange Mountain Music and Sono Luminus labels.
For more information, please visit www.lisabielawa.net.
About Cathedral Choral Society: The GRAMMY-nominated Cathedral Choral Society presents masterworks of choral-orchestral repertoire in the majestic glow of Washington National Cathedral. Led by Music Director Steven Fox, CCS is the oldest symphonic choral group in Washington, D.C. and one of the most prominent choruses in the United States. The Cathedral Choral Society has presented numerous world premieres and maintains a tradition of showcasing emerging artists alongside internationally renowned soloists.