Composer Lisa Bielawa: Two World Premieres during NY PHIL BIENNIAL

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Composer Lisa Bielawa: Two World Premieres during NY PHIL BIENNIAL

June 9 at 8:30pm: My Outstretched Hand
Performed by San Francisco Girls Chorus, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, & The Knights
Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center
10 Columbus Circle, NYC

May 31 at 7pm: Vireo Caprice performed by Jennifer Koh
National Sawdust | 80 N. 6th St., Brooklyn, NY


Lisa Bielawa online:

New York, NY Composer Lisa Bielawa will have two world premieres during the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL. On Thursday, June 9 at 8:30pm, her new piece My Outstretched Hand, for the combined forces of the San Francisco Girls Chorus (of which she has been Artistic Director since 2013), Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and The Knights, conducted by The Knights’ co-artistic director Eric Jacobsen, will be premiered at Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. On Tuesday, May 31 at 7pm, violinist Jennifer Koh will give the world premiere of Bielawa’s Vireo Caprice at National Sawdust as part of Koh’s Shared Madness program.

Lisa Bielawa’s My Outstretched Hand uses texts from an arresting autobiography by Mary MacLane, a precocious 19-year-old girl living in the copper-mining town of Butte, Montana in 1902. Bielawa describes MacLane as, “a child genius whose words deserve not to be forgotten.”

She says, “One of the things I love about Mary MacLane’s writing is that she embraces the power of her own emotional life so serious-mindedly. Spending time with the young singers on this program has given me a renewed appreciation for the special combination of artistic rigor and emotional intensity – unique to this age – that they channel through their singing. When I first met Knights conductor Eric Jacobsen he, too, was just 19 years old, and the group that he and his brother Colin have built together exemplifies exactly this brilliant balance between artistic rigor and youthful energy. In my work with young women in the last few years, I have seen how the power that comes from their roiling internal lives can be channeled rather than dismissed. My Outstretched Hand invites us as listeners to take the strong surges of adolescent emotion seriously as unique and important expressions of our shared human experience.”

Bielawa’s Vireo Caprice, for violinist Jennifer Koh, is a virtuosic caprice based around a leitmotif from Bielawa’s in-progress opera, Vireo, which is being created as a 12-episode TV and internet series, the first-ever hybrid of this kind. Vireo is composed of 12, 10-12 minute episodes, half of which are now completed or in post-production. Episode 7 will be shot in downtown LA on May 15. The next shoot is inside Alcatraz prison in San Francisco on June 21, 2016. Innovating opera not only through content but through form, Vireo allows greater access of opera to a broader audience. The piece considers authoritarian responses to independent, inspired imaginations, especially as they abide in young women, and scrutinizes the representation of women both in the historical form of opera and in modern media. Vireo, which is directed by Charles Otte on a libretto by Erik Ehn, will be broadcast on TV and online in spring 2017 via KCET’s program Artbound and via KCETLink. The first two episodes are already online at: For more information, visit

In addition to Bielawa’s new piece, the June 9 8:30pm concert will also include the world premiere of If I Were Not Me by Colin Jacobsen performed by The Knights and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, commissioned the chorus, which uses texts from Lydia Davis’s short stories From Below, As A Neighbor and Head, Heart; the world premiere of Remembering the Sea – Souvenir de la Mer (2016), by Aaron Jay Kernis performed by The Knights and San Francisco Girls Chorus, a commission from the chorus, using texts by Kai Hoffman-Krull who founded the Yale literary review Letters; the US premiere of Nico Muhly’s song cycle Impossible Things for tenor, violin, and string orchestra (2009), based on poems by 20th-century Greek poet C.P. Cavafy and featuring The Knights, tenor Nicholas Phan, and violinist Colin Jacobsen; and the New York premiere of composer and pianist Timo Andres’ Comfort Food (2012), performed by The Knights, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and San Francisco Girls Chorus, which uses a text comprising comfort foods from, in the composer’s words, an “informal survey of friends, family, and members of the Milwaukee Choral Arts.

The 8:30pm concert on June 9 is a double bill with a 7pm performance featuring the San Francisco Girls Chorus and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, also at Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. San Francisco Girls Chorus, led by music director and conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, will perform the New York premiere of a choral arrangement of “Father Death Blues” from Hydrogen Jukebox by Philip Glass, with text by Allen Ginsberg; the New York premiere of Herring Run with music and text by Carla Kihlstedt, commissioned by the chorus; and the world premiere of Final Answer with music and libretto by Theo Bleckmann, featuring the composer as vocal soloist, commissioned by the chorus. Brooklyn Youth Chorus, led by artistic director and conductor Dianne Berkun Menaker, will perform the world premiere of so quietly by Caroline Shaw and Become Who I Am by Mary Kouyoumdjian featuring the amplified string quartet Hotel Elefant. Together, the San Francisco Girls Chorus and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, led by Valérie Sainte-Agathe, will perform the world premiere of Back of the Choir by Gabriel Kahane with text by Anne Carson, co-commissioned by the choruses.

For complete information about the June 9 double bill featuring San Francisco Girls Chorus, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and The Knights, visit:

For complete information about Jennifer Koh’s Shared Madness May 24 and May 31 performances, visit:

About Lisa Bielawa:
Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Gramophone reports, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock,” and The New York Times describes her music as, “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart.”

Born in San Francisco into a musical family, Lisa Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring as the vocalist with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and has also premiered and toured works by John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, and Michael Gordon. In 1997 she co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers. Bielawa was appointed Artistic Director of the acclaimed San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2013 and is an artist-in-residence at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California.

Lisa Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the US, and in France, Italy, the UK, and Finland. Recent highlights include a Radio France commission for Ensemble Variances – the new 25-minute work was performed in Paris, Rouen, and Metz as part of a program called Cri Selon Cri or Cry by Cry which explores the idea that the cry is a primary sound shared by animals and humans from all cultures of the world. Cri Selon Cri toured to Seattle, Vancouver, New York, and Atlanta in fall 2015 and featured Bielawa as the vocal soloist.

Other recent highlights include the world premieres of Hypermelodia at The Rivers School Conservatory, a performance of Trojan Women at Le Poisson Rouge, and a residency at John Zorn’s The Stone; plus world premieres of Rondolette by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and pianist Bruce Levingston; Double Duet by the Washington Saxophone Quartet (with subsequent performances by the Prism Saxophone Quartet); Graffiti dell’amante by Bielawa with the Chicago Chamber Musicians in Chicago and with Brooklyn Rider in New York, Harrisburg, and Rome; The Project of Collecting Clouds at Town Hall in Seattle by cellist Joshua Roman and chamber ensemble; Double Violin Concerto and In medias res by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project; The Right Weather by American Composers Orchestra and pianist Andrew Armstrong at Carnegie Hall; and The Lay of the Love and Death at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

Bielawa’s work Chance Encounter is a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, which was premiered by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Lower Manhattan’s Seward Park. A project of Creative Capital, the 35-minute work for roving soprano and chamber ensemble has since been performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, in Vancouver, Venice, and in Rome on the banks of the Tiber River in partnership with urban placemaker Robert Hammond, a founder of The High Line in New York.

Bielawa’s latest work for performance in public places is Airfield Broadcasts, a massive 60-minute work for hundreds of musicians that premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin (Tempelhof Broadcast, May 2013) and was also performed at Crissy Field in San Francisco (Crissy Broadcast, October 2013). Bielawa turns these former airfields into vast musical canvases, as professional, amateur and student musicians execute a spatial symphony.

Lisa Bielawa is currently at work on Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, a new opera composed on a libretto by Erik Ehn and directed by Charles Otte, which is unprecedented in that it is being created expressly for episodic release via broadcast and online media. Through a partnership with KCETLink, the national independent, non-profit digital and broadcast network, the unique multimedia initiative includes online articles and videos showcasing the production’s creative process, as well as a television special presented by Artbound, KCETLink’s Emmy ® award-winning arts and culture series. Vireo, winner of the 2015 ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Multimedia Award, is an artist residency project of Grand Central Art Center (GCAC) in Santa Ana, an outgrowth of Cal State Fullerton, Director/Chief Curator John Spiak. Subsequent episodes of Vireo are being taped at other venues throughout the country, with a wide variety of presenting partners and performers.

Bielawa’s latest album, The Lay of the Love, was released on Innova in June 2015 and features performances by baritone Jesse Blumberg; soprano Sadie Dawkins Rosales; pianists Jocelyn Dueck, Benjamin Hochman and Evelyne Luest; violinist Colin Jacobsen; cellist Eric Jacobsen; clarinetist Anthony McGill; and flutist Lance Suzuki. The centerpiece of the album is Bielawa’s 25-minute work The Lay of the Love and Death, based on the text of Rainer Maria Rilke’s epic poem, The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke. Her discography also includes A Handful of World (Tzadik); The Trojan Women on a disc entitled First Takes (TROY); Hildegurls: Electric Ordo Virtutum, (Innova); The Trojan Women in a version for string quartet performed by the Miami String Quartet on The NYFA Collection (Innova); In medias res (BMOP/sound), a double-disc set of Bielawa’s solo and orchestral works; the world premiere recording of Chance Encounter (Orange Mountain Music), and Elegy-Portrait on pianist Bruce Levingston’s 2011 album, Heart Shadow (Sono Luminus). For more information, please visit


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