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National Sawdust Announces Wide Ranging 2019 FERUS Festival

National Sawdust's annual FERUS Festival is a four-day celebration dedicated to presenting the latest in cutting-edge new music, with an emphasis on performances that push the envelope. Featuring a wide range of new music programs, the festival includes the debut of two new concerts featuring Artists-in-Residence and Projects-in-Residence, music from the winner of National Sawdust's inaugural Hildegard Competition, and innovative pieces by current and past curators.

The 2019 FERUS Festival will host the US debut of National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence Huang Ruo's immersive and interactive composition Resonant Theatre: The Sonic Great Wall (January 7); the next iteration of FYFYA WOTO | POWER TO THE GOD WITHIN by National Sawdust's 2017-18 Artist-in-Residence Jojo Abot (January 4); the world premiere of Katharina Rosenberger and National Sawdust 2015-16 Curator Miranda Cuckson's multisensory interdisciplinary project Folds (January 6); a preview of National Sawdust's first major Project-in-Residence Chimera, a chamber opera by Angélica Negrón, which will be presented with Hildegard competition winner Kayla Cashetta's new band Meinu performing music from their upcoming self-titled EP (January 5); and the first performance in Brooklyn Youth Chorus's new AMPLIFY concert series, featuring new compositions from 2018-19 National Sawdust curator and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain; composer, Co-founder, and Artistic Director of National Sawdust Paola Prestini; and many more contemporary composers (January 8).

For FERUS Festival 2019, National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence Huang Ruo will present his new work Resonant Theatre: The Sonic Great Wall. The project offers a novel and unique way to approach new classical music, presenting a sonic, spatial, visual, and audience-interactive project inspired by the Great Wall of China. Immersing listeners in the music, Resonant Theater: The Sonic Great Wall invites audiences to participate by sharing their favorite pieces of poetry, which they will recite while being assembled in rows that symbolize the wall, with musicians stationed between as "watchtowers". Attendees not reading will walk along the "wall", but will be unable to cross over to the other side, facing symbolic barriers. In the same way that China's Great Wall was used as both a barrier and early mode of mass communication through the use of signals on its watchtowers, Huang Ruo leverages the duality of the wall to express how this symbol can be a barrier and a mode of communication necessary to transcend such borders. Specifically, this project is interested in the demolition of walls and barriers through music and communication, both metaphorically and physically.

National Sawdust also welcomes two National Sawdust artists back to its stage. 2017-18 National Sawdust Artist-In-Residence Jojo Abot will perform FYFYA WOTO | POWER TO THE GOD WITHIN. This will reflect the newest iteration of a project originally developed in her Residency with National Sawdust. The multisensory experience, which premiered at National Sawdust in July 2018, employs moving and still imagery, sound, and performance art, in an effort to compel audiences to reimagine their individual self and the world they occupy.

Miranda Cuckson, an original National Sawdust Curator, returns with collaborator Katherine Rosenberger to present Folds, an innovative program that explores the duality of materiality versus immateriality. An array of paper materials and small sonic objects attached to the paper will be used to reaffirm engagement with physicality as a representation of materiality while also showcasing the fragility of documenting ideas on such materials. With her expressive violin playing, Cuckson will engage with notated music by Rosenberger, 17th-century composer Barbara Strozzi, and other artists. Additionally, electroacoustic sounds will be produced by interaction with the paper objects or diffused through loudspeakers distributed throughout the space. As a work in development, Folds may become a larger, collaborative, interdisciplinary inquiry into the perceptual and experimental aspects of materiality versus immateriality in the performing arts.

As part of National Sawdust's Project-In-Residence program for the 2018-19 season, the organization has provided Angélica Negrón the opportunity to develop and shape Chimera, her new chamber opera about the complexities of identity. For this performance, audiences will get to peek behind the curtain and see a work in progress performed by such drag luminaries as Alexis Michelle, Desmond is Amazing, and Miz Jade, featuring recorded vocals by versatile sporano Ariadne Greif and from glass harp player Cindertalk (Johnny Rodgers). Following this staged presentation, Negrón will continue her incubation of the project as a Resident of National Sawdust and prepare it for its forthcoming world premiere in the fall of 2019 at National Sawdust and its global tour as a 2019-20 National Sawdust Project, the touring arm of National Sawdust. For this performance, Negrón, a judge for the annual Hildegard Competition, will be joined by Meinu, featuring Kayla Cashetta, a winner of National Sawdust's inaugural Hildegard Competition; Angelina Torreano, the front woman of indie/grunge band Citris; and Madeline Mondrala, a solo indie/pop artist. Meinu's compositions are a mix of trip-hop beats, inventive vocalizations, and electro pop synths. Their experimental arrangements and singer/songwriter roots blend together in the context of the modern pop song. Also, Negrón and Cashetta will discuss the Hildegard initiative, which provides monetary and artistic support to female, trans, and nonbinary composers.

National Sawdust gives its stage to the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus for AMPLIFY, the collective's new concert series that illuminates the powerful effect of artistic mentorship on the development of young artists. The first performance on the series features socially relevant new pieces written for the Chorus by several cutting-edge composers, including National Sawdust's Co-Founder and Artistic Director Paola Prestini, National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence Angélica Negrón, and National Sawdust Curator Daniel Bernard Roumain, along with David Lang, Olga Bell, and Arvo Pärt. Brooklyn Youth Chorus draws students from across all five of New York City's boroughs, combining intensive voice and musicianship training with exceptional performance experiences. Through these voices, AMPLIFY empowers youth so that they may cultivate a more inclusive society for all.

"The FERUS festival shines a light on National Sawdust artists working through deep processes to create new transdisciplinary work", said Paola Prestini, composer and Co-founder and Artistic Director of National Sawdust. "Held in January as a showcase of our major initiatives, many of the works featured will ultimately travel beyond our factory walls with our touring arm, National Sawdust Projects. This year, the art includes Projects-in-Residence like Angélica Negrón's Chimera and Huang Ruo's immersive Sonic Great Wall, our former Artist-in-Residence Jojo Abot, last year's inaugural Hildegard Competition winner Kayla Cashetta, a concert of music about urgent social issues from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the debut of our new in-house performing ensemble. I could not be more excited by these offerings and the artistic community we are building and bringing to the world."



Friday, January 4, 2019 at 7:00 pm

POWER TO THE GOD WITHIN is an interdisciplinary, immersive experience that re-presents the Black being as divine and all powerful. The work employs sound, movement, fashion, film, and mixed media, among other tools. It invites the community into a shared sacred space, provoked and stimulated by expressions of identity, community, and spirituality. The work explores manifestations of God's divine feminine form - an essence and spirit existing beyond the confines of the physical body. At the core portal for creativity, rebirth, healing, and evolution, we find harmony with our highest selves, connected deeply to the Source of Life Herself, provoking, gathering, and remembering ancient selves as long-lost pathways to a universal force. Abot invites you to reimagine your self and the world you occupy daily, with awakened and conscious mind, body, and spirit.

POWER TO THE GOD WITHIN premiered at National Sawdust in 2018. Composed and produced by Jojo Abot.


and a special performance from Meinu

Saturday, January 5, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Chimera is an illusion, a fabrication of the mind. An imaginary hybrid creature, a beautiful fantasy, and a new drag opera exploring the intricacies and complexities of identity. Seven different drag performers interchangeably play the role of Chimera, each personifying different sides and parts of the identity of one individual.

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