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PRISM Quartet Announces the World Premiere of MENDING WALL

Dutch opera director Jorinde Keesmaat rethinks and restages Mending Wall for our changed world and new walls.

PRISM Quartet Announces the World Premiere of MENDING WALL

PRISM Quartet has announced the World Premiere of MENDING WALL featuring works from composers George Lewis, Arturo O'Farrill, Martin Bresnick, Juri SeoFrom Jorinde Keesmaat.

Director of Mending Wall, "Nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the premiere of Mending Wall, the production itself has evolved in response to this global blaze. Through new staging and lighting, we are exploring the paradox of personal contact: our simultaneous discomfort with strangers and our intrinsic longing for human connection, the psychological effects of isolation and our basic need for one another's warmth. Mending Wall still examines the complicated meaning of boundaries-physical and invisible-but it's also about fear giving way to hope."

In February 2022, the omnivorous all-sax ensemble PRISM Quartet presents MENDING WALL, its most ambitious project to date. This boundary-pushing production was originally scheduled for March 2020, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it will finally come to life onstage, with new direction that explores the ways the pandemic has affected us all.

Named after the 1914 poem by Robert Frost, Mending Wall is a fully staged concert exploring the meaning of walls in our world by giving musical form to questions about identity, community, division, and freedom.

"Mending Wall began as a response to the symbol of a wall as a dehumanizing force during America's recent zeal for wall-building," says Matthew Levy, PRISM's co-founder, executive director, and tenor saxophonist. "As artists, we're called to build another kind of structure: a collaborative experiment that restores mystery, complexity, and generosity to our encounters with one another. Mending Wall amplifies a range of musical and poetic voices; our hope is that the project will illuminate and help us to confront and mend fractures in our human community."

Soprano Tony Arnold and pianist Arturo O'Farrill join PRISM Quartet (Matthew Levy, Timothy McAllister, Zachary Shemon, and Taimur Sullivan) in world premiere performances of newly commissioned works by four visionary composers: Martin Bresnick, George Lewis, Juri Seo, and O'Farrill. Each composer took inspiration from poetry of their choosing: Bresnick from Frost; Lewis from South Africa's Keorapetse Kgositsile; Seo from Brazil's Waly Salomão; and O'Farrill from the Mexican/Chicano performance artist, writer, activist, and educator Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Jump to the program details here.

Staging and lighting are central to this project. The Dutch opera director Jorinde Keesmaat, known for immersive multidisciplinary work that plays with the relationship between spectator and actor/musician, choreographs movement among the artists, building a powerful, mobile integration of music, poetry, and light. The ingenious lighting design, which involves the musicians themselves manipulating walls of wireless LED RGBW light-batons, is by Aaron Copp, whose recent projects include lighting shows for Yo-Yo Ma, Natalie Merchant, Maya Beiser, Miami City Ballet, Eliot Feld, and more.

In December 2022, Mending Wall will be released as a commercial album on XAS Records, distributed by Symphonic Distribution.

Martin Bresnick's commission, Mending Time, is inspired by the contradictions in Frost's poem "Mending Wall," in which two neighbors meet yearly to rebuild the structure separating their farms. Bresnick writes, "According to Frost we are trapped and doomed by fences to eternal contact and inevitable alienation. But what if the walls between us were made of music?"

In Where Her Eye Sits, George Lewis set texts examining the legacy of apartheid by the late South African poet and activist Keorapetse Kgositsile, who after years of exile became poet laureate of post-apartheid South Africa. The piece joins PRISM and soprano Tony Arnold "to link a coloratura's sonic sensibility with the saxophone's evocation of South African popular music via mbube-like orchestration."

Juri Seo's Unsung Lullaby is inspired by Algaravi: Echo Chamber, a volume of poetry by Syrian-Brazilian writer Waly Salomão. In her work, Seo explores the dual meaning of "echo chamber"-the figurative connotation that's ubiquitous in our politics/media, and its older (and literal) meaning, a walled space that repeats, amplifies, and distorts sounds.

Arturo O'Farrill's Something to declare? (yeah, fuck your wall) is based on "Freefalling Toward a Borderless Future" by Guillermo Gomez Peña and son jarocho, a Mexican song form with a lead trovador voice supported by jaranas (guitar-like instruments), which PRISM's saxophones approximate. His piece draws upon the rich political/cultural underpinnings of Fandango Fronterizo, an annual festival on both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border fence.

Please visit the detailed Mending Wall Website to learn more. It includes photographs from workshops, artist statements from the project's stage director and composers, information about Mending Wall poets, a project blog, ticket links, and more.


UNSUNG LULLABY (2019) by Jury Seo (b. 1981)
Inspired by "Algaravias: Echo Chamber" by Waly Salomão (1943-2003),
translated by Maryam Monalisa Gharavi
Performed by PRISM Quartet
Poetry read by Tony Arnold and PRISM Quartet

MENDING TIME (2019) by Martin Bresnick (b. 1946)
Inspired by "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Performed by PRISM Quartet
Poetry read by Tony Arnold and Arturo O'Farrill

WHERE HER EYE SITS (2019) by George Lewis (b. 1952)
A setting of "Where Her Eye Sits" by Keorapetse Kgositsile (1938-2018)
Performed by Tony Arnold and PRISM Quartet

SOMETHING TO DECLARE? (yeah, fuck your wall) (2019) by Arturo O'Farrill(b. 1960)
Inspired by "Freefalling Toward a Borderless Future" by Guillermo Gomez-Peña (b. 1955)
Performed by Arturo O'Farrill and PRISM Quartet
Poetry read by Tony Arnold, Arturo O'Farrill, and PRISM Quartet

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