Paola Prestini and Beth Morrison To Co-Direct 21c Liederabend, Op. Worldwide

Featuring new works by Holland Andrews, Amyra León, Lido Pimienta, Paola Prestini with Eve Gigliotti, Theodosia Roussos, and Diana Syrse.

By: Jun. 16, 2021
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The popular idea of a "Liederabend" - an evening of song - goes back to Schubertiads and the flowering of German Romantic poetry and song in the 1800s. These musical salons provided the artists and ruling-class intelligentsia of their day opportunity to co-mingle ideas, music, and personal passions.

Beginning in 2009, Beth Morrison Projects Creative Producer and PROTOTYPE Festival co-producer Beth Morrison and composer and National Sawdust co-founder and Artistic Director Paola Prestini took up the mantle of the Liederabend tradition, determined to capitalize not only on the form's strengths of creative collaboration and community building but also imbue them with an egalitarian, forward-thinking spirit. These renewed twenty-first century Liederabends would marry composition, instrumentation, and thrilling feats of vocal talent while also adding performative visual and video art into the mix.

Over the past decade, Prestini and Morrison have honed the 21c Liederabend concept with a series of "opuses," each conceived to expand their aesthetic beyond sound with an emphasis on lighting, projection and video design as a crucial part of the work's vision.

Now, in response to the challenges of COVID and with the aim of reaching an even larger audience, Beth Morrison Projects and National Sawdust present 21c Liederabend, op. Worldwide (digital), the fifth full realization of the project and the first to take place exclusively as a broadcast event.

21c Liederabend will be streamed via The WNET Group's ALL ARTS television channel and streaming app as a digital concert beginning on June 27, 2021. This is the first program in a six-episode retrospective series titled Contemplations from National Sawdust, celebrating National Sawdust's fifth anniversary, airing this summer on ALL ARTS TV throughout the tri-state area and streaming nationally. Contemplations offers six newly commissioned visions of the reinvention of the song form.

Whereas previous 21c Liederabends (hosted at Galapagos Art Space in 2009, The Kitchen in 2011, Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2013 and the LA Phil at Disney Hall in 2016) focused primarily on American composers, Op. Worldwide (digital) aspires to a breadth more in line with its newly expanded reach. The curators have cast their net wide to better showcase the talents of international composers, then paired them with visual architects who have crafted unique settings for their work. Additionally, Morrison and Prestini have employed this edition's curation to specifically showcase compositions and video by female and non-binary creators, reflecting both producers' long-held commitment to equity in gender representation. The 90-minute concert will feature six works accompanied by interviews with the composers speaking about their work.

For this inaugural digital incarnation, 21c Liederabend has united a dozen diverse and top-flight talents in the fields of composition and poetry, instrumental and vocal performance, fine art and video art.

Featured creators include new work by the rising performance-artist, vocalist and composer Holland Andrews in collaboration with Katrina Reid and Paul Notice of The Notice Blog; multi-hyphenate musician-author-director-activist Amyra León with filmmaker Bradley Credit, musicians David Frazier and Darian Thomas and dancer Paris Marcel; the Canadian-Colombian singer and multimedia artist Lido Pimienta with percussionist Brandon Valdivia and video artist Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea; a collaboration between Paola Prestini, librettist Royce Vavrek, mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, and painter Natalie Frank in a short film by animator Erin Pollock; multi-instrumentalist Theodosia Roussos in collaboration with the musical group Wild Up (music direction by Christopher Rountree) featuring Adrianne Pope, Andrew McIntosh, Derek Stein, Jiji, and Michael Day, as captured by designer and videographer Hana Kim; and composer/vocalist/pianist Diana Syrse's new work with musicians Conrad Harris, Pauline Kim Harris, Lev Zhurbin and Jeffrey Zeigler as documented by filmmaker Mathilde Lavenne.

Interviews with the soprano Renée Fleming, Beth Morrison and Paola Prestini on the future of the form, and in-depth features on all of the creative participants will round out the program. Additional performance specifics and artist statements will be released prior to air date.

In addition to co-directing the series, Paola Prestini's contribution to 21c Liederabend is Jarful of Bees, a short animated film combining soprano and electronics with painting and claymation. The piece speaks to the transformation of memory and the mutability of familial relationships, weaving together Prestini's composition and vocal contributions, a libretto by Royce Vavrek, and the acclaimed singing of mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti. Artists Natalie Frank and Erin Pollock guide the viewer through the hyper-saturated visual landscape of animated painting, drawing and claymation.

"The tapestry upon which the soprano line is freely set uses bee sounds, wind, warped records, percussion, and prepared piano. An intensely personal piece, the work follows a tripartite structure: an opening calm of waiting with solemn unrelated lines gives way to a middle section where the belongings in a small suitcase, including a jar full of bees, nearly explodes, and finally a type of requiem to memory ensues, utilizing distorted Lionel Richie fragments which bring the singer for whom the work is written, Eve Gigliotti, to a type of peace. My voice partners and shadows Eve's for the opening and ending, bringing our joint stories that have somewhat inspired Royce's lyrics together in song. I'm beyond excited to collaborate with Natalie and Erin. Their stunning and unique process and resulting visual world culminates a generative process of trust and collaboration for Jarful of Bees, which I'm so excited will debut on 21c Liederabend." -Paola Prestini

"I was inspired to contribute as an artist conveying my own personal stories into a journey of abandonment, love, and rage. Paola and I worked with Royce to build a scene influenced by our experiences, using 'found' objects, symbolizing the things we carry and the things we leave behind as we choose to move through our lives." -Eve Gigliotti

"Gouache and chalk pastel drawings move slowly at first, as the film of Eve, the narrator, flickers slowly into painting. As her face transforms into gouache paint, the landscape around her blooms, and the color of the sky and nature shifts. Birds fly around her. Bees peak out of her mouth, gently at first, and then circle and rest on her silhouette. Eventually, what has moved from film into painting changes yet again, becoming clay. Claymation ends the work, with a sentimental dance between father and daughter. Mirrors and drawings of landscapes surround them and multiply their figures; they sway until they disappear into the earth." -Natalie Frank