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Lyric Fest to Commission and Present World Premiere of COTTON In 2022-23 20th Anniversary Season

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COTTON includes photography of John Dowell, music by Damien Geter, plus new poems by eight African American writers.

Lyric Fest to Commission and Present World Premiere of COTTON In 2022-23 20th Anniversary Season

Lyric Fest will premiere a brand new, immersive multimedia commission, COTTON, on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at 7:30pm at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, as part of its 20th Anniversary season. Subsequent performances will occur in Washington, D.C., and in New York City (venues to be determined).

The project brings together John Dowell's fine art photography; newly commissioned poems by renowned African American poets Nikki Giovanni, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Lauren Alleyne, Afaa Michael Weaver, Trapeta Mayson, Glenis Redmond, Charlotte Blake Alston, and Alora Young; and composer Damien Geter's music to create a stunning new work that probes the lasting effects of the cotton industry and slavery on American society.

The world premiere of COTTON features mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and baritone Justin Austin, with Lyric Fest Co-founding Artistic Director Laura Ward joining on piano. John Dowell and Damien Geter serve as Creative Directors for the project, Ward music directs, and Lyric Fest Co-founding Artistic Director Suzanne DuPlantis assists as a Curator and Creative Director. Philadelphia-based Midnight Productions will produce custom built screens, projections, and other technical elements of COTTON.

COTTON is an immersive experience for audience members at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral that opens with a pre-concert ambient sound-scape while Dowell's photography surrounds the audience with enormous screens of constantly changing images. The unfolding song cycle, which features recordings of each of the eight poets reading their poem together with projections of the text, are then followed by the setting of each poem to music. Each poem serves as a response from each poet to Dowell's images in their own unique voice.

"COTTON aims to take the audience on a journey of the mind and heart. We hope that it might encourage a more enlightened dialogue about racial issues in America," says Artistic Director Suzanne DuPlantis.

The inspiration for COTTON began nearly a decade ago, when prominent Philadelphia-based photographer John Dowell felt called by his grandmother in a dream to travel to the cotton fields in South Carolina where his ancestors had likely been enslaved. Dowell began photographing the cotton and realized there was a larger story to be told. Dowell's resulting work explores - in penetrating, superimposed images - centuries of injustice, the greed that fueled the cotton industry, and both the struggle and resilience of African Americans that continues to this day.

Lyric Fest's current 2021-22 season includes the performances My Letter to the World on December 11 and 12, 2021 at 3:00pm, featuring Christine Lyons, Pascale Spinney, Aaron Crouch, Gregory Feldmann, Laura Ward, and Suzanne DuPlantis; Yiddishe Nightingale on February 8 and 9, 2022 at 7:00pm and February 13, 2022 at 4:00pm, featuring Zalmen Mlotek, Elizabeth Shammash, and Thom King; The Song Catcher on April 9 and 10, 2022 at 3:00pm, featuring Cree Carrico, Devony Smith, Nicholas Davis, Steven Brennfleck, Laura Ward, Charlotte Blake Alston, and instrumentalists from Orchestra 2001; Anything Goes on May 17 and 18, 2022 at 7:00pm, featuring Randall Scarlata, Suzanne DuPlantis, and Laura Ward; and The Art of Song on June 3, 2022 at 7:30pm, featuring Justine Aronson, Gilda Lyons, Elisa Sutherland, Meg Bragle, James Reese, Steven Eddy, Laura Ward, and Michael Brofman.


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