Bang on a Can co-founder and co-artistic director Julia Wolfe's Anthracite Fields, an oratorio for chorus and instruments, has been awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music! Wolfe drew on oral histories, interviews, speeches, geographic descriptions, children’s rhymes, and coal advertisements to create a work that gives an intimate look at a particular slice of American life.
"[Anthracite Fields] captures not only the sadness of hard lives lost…but also of the sweetness and passion of a way of daily life now also lost. The music compels without overstatement. This is a major, profound work.."
— Mark Swed, LA Times
Cited by the Pulitzer committee as "a powerful oratorio for chorus and sextet evoking Pennsylvania coal-mining life around the turn of the 20th Century," the work premiered at the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia last April followed by a performance at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL in May. It was met with rave reviews. The New York Times wrote, “In Ms. Wolfe’s polished and stylistically assured cantata, the overall coherence of the musical material helped her expressions of outrage to burn cleanly and brightly.” The Philadelphia Inquirer praised the piece for creating “an alternate universe.”
Anthracite Fields will be released on Cantaloupe Music this September, in a recording that features the Bang on a Can All-Stars and The Choir of Trinity Wall Street with Julian Wachner conducting.
"My aim with Anthracite Fields is to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region during a time when the industry fueled the nation, and to reveal a bit about who we are as American workers." – Julia Wolfe
Named after the technical term for the purest form of coal, anthracite, Anthracite Fields was written after Wolfe did extensive research about the coal mining industry in an area very near where she grew up in Pennsylvania. She writes, "In some ways the piece is a return to my small town Pennsylvania roots. In looking north – the left turn onto route 309, the road-rarely-taken – I delved into a local history.”
Anthracite Fields was commissioned through Meet the Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program, which is made possible by generous support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund. Additional support was made possible through the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia Alan Harler New Ventures Fund; The Presser Foundation; The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.