Anthracite Fields performed in Coal Country

November 1, 2015

On November 14, Julia Wolfe returns to the anthracite coal region in Pennsylvania, which inspired her Pulitzer prize-winning oratorio, Anthracite Fields. In order to share the piece with the community that gave her such invaluable assistance in her research, Wolfe will participate in tours of the Lackawanna Coal Mine and give a talk at the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton. That evening, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, conducted by Julian Wachner, will perform Anthracite Fields at the brand-new Allan P. and Marian Sutherland Kirby Center for Creative Arts at the historic Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA. The piece is illuminated by the visual projections of scenic designer Jeff Sugg.

Proceeds from the concert are to benefit the Anthracite Heritage Museum.

Anthracite Fields includes both the dark echoes of the underground caves and the moments of light in the lives of the miners who persevered and endured. The text draws on oral histories, speeches, geographic descriptions, local rhymes, and a coal advertisement. Wolfe also conducted personal interviews, including with a third-generation miner and the daughter and granddaughter of miners, and journeyed into both an active and a closed mine.

The recording of Anthracite Fields was released last month on Cantaloupe Music, providing music lovers with the first opportunity to experience the piece since it won the Pulitzer Prize for Music last spring. Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times said of the premiere at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL that it, “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.”

Julia Wolfe discusses Anthracite Fields on NPRs All Things Considered