Transforming Space

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“An experience where music, poetry and the arts are put inside a space outside a typical performance hall or church takes on completely new meaning. It’s unexpected, and then all of a sudden it’s there - that change of perspective - and it hits you.”

-- Joe Miller
Director of Choral Activities
Conductor, Westminster Choir
Westminster Choir College

Over the next two seasons, Westminster Choir College will explore how the arts can transform a space or a location not generally used for a performance or arts-related event.  The first of three initiatives will be presented in April 2017 when the Westminster Choir performs Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields in the soaring space of the Roebling Wire Works in Trenton.  Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music, Anthracite Fields addresses issues of labor and industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania around the turn of the 20th century. Coal from the nearby Pennsylvania mines played a critical role in the success of Trenton as a center for manufacturing during that era, which led to the phrase “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.”

An oratorio for choir and chamber ensemble, Anthracite Fields has been praised as "an unforgettably haunting, harrowing evocation of the plight of Pennsylvania's coal miners, incorporating many musical styles and effectively shadowy visuals" by Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed.  The music is enhanced by projected images that represent the people who are the focus of the work and their lives.

In addition to the two performances of “Anthracite Fields,” there will be a daytime workshop and educational component. One-third of tickets to the performances will be offered free to Trenton residents and distributed through school children. The workshop will include a performance for Trenton school children, followed by a Q&A with the choir.

Through a Kennedy Center initiative, “Any Given Child,” a program that has received endorsement from Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and Superintendent of Trenton Schools Lucy Feria, Westminster College of the Arts is the higher education partner for the Trenton Public School System to build its arts curriculum and programs, ensuring that every child in Trenton receives a quality arts education.

In addition to Anthracite Fields, Transforming Space will include two other projects: a performance of Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes at the Trenton War Memorial Ballroom, in collaboration with American Repertory Ballet Company, in the fall of 2017 and, in spring of 2018, a new piece to be commissioned about immigrants who transformed America, in collaboration with Juilliard School of Music, at Liberty State Park Railroad Terminus. The first will explore how dance and movement communicate, and an educational workshop for Trenton elementary school children will look at the role 18th-century dance played in the culture of the time, as well as how we communicate through dance and movement. The second, for New Jersey high school students, will engage students in issues of contemporary immigration and migration.

This performance is funded, in part, by The Presser Foundation and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.


This engagement of Bang on a Can, Inc. is made possble through the ArtsCONNECT program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.