By Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer David Lang
West Coast Premiere
Volti and San Francisco Choral Society in joint production
with Leah Stein Dance Company of Philadelphia
and Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir
THANK YOU to all the wonderful donors to our special battle hymns campaign!
Lewis Butler and Catherine Armsden
Daniel Chesir and Stefan Rowniak
Bernhard and Ursula Krevet
John and Patty Neely
Dick and Suzie Rahl
San Francisco Arts Commission CEG/OPG Program
Greta and Manu Schnetzler
Tom Scripps/Canyon Development Company
Mary Anne Shattuck
Jim and Joyce Smith
Catherine Smith and Doug O’Brien
Pat and Bill Tilley
and several Anonymous donors
The must-see event of the spring arts season is a major collaboration between four performing arts groups, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with performances of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang’s masterful choral and dance piece battle hymns. Commissioned and premiered in Philadelphia in 2009, battle hymns has never been performed since, owing to its unusual and complex demands.
Below is a link to a clip of the premiere performance in Philadelphia in 2009, with the Mendelssohn Club Chorus and Leah Stein Dance Company.
More than 150 choral singers will be costumed and choreographed while they sing, joined by a group of modern dancers who dance with and among the singers, in a powerful piece of music by one of today’s most important composers. This meditation on mankind’s relationship with war will be presented in the site-specific setting of Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park. The audience will surround the singers and dancers in “courtside seating” — no proscenium separating the audience from the performers, but a close physical connection to the music and dance.
The collaborative project includes the 20 professional singers of Volti, San Francisco’s cutting-edge new-music specialists, joined by more than 100 singers from the San Francisco Choral Society, one of the most accomplished auditioned choirs in the Bay Area. The Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir will be represented by 50 young singers from its Ensemble and Ancora choirs. All three singing groups are conducted by Robert Geary.
Creating the visual component is the original choreographer, Leah Stein, who brings her dance troupe from Philadelphia to recreate battle hymns with the San Francisco singers. Stein was one of the co-commissioners of the piece, along with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.
About this project, David Lang says:
battle hymns is the largest choral work I have ever written, on a topic that is unfortunately timely and for me very heartfelt, but few people know that it exists … I am very flattered that Volti is interested in picking my piece up and I am very eager to hear what they do with it. And I am very eager to imagine what will happen to it after that.
“This is a major work by one of today’s most influential and fascinating composers,” says Artistic Director Robert Geary. “ I saw the premiere of the piece in Philadelphia in 2009 and have been working ever since to present the West Coast premiere – and only the second performance of the piece anywhere – here in San Francisco. Anyone who loves music or dance will be fascinated by this performance, as will anyone who ponders on what it is that makes mankind make war, generation after generation.”
Lang based the work on Civil War texts – Stephen Foster songs, a quote from Abraham Lincoln, and a battlefield letter home by Sullivan Ballou. We present the piece during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in a new site-specific staging by innovative choreographer Leah Stein at San Francisco’s historic Kezar Pavilion, an indoor arena on the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park. The setting will evoke the atmosphere of a military parade ground, a refugee camp, or perhaps a battlefield … each person will likely have a different interpretation.
“battle hymns deals with all the turbulent, conflicting emotions that war arouses,” said Philadelphia’s Broad Street Review. It “is a remarkable response to war…that merits comparison with Britten’s War Requiem and the writings of Orwell and Hemingway.”
Tickets on sale now.