Wolfe named 2021-2022 Carnegie Hall’s Debs Composer’s Chair

June 10, 2021

Julia Wolfe named Carnegie Hall’s
2021-2022 Debs Composer’s Chair

Julia Wolfe has been announced as the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall for the 2021–2022 season. Wolfe creates music that has been described as emotionally charged, viscerally powerful, and socially conscious. As a composer, she responds to the world around her, bringing unsung histories to life in riveting musical tableaux, with a focus on the multifaceted history of the American worker. Whether she is recasting a classic folk ballad or unleashing an orchestral evocation of a factory full of sewing machines, her music commands attention from the audience. Wolfe’s Carnegie Hall residency invites concertgoers on a musical journey of powerful discoveries.

At the center of Wolfe’s residency are three evenings of her seminal works in Zankel Hall.

In March 2022: Steel Hammer, Wolfe’s retelling of the “John Henry” classic, based on hearsay, recollection, and tall tales, illuminates the timeless legend of human versus machine. The work features the Bang on a Can All-Stars (adding banjo, wooden bones, clogging, and more to their usual line-up), with vocalists Rebecca L. Hargrove, Sonya Headlam, and Molly Netter.

In April 2022: In an evening of all strings, Wolfe’s evocative tone poem Cruel Sister, follows the haunting Scottish story of the love-rivalry between sisters. Performed by Ensemble Signal, directed by Brad Lubman, the concert includes Weather One by Michael Gordon, a powerful influence on Wolfe’s artistic life, as well as Wolfe’s With a blue dress on, for five singing violinists with guest violinist/fiddler Tessa Lark.

In May 2022: Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Anthracite Fields draws on oral histories, interviews, speeches, and more to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region. The work will be performed by Bang on a Can All-Stars and The Choir of Trinity Wall Street under the direction of Julian Wachner, with projection/scenic design by artist Jeff Sugg. Before her in-person concerts begin, Wolfe’s residency kicks off online with the film premiere of Oxygen, a rapid-fire flute duodecet.

As one of the co-founders and co-artistic directors of the Bang on a Can new-music collective, Wolfe has championed the work of innovative composers worldwide. For her Carnegie season she welcomes a new generation of composers from a range of musical backgrounds—several of whom she has mentored and others whom she simply admires. As part of the Carnegie Hall Citywide program in spring 2022, the new-music marching band Asphalt Orchestra will perform world premieres by first-time Carnegie Hall-commissioned composers Leila Adu, Jeffrey Brooks, and Kendall Williams. In addition Wolfe collaborates on the curation of new and recent works for the young and dynamic Ensemble Connect, including new works by composers Shelley Washington, and Robert Honstein (Carnegie Hall commission).

An internationally celebrated composer, Julia Wolfe was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2016. In January 2019, the New York Philharmonic premiered Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth, a large-scale work for orchestra and women’s chorus, continuing her interest in American labor history with the subject of women in New York’s garment industry at the turn of the century. Wolfe’s upcoming piece Her Story focuses on women and equality, and will be premiered by the women’s chamber choir Lorelei with a consortium of orchestras including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra in the 2022-2023 season.

Spring 2022, Date TBA
online only
Wolfe: Oxygen (Virtual film premiere)

Thursday, March 3, 2022
Zankel Hall

Wolfe: Steel Hammer

Bang on a Can All-Stars
Rebecca L. Hargrove, vocals
Sonya Headlam, vocals
Molly Netter, vocals

Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Zankel Hall

Gordon: Weather One
Wolfe: With a blue dress on
Wolfe: Cruel Sister

Ensemble Signal
Brad Lubman, music director and conductor

Tessa Lark, violin

Thursday, May 19, 2022
Zankel Hall

Wolfe: Anthracite Fields

Bang on a Can All-Stars
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Julian Wachner, director
Jeff Sugg, projection/scenic design