Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and Leah Stein Dance Company to present TURBINE


Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia  received an award of $216,000 from The William Penn Foundation for the TURBINE project. The large-scale, site-responsive choral work, will have its world premier at the Fairmount Water Works along the Schuylkill River on June 27 & 28, 2015. Mendelssohn Club Artistic Director Alan Harler will conduct two performances of TURBINE featuring more than 88 singers and nine dancers and an original choral score by Seattle-based composer Byron Au Yong.

TURBINE is being presented in connection with the 200th anniversary of the Water Works, America’s first urban public water supply system. In connection with that historic milestone, Fairmount Park Conservancy will promote the TURBINE performances as a special focus of their “Love Your Park” weekend in May.

During TURBINE, Mendelssohn Club singers and members of Leah Stein Dance Company will travel and flow along the river, above the shore, and along the long paths of the site, often parallel to the river itself. The audience will be integrated into these pathways.  The shoreline will be included in the performance as the potent edge where water and land meet. TURBINE will also be maestro Harler’s final appearance as Artistic Director. He is retiring at the end of the 2014-2015 season after 28 years and will continue to work with Mendelssohn Club in the role of Conductor Laureate.

This is how choreographer Leah Stein describes TURBINE: “Although America’s great industrial centers rose from the banks of rivers that provided cheap power and transportation, Philadelphia was and remains dedicated to maintaining a clean watershed. TURBINE seeks to reach Philadelphia’s public, particularly in the West Philadelphia, Fairmount, and Art Museum neighborhoods, as we artistically interpret the importance of the Schuylkill watershed and the Water Works’ role in it.”

Stein says, “At every point in the performances, which will take place an hour before sunset, the audience will be encouraged to actively participate by using all their senses to experience the Schuylkill River and historic Water Works site. Singers and dancers will be moving and overlapping with each other and the audience throughout the landscape. At certain moments, Byron Au Yong’s musical composition will use sections of ‘silence’ that will enable the sounds of the river and the surrounding city to play a vivid role in the work.”  Stein believes strongly, that “by the end of the work, anyone participating…singers, dancers or members of the public…will have a much deeper appreciation of that river and the organic role it plays in the life of our community and this place we all call home.”

“Everyone involved with this important project is thrilled to present the world premiere of TURBINE as our final concerts of the season,” according to Mendelssohn Club Board Chair Charlotte Sibley, which is celebrating its 141st season this year. “A grant of this size represents a major vote of confidence in Mendelssohn and all the organizations and artists involved.”  Sibley was quick to add, “Not only does this grant empower us and LSDC to produce such a bold new work by Byron Au Yong, it makes it possible for all of us to participate in celebrating this wonderful Philadelphia landmark.

“We saw this project as a unique opportunity to creatively engage the community with the Water Works and the Schuylkill River,” said Andrew Johnson, Program Director of Watershed Protection for the William Penn Foundation. “The Water Works has a significant place in Philadelphia’s history, initially as provider of safe, clean drinking water to Philadelphia residents, and now as a provider of environmental education. As the Foundation continues its work to improve water quality, we are pleased to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Water Works and leverage this milestone as an innovative way to educate people about this important resource.”

The joint grant proposal submitted to The William Penn Foundation described two over-arching goals for TURBINE: 1)”to bring public awareness and appreciation for the Schuylkill watershed, specifically the Water Works site, through a multi-faceted interpretative work that directly engages the public,” and 2) ‘to bring awareness of and appreciation for Philadelphia’s history, and the role this site played in that history, specifically, the need for clean, publicly provided water.”

During the 2014-15 school year, LSDC has been in residence at Science Leadership Academy for a portion of the project is supported in part by the NEA. Ms. Stein and the students have been exploring ideas about sound & movement as well as urban legends about the role of water in Philadelphia’s history.  LSDC also secured funding from New Music USA in support of composer Au Yong’s commission and two residencies in Philadelphia while he studies the site’s history and engages in a charrette with LSDC.

“With our North American premiere of the Bach-Mendelssohn St. Matthew Passion last February,” says Sibley, “and now our world premiere of TURBINE, Mendelssohn Club has been able to offer the entire Philadelphia community two wonderful opportunities to see Alan Harler and the Chorus doing what they do best, which is presenting the very best of the masterworks and the most exciting new choral works happening anywhere.”

June 27 & 28 at 7pm
The Water Works, 640 Water Works Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19130
FREE and open to the public

The world premiere of TURBINE by composer Byron Au Yong has been rescheduled to June 27 and 28 at 7:30 pm., due to site-specific circumstances which are beyond the control of all involved parties.

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