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A Look Back at New York Stories: Threads of Our City

Posted January 29, 2019

In true musical fashion, New York Stories: Threads of Our City built to a powerful crescendo and finale this past weekend that still echoes in our ears, minds, and hearts. The World Premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth, with its searingly vivid multimedia evocation of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, perfectly capped our exploration of New York’s roots as a city of immigrants.

Here are some highlights, via video, photography, and social media.

It all kicked off on January 14 at the Tenement Museum, with Philharmonic musicians performing chamber music in a special guided tour. In addition, Philharmonic musicians who immigrated to the US shared their stories on the Tenement Museum’s Your Story, Our Story website. Here is cellist Qiang Tu’s story, and a video of him telling it:

Add your story! 

Watch the Philharmonic’s Instagram story of the tour.

Philharmonic cellist Ru-Pei Yeh and Associate Principal Bass Max Zeugner performing Julia Wolfe’s Retrieve at the museum:

Fire in my mouth composer Julia Wolfe, center right, sharing insights about her composition and answering questions in the Confino Family room on the tour:

The following evening, there was a free Insights at the Atrium event, Fire in my mouth: Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire,” at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. President and CEO Deborah Borda moderated a discussion among Wolfe, Forward archivist Chana Pollack, and Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition founder Ruth Sergel. Ms. Pollack presented archival materials from the Forward’s front-lines coverage of the tragedy and its aftermath. 

The center of New York Stories: Threads of Our City was the World Premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth, January 24–26 (see main photo at top). The New York Times previewed the concerts with a charming story, including video, that followed Wolfe around the city in search of the right scissors for the chorus to use during the piece. Its review spoke for many in the audience, calling the work “ambitious, heartfelt, [and] often compelling…. There is both heady optimism and a sense of dread in Ms. Wolfe’s music here…. Mr. van Zweden led a commanding account of a score that requires close coordination between disparate forces, and which ends with an elegiac final chorus in which the names of all 146 victims are tenderly sung to create a fabric of music and memory.”

On the Grand Promenade of David Geffen Hall was an exhibit with items from the Philharmonic Archives, the Forward, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Archives at New York City, Remember the Triangle Fire coalition, The Metropolitan Opera, the NYC Department of Records, and the Kheel Center at Cornell University. Check it out if you’re coming to a concert — it will be up through February 28.

Here’s Julia Wolfe during a rehearsal, with members of The Crossing, the women’s choir that performed in the work, in the background:

On January 25 Ms. Wolfe visited a New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers Bridge class and shared her inspiration and process for composing Fire in my mouth with the middle-school-age composition students: 

On Sunday, at The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Marie-Josée Kravis Creative Partner Nadia Sirota hosted / curated Sound ON: “Threads,” a new-music concert featuring Philharmonic musicians performing chamber music by composers influenced by their time in America. On the program was the World Premiere of Syrian-born Kinan Azmeh’s Café Dumas, which was written “to bring the musicians of the Philharmonic closer to [his home] both conceptually and culturally.” Here is a photograph of the performance of Donnacha Dennehy’s Bulb:

Thanks to all who attended and performed in New York Stories: Threads of Our City. This exploration will be echoed in the final Young People’s Concert of the season, “Coming to New York — Immigrant Voices,” on May 11, 2019. It will feature music by composers reflecting on the immigrant experience, including Bartók, Huang Ruo, Roberto Sierra, Kareem Roustom, and Gabriela Lena Frank, as well as works by students in the Very Young Composers program. Join us!

(Photos: Chris Lee, except Very Young Composers Bridge)