Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Event Slides Per Node 1415

  • Chorus singers stand at the back of the stage behind Bang on a Can All-Stars and the ensemble's variety of stringed, percussion, and synthesizer instruments while a screen behind the musicians and singers show a painting of flowers.
  • Candles on the stage floor illuminate a conductor leading string musicians while a video screen behind the group shows historic images of coal miners.
  • Julia Wolfe, composer and Bang on a Can All-Stars co-artistic director Julia Wolfe is photographed close up and with a serious look.

Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields
Bang on a Can All-Stars
with Penn State Concert Choir
Christopher Kiver, conductor

7:30 pm Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bang on a Can All-Stars, which performed Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer at the Center for the Performing Arts in 2009, returns for a concert featuring Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio Anthracite Fields. The six-member Bang on a Can ensemble, started in 1992, is recognized internationally for its dynamic live performances and recordings of some of today’s most innovative music. The amplified group crosses genres freely among classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music.

Wolfe, who grew up in the southeastern Pennsylvania town of Montgomeryville, composes music distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from audiences. Co-founder and co-artistic director of Bang on a Can, Wolfe also is a professor of music composition at New York University. She is the recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellowship.

Penn State Concert Choir joins Bang on a Can for the concert. The choir has toured throughout the United States and in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain, and Australia. The choir also has performed at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, and with The Rolling Stones at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. Christopher Kiver, director of choral activities for the Penn State School of Music, conducts Concert Choir and Glee Club. He also oversees the graduate choral conducting program and teaches courses in choral conducting and choral literature. The Bang on a Can musicians will be in residence at Penn State for three days, while Wolfe will be at the University for two days.

Anthracite Fields commemorates the history of the northeastern Pennsylvania coal region, powerfully evoking through music, text, and images coal-mining life at the turn of the twentieth century. Anthracite Fields weaves a tapestry of an American life, creating a unique art-folk ballad. Anthracite Fields, with music and text by Wolfe, includes both the dark echoes of the underground caves and the moments of light in the lives of the miners who persevered. The oratorio won the Pulitzer for composition in 2015, and the recording of the work was nominated for a Grammy Award. Anthracite Fields is a companion to the acclaimed Steel Hammer, in which Wolfe brought together her love of music and the lore of Appalachia. Based on more than 200 versions of the John Henry ballad, Steel Hammer explores the subject of human versus machine.

Anthracite Fields “captures not only the sadness of hard lives lost … but also of the sweetness and passion of a way of daily life now also lost,” writes a Los Angeles Times reviewer. “The music compels without overstatement. This is a major, profound work.”

Performers will also participate in a post-performance discussion with audience members.

Adult $42
University Park Student $15
18 and Younger $32

Create your own Choice series, and save 10 percent, by purchasing tickets to four or more eligible events in one transaction.

Lynn Sidehamer Brown and Kimberly Watkins

support provided by
Glenn and Nancy Gamble Endowment

media sponsor

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation

This engagement of Bang on a Can, Inc., is made possible through the ArtsCONNECT program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Pennsylvania Humanities Council

The Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative is a joint venture of the Pulitzer Prizes Board and the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

100 Years - The Pulitzer Prizes

All In

Secondary Events on Each Event

Classical Coffeehouse
featuring Bang on a Can All-Stars
musicians Ashley Bathgate and Robert Black

8:00 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hintz Family Alumni Center’s Robb Hall

Free for University Park Students

$5 donation suggested for each community member

The Bang on a Can All-Stars sextet, known for dynamic live performances and recordings of innovative music, crosses genres among classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental. Ashley Bathgate is the band's cellist. Robert Black plays the bass. Julia Wolfe, Bang on a Can co-founder and composer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio Anthracite Fields, will participate in the discussion portion of the event.

Refreshments will be served. Each attendee receives a Classical Coffeehouse mug, while supply lasts. Each Penn State student in attendance receives—at the end of the coffeehouse—a voucher for a serving of Berkey Creamery ice cream.

Seating is limited.

Presented by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State and the Penn State Alumni Association in partnership with the Council of LionHearts and the Blue & White Society.

Donations help to sustain the coffeehouse series.

Earth and Mineral Sciences
Conversation with Julia Wolfe

4:00 pm Thursday, March 30, 2017

EMS Museum & Art Gallery
Deike Building ground floor

Free and open to the public

Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences will host a conversation with Julia Wolfe, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of Anthracite Fields, along with other events commemorating the history of coal mining in Pennsylvania. The Lure of the Mine, an exhibit featuring works from the Steidle Collection of American Industrial Art that focus on the history of the coal industry in Pennsylvania, will be on display. Coal scientist Jonathan Mathews, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering at Penn State, will be available to discuss the Steidle collection. From 4:30–5 p.m., Mathews and Amara Solari, associate professor of art history and anthropology at Penn State, will lead a gallery conversation about the art and science in select panoramic maps from the museum’s collection. They will also discuss lithotype maps. From 5–5:30 p.m., Mathews will host a conversation with Wolfe about the research she conducted in creating her oratorio. The conversation will be streamed live online at https://www.facebook.com/psuems. Small group tours of the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering’s Mine Ventilation Laboratory will also be available. 

Artistic Viewpoints

6:30 pm Thursday, March 30, 2017

Eisenhower Auditorium

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring Anthracite Fields composer Julia Wolfe, is offered in Eisenhower one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.