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March 6, 2019

Lisa Bielawa to Cast Her Spell With Innovative Music at the Adelphi PAC

For two days—Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2—the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center is in for something a little different: The Rome Prize-winning composer and vocalist Lisa Bielawa will present a free composition workshop on Friday and give a concert of recent and older works the next day. Both events are open to the public.

Bielawa has long been committed to mentorship and education in her career and welcomes the opportunity to bring her experience and life knowledge to campus.

“Schools are really trying to give students life skills now,” Bielawa said. “There are so few academic jobs, and there are so many composers whose lives have gone outside academia in different ways. I think there are a lot more options, but it’s tough. It’s not easy to be in the arts at all. I find students really eager to learn. They’re just as interested in how I made my life as a freelancer as they are in how to write for voice.”

Bielawa’s muse has taken her to some unusual places, which has forced her to learn how to pull off large-scale projects outside the usual means of support. Her most recent work, Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, is an opera written for video rather than stage. She has also conceived a number of performances in public places, most recently an hour-long work for hundreds of musicians in an airfield. That work, Airfield Broadcasts, received its premiere at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin.

“I have a keen desire to have my life and work be committed to the world, so I need to be outside the box,” she said. “It’s much harder. I had to raise an enormous amount of money to do these things. You have to have the stomach for it. Nobody’s commissioning me to write a piece for 800 people on an airfield. No opera company is going to commission me to do a work for video.”

Known both as a composer and a performer—she’s long sung with the Philip Glass Ensemble—Bielawa will be singing her own works at Adelphi, something that’s surprisingly new for the multifaceted artist.

Lisa Bielawa

“Because I developed the two parts of my career separately as a performer and as a composer, I wasn’t really looking to compose music for myself,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve become a better singer because people keep wanting me to perform my music, and my music is hard.”

New Music XIV: Lisa Bielawa will include selections from Vireo and other works by Bielawa, including Graffiti dell’amante for string quartet and soprano; The Houri and the Poet for soprano, cello, and piano; Scene & Aria: Layover in CDG for soprano, cello and piano; Wait for piano with drone; and A Collective Cleansing for solo voice and digital audio. Joining Bielawa for the concert will be violinists Blanca Cecilia González and Clara Kim, violist Chieh-Fan Yiu, cellist Deborah Sepe, and pianist Andrea Christie.

Tickets for Saturday’s concert start at $25, with discounts available to seniors, students and alumni. There is no charge to observe the composition workshop on Friday, March 1. It begins at 1:00 p.m. on the Adelphi PAC’s Westermann Stage, Concert Hall.


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