Mending Wall is a fully staged concert exploring the meaning of walls in our world by giving musical form to questions about identity, community, division, and freedom. Soprano Tony Arnold and pianist Arturo O’Farrill join the PRISM Quartet in world premiere performances of works by four visionary composers—Martin Bresnick, George Lewis, Juri Seo, and O’Farrill—who take inspiration from poetry by Robert Frost, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Waly Salomão, and Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Directed by Jorinde Keesmaat with lighting design by Aaron Copp.
“Walls are a foundational part of our world: they have mythical and poetic resonance, but also material consequences. The project began as a response to the idea of a wall as a dehumanizing force. Although America’s current zeal for wall-building has counterparts throughout history and across the globe, it represents a specific failure of imagination. As artists, we’re called to build another kind of structure: a collaborative experiment that restores mystery, complexity, and generosity to our encounters with one another. Mending Wall amplifies a range of musical and poetic voices; Our hope is that the project will illuminate and help us to confront and mend fractures in our human community.”
—Matthew Levy, executive and co-artistic director of the PRISM Quartet.
Stage director Jorinde Keesmaat writes, “Nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic postponed Mending Wall‘s premiere, the production itself has evolved in response to this global blaze. Through new staging and lighting, we are exploring the paradox of personal contact: our simultaneous discomfort with strangers and our intrinsic longing for human connection, the psychological effects of isolation and our basic need for one another’s warmth. Mending Wall still examines the complicated meaning of boundaries — physical and invisible — but it’s also about fear giving way to hope.”
Tony Arnold, soprano
Arturo O’Farrill, piano
Timothy McAllister, soprano saxophone
Zachary Shemon, alto saxophone
Matthew Levy, tenor saxophone
Taimur Sullivan, baritone saxophone
Jorinde Keesmaat, stage direction and set design
Aaron Copp, lighting design
Please note: this performance will be in person only and will not be live streamed.
Intriguing programs of great beauty and breadth have distinguished the PRISM Quartet as one of America’s foremost chamber ensembles. “A bold ensemble that set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets” (The New York Times), PRISM has been presented by Carnegie Hall, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout Latin America, China, and Russia under the auspices of USIA and USArtists International. PRISM has also appeared as soloists with the Detroit Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, and conducted residencies at the nation’s leading conservatories, including the Curtis Institute and the Oberlin Conservatory. Two-time recipients of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, PRISM has commissioned nearly 300 works by eminent composers, including Pulitzer Prize-winners Julia Wolfe, William Bolcom, Jennifer Higdon, Zhou Long, and Bernard Rands; MacArthur “Genius” Award recipients Tyshawn Sorey, Bright Sheng, and Miguel Zenón; and US Artists Fellow Susie Ibarra. PRISM’s discography is extensive, with releases on Albany, BMOP/Sound, ECM, innova, Koch, Naxos, New Dynamic, New Focus, Orange Mountain Music, and its own label, XAS Records. The Fifth Century, PRISM’s ECM recording with The Crossing, was awarded a 2018 Grammy for Best Choral Performance. In 2016, PRISM was named by its alma mater, the University of Michigan, as the first recipient of the Christopher Kendall Award in recognition of its work in “collaboration, entrepreneurship, and community engagement.” The PRISM Quartet performs exclusively on Selmer saxophones.
“Soprano Tony Arnold is a luminary in the world of chamber music and art song. Today’s classical composers are inspired by her inherently beautiful voice, consummate musicianship, and embracing spirit” (Huffington Post). Hailed by The New York Times as “a bold, powerful interpreter,” she is internationally acclaimed as a leading proponent of contemporary music in concert and recording, having premiered hundreds of works by established and emerging composers. Since becoming the first-prize laureate of both the 2001 Gaudeamus International Competition (NL) and the 2001 Louise D. McMahon Competition (USA), Tony Arnold has collaborated with the most cutting-edge composers and instrumentalists on the world stage, and shares with audiences her “broader gift for conveying the poetry and nuance behind outwardly daunting contemporary scores” (Boston Globe). Her unique blend of vocal virtuosity and communicative warmth, combined with wide-ranging skills in education and leadership were recognized with the 2015 Brandeis Creative Arts Award, given in appreciation of “excellence in the arts and the lives and works of distinguished, active American artists.”
GRAMMY-award winning pianist, composer and educator Arturo O’Farrill — leader of the “first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz” (The New York Times)—was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Son of the late, great composer Chico O’Farrill, Mr. O’Farrill was educated at the Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He played piano in Carla Bley’s Big Band from 1979 through 1983 and earned a reputation as a soloist in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte. In 2002, he established the GRAMMY-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) in order to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin jazz to a wider audience, and to expand the contemporary Latin jazz big band repertoire through commissions to artists across a wide stylistic and geographic range. Mr. O’Farrill is Professor of Global Jazz Studies and Music at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.
Mending Wall is a co-presentation between PRISM Quartet and Roulette. Major support for Mending Wall, including composer commissions, has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from The Presser Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, Conn-Selmer, Inc., and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
George E. Lewis’ commission has been made possible with principal support from the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew V. Mellon Foundation.
Martin Bresnick’s commission has been made possible with principal support from a consortium of ensembles including the PRISM Quartet, Assembly Quartet, Barkada Quartet, Capitol Quartet, Coalescent Quartet, Donald Sinta Quartet, East End Quartet, Fuego Quartet, H2 Quartet, Hartt Saxophone Quartet for The Hartt School Centennial Celebration, Hinotori Quartet, Iridium Quartet, Kenari Quartet, Mirasol Quartet, New Thread Quartet, Pharos Quartet, Project Fusion, Quartetto Obrigado, Red Clay Quartet, and Zzyzx Quartet.
PRISM is a member of New Music USA’s New Music Impact Fund, made possible with funding from The Scherman Foundation’s Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund. Visit PRISM’s New Music USA profile.