San Francisco Girls Chorus, Artistic Director
Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. Born in San Francisco into a musical family, Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and in 1997 co-founded the MATA Festival, of which she served as Artistic Director until 2006, curating an annual music festival in New York that celebrates young composers from around the world. She also served as composer-in-residence with BMOP from 2006-09, leading talks, creating partnerships, and founding the Score Board, a Boston-based composers collective.
As a choral and small-ensemble vocalist, Bielawa has toured and recorded with the renowned early music group Pomerium, sung in the professional chorus of the New York Philharmonic under the baton of most of the major conductors of our time, and with Paul McCartney at Carnegie Hall. As a solo vocalist she has performed in numerous composer-led projects, including John Zorn’sShir Ha-shirim with Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, with Toby Twining in multiple appearances of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, and in her ongoing role as the vocalist with the Philip Glass Ensemble since 1992.
As a leader of vocal groups, Bielawa is the choirmaster for the current touring production of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach. She assisted Paul Simon with the development of his Broadway musical Capeman, including the preparation of vocalists and children’s choruses, and she has conducted the UC San Diego choir and chamber singers.
As a composer of choral music, Lisa Bielawa is a winner of the Dale Warland national competition, and the 1998 Morton Gould ASCAP Young Composers Award for her piece Spinning Flax, commissioned by the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Her spring 2013 season includes New York performances of her major choral work Lamentations for a City by Cantori New York, and the world premiere of Such Another Sleep, for the 50-voice Academic Male Voice Choir of Helsinki with the composer as vocal soloist.
In her own music, Lisa Bielawa takes inspiration from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Lisa Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the US, and in France, Italy, the UK, and Finland. Recent highlights include a performance of Trojan Women at Le Poisson Rouge and a residency at John Zorn’s The Stone, plus world premieres of Hypermelodia at The Rivers School Conservatory, Rondolette by Brooklyn Rider and pianist Bruce Levingston, Double Duet by the Washington Saxophone Quartet, Graffiti dell’amante with the Chicago Chamber Musicians, The Project of Collecting Clouds at Seattle’s Town Hall by cellist Joshua Roman, Double Violin Concerto and In medias res by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, The Right Weather by American Composers Orchestra and pianist Andrew Armstrong at Carnegie Hall, and The Lay of the Love and Death at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.
Bielawa’s work Chance Encounter is a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, which was premiered by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Lower Manhattan’s Seward Park and was later performed at the Whitney Museum, in Vancouver, Venice, and in Rome on the banks of the Tiber River. Bielawa’s latest work for performance in public places is Airfield Broadcasts, a 60-minute work for hundreds of musicians that premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin in May 2013 and at Crissy Field in San Francisco in October 2013. Bielawa is currently at work on Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, a new opera composed on a libretto by Erik Ehn and directed by Charles Otte, which is unprecedented in that it is being created expressly for episodic release via broadcast and online media.
Bielawa’s latest album, The Lay of the Love, was released on Innova in June 2015. Her discography also includes A Handful of World (Tzadik); The Trojan Women on a disc entitledFirst Takes (TROY); Hildegurls: Electric Ordo Virtutum (Innova); The Trojan Women performed by the Miami on The NYFA Collection (Innova); in medias res (BMOP/sound), a double-disc set of Bielawa’s solo and orchestral works; Chance Encounter (Orange Mountain Music); and Elegy-Portrait on pianist Bruce Levingston’s 2011 album, Heart Shadow (Sono Luminus).