Beth Morrison
Beth Morrison | Credit: Michal Fattal

Producer Beth Morrison and composer Paola Prestini have been collaborators since 2009 on what they call “21st-century liederabends.” For those of you in the know, Franz Schubert’s friends basically invented this idea of bringing a group of friends together to perform the composer’s songs over the course of an evening, interspersed with conversation. For Morrison and Prestini, the idea was to take the model of creative collaboration and idea sharing and “imbue them with an egalitarian, forward-thinking spirit.”

Each of the previous four series of liederabends has also expanded beyond music into visual and theatrical arts, not at all surprising given that Morrison heads the avant-garde opera producing Beth Morrison Projects and Prestini has composed Aging Magician on commission from BMP. But as we emerge from the pandemic, BMP and Prestini’s National Sawdust (the innovative new music center she co-founded in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) are upping the ante with 21c Liederabend, op. Worldwide (digital), which they’re staging as a broadcast-only event beginning on June 27 on The WNET Group’s All Arts television channel and streaming app. The series consists of six new “reinventions” of the art song.

The 90-minute concert features female and non-binary composers paired with an array of hip, underground/alternative artists, including LA’s own WildUp with conductor Christopher Rountree. Featured creators include: performance-artist, vocalist and composer Holland Andrews in collaboration with Katrina Reid and Paul Notice of The Notice Blog; multi-hyphenate musician-author-director-activist Amyra León with filmmaker Bradley Credit, musicians David Frazier and Darian Thomas, and dancer Paris Marcel; the Canadian-Colombian singer and multimedia artist Lido Pimienta with percussionist Brandon Valdivia and video artist Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea; a collaboration between Paola Prestini, librettist Royce Vavrek, mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, and painter Natalie Frank in a short film by animator Erin Pollock; multi-instrumentalist Theodosia Roussos in collaboration with Wild Up and featuring Adrianne Pope, Andrew McIntosh, Derek Stein, Jiji, and Michael Day, as captured by designer and videographer Hana Kim; and composer/vocalist/pianist Diana Syrse's new work with musicians Conrad Harris, Pauline Kim Harris, Lev Zhurbin, and Jeffrey Zeigler as documented by filmmaker Mathilde Lavenne.

Woven into the concert will be interviews with Morrison, Prestini, and features on all the creators. Los Angeles Philharmonic regulars may remember Diana Syrse’s dramatic and exciting “Nahual” from Connected Identities, which the LA Phil premiered in 2017, and Prestini is, by now, a known quantity, in high demand as a composer. L.A.-based Theodosia Roussos is in high demand as a soprano and as an oboist and readers of SFCV may recall that she starred in The Industry’s Sweet Land in 2018. You may not have heard of all these names, but trust me, in the new-music world, this is the big time.

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