On Stage This Spring: Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Frank Zappa’s genre-defying The Yellow Shark, John Guare’s Lydie Breeze Cycle Marathon, and More

21 Mar 2018


Taylor Mac, A 24-DECADE HISTORY OF POPULAR MUSIC, “Decade 1 (1776-1786).” Photo by Teddy Wolff.


Alex Torra, ¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! or WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!. Photo by Kate Raines, Plate 3 Photography.


Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cosmic Pulses, score.


Monks of Majuli in performance at the British Museum in London, 2016. Photo by Vipul Sangoi.


Nels Cline. Photo by Nathan West.


Fisk Jubilee Singers. Photo courtesy of the artist / Bill Steber. 


Frank Zappa, London, 1973. Photo by Michael Putland.


Radio Silence, by Michael Rakowitz and Mural Arts Philadelphia. Photo by Steve Weinik, courtesy of Mural Arts Philadelphia.


Lydie Breeze Trilogy Part I: Cold Harbor, photo by Dave Sarrafian.

Lydie Breeze Trilogy Part I: Cold Harbor, photo by Dave Sarrafian.


Dr. Anonymous at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in 1972. Photo by Kay Tobin, courtesy New York Public Library Collections.

A diverse offering of imaginative Center-funded performances takes the stage this spring, exploring rich international cultures and examining America’s musical and social history. Get a preview in our roundup of upcoming performances below, and visit our events calendar for a full calendar of programs this season.

Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul: Fisk Jubilee Singers at World Café Live 
March 29

WXPN explores the roots of gospel and its influence on secular popular music through an ongoing series of live performances, a media-rich website, and a forthcoming radio documentary. On March 29, the legendary acapella ensemble, the Fisk Jubilee Singers will perform spiritual and gospel songs at World Café Live.

April 7 – 8

Contemporary music producer Elizabeth Huston presents KLANG: Die 24 Stunden des Tages (The 24 Hours of the Day), a daylong series of chamber music compositions by pioneering composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, presented in collaboration with Analog Arts at FringeArts. This 21-part work gives space to meditate on time, spirituality, and reality, with music ranging from intimate chamber pieces to electronic extravaganzas. Attendees will be able to hear the work over the course of fourteen hours, on both days of the production, while exploring lectures, conversing with musicians, scholars, and visiting stations for further reading and listening.


Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cosmic Pulses, score.

Radio Silence: Listening Party 
April 15

Mural Arts Philadelphia celebrates the launch of a multi-episode radio broadcast with a free public listening party at Independence Visitor Center. Inspired by famed Iraqi broadcaster and refugee Bahjat Abdulwahed and conceived by artist Michael Rakowitz, Radio Silence interweaves memories from Iraq and America, bringing together recordings of Abdulwahed and Philadelphia-based Iraqi refugees, war veterans, and Iraqi musicians and performers.

¡Bienvenidos Blancos! or Welcome White People! 
April 18 – 28

Cuban and American history converge in this world premiere, directed and led by theater artist Alex Torra. The Spanish-language (with English supertitles), ensemble-devised performance work examines “whiteness,” American privilege, and the complexities of cultural identity. Torra is joined by an ensemble of Cuban, Cuban American, and Caucasian American performers who draw inspiration from old-world Cuban entertainment, including the 1950’s Tropicana Club Floor Show.


Alex Torra, ¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! or WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!. Photo by Kate Raines, Plate 3 Photography.

Brindabani Jatra: Weaving Dance and Divinity 
April 21

Dance artist Madhusmita Bora collaborates with monk, choreographer, and scholar Bhabananda Barbayan in a curated program featuring the Dancing Monks of Assam and drawing movement material from Sattriya (classical Indian dance). The program brings to life the embedded stories of ancient history, art, and spirituality in the “Cloth of Vrindavan,” held in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). Though the monks’ PMA performance is sold out, they’ll present additional events at Drexel University and will appear at the Delaware Art Museum on May 2.

Frank Zappa – The Yellow Shark Philadelphia Premiere 
April 28

Orchestra 2001 presents the Philadelphia premiere of The Yellow Shark, by maverick American composer and rock guitarist Frank Zappa, at The Fillmore. The 17-movement, 75-minute piece will be performed on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the album’s release and of Zappa’s death. Concert-goers can also experience Zappa’s Radical Classical Roots at World Café Live on April 22. This performance pairs Zappa’s chamber music with works by influential contemporary classical composers: Edgard Varèse, Pierre Boulez, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern.


Frank Zappa, London, 1973. Photo by Michael Putland.

Lydie Breeze Cycle Marathon
April 25 – May 6

The world premiere of Tony Award-winning playwright John Guare’s full Lydie Breeze Trilogy, presented by EgoPo Classic Theater, will be performed in its entirety as the playwright originally intended. On select dates in April and May, the cycle will be offered in three consecutive evenings and as a nine-hour marathon experience over the course of a day. In development for 30 years, the epic American story is set between the Civil War and the birth of 20th-century industrialism.

On Tour: 217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous at Baryshnikov Arts Center 
May 3 – 9

Award-winning playwright Ain Gordon’s play 217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous explores the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in America. The result of a two-year residency with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the play profiles Dr. John Fryer, a pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement, and incorporates archival material from the Historical Society’s Fryer collection. Nightly artist talkbacks with Gordon, LGBT civil rights representatives, and others, provide the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Lovers (for Philadelphia)
June 2

Ars Nova Workshop will commission composer and guitarist Nels Cline to create a concert experience inspired by Philadelphia’s rich musical history and Cline’s ambitious 2016 concept recording, Lovers, released by Blue Note Records. Lovers (for Philadelphia) will be performed by Cline—also known as a member of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Wilco—with a specially assembled 17-member jazz orchestra of both Philadelphia musicians and artists who originally appeared on the recording, such as Zeena Parkins, Steven Bernstein, Julian Lage, and Erik Friedlander.

Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music 
June 2, June 9

Hailed by The New York Times as “sublime,” Taylor Mac’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated performance makes its Philadelphia debut—featuring more than 100 local performers—at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in two 12-hour performances. Presented during the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, the June 2 performance will span twelve decades from 1776-1896, while Part Two closes the festival on June 9 and covers 1896 to present. Audience members become active participants in this 240-year journey through U.S. history and popular song.