2020 Brendan Gill Prize Ceremony
Honoring Julia Wolfe for "Fire in my mouth"
Fire in my mouth
Music and Text by Julia Wolfe
This spectacular conception, managed in one large multimedia piece and presented in David Geffen Hall from January 24–26, 2019, conveys the story of the promise of immigration; the treatment of unfair labor practices; and the history of women-led protests that would shape the civic and political life of New York City.
Fire in my mouth, commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Music Director Jaap van Zweeden, with the chamber choir The Crossing and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, mines an emotional tragedy of contemporary relevance.
Julia Wolfe’s oratorio illuminates what a piece of orchestral music can be and do. The 146 female singers, standing in for the 146 garment workers who perished in the fire, also speaks to the power of our city, its history, and all of the people who have made it what it is today. For all of this, the 2020 Brendan Gill Prize Jury sat in deep admiration.
Special Recognition Honorees
During deliberations for the 2020 Gill Prize, the jury was struck by the quality of four books that draw on the historical record of our City in quite special and particular ways. We are proud to honor these four writers—all finalists for the Gill Prize—with special designation:
- Contested City: Art & Public History as Mediation at New York’s Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
- Brooklyn: The Once and Future City, by Thomas J. Campanella
- CODEX New York; Typologies of the City, by photographer Stanley Greenberg
- Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, by Eric K. Washington
About the Brendan Gill Prize
The Brendan Gill Prize was established in 1987 in honor of Brendan Gill by friend and fellow MAS board member Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis along with board members Helen Tucker and Margot Wellington. The Prize is given each year to the creator of a specific work—a book, essay, musical composition, play, painting, sculpture, architectural design, film, or choreographic piece—that best captures the spirit and energy of New York City.
2020 Brendan Gill Prize Jury
John Haworth (Brendan Gill Prize Jury Chair), Senior Executive Emeritus, National Museum of the American Indian/NY, Smithsonian Institution
Randall Bourscheidt, Director, Archive of New York City Cultural Policy
Patricia Cruz, Artistic Director and CEO, Harlem Stage
Gail Gregg, Artist and Journalist
Cassim Shepard, Urbanist, Filmmaker, and Author
Laurie Beckelman, Not-for-profit Consultant
Helen Tucker, MAS Director Emerita
About the Young People’s Chorus of New York City
It is the mission of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City to provide children of all cultural and economic backgrounds with a unique program of music education and choral performance that seeks to fulfill each child’s potential, while creating a model of artistic excellence and diversity that enriches the community.
About the Newly Restored Concert Grove Pavilion in Prospect Park
The Concert Grove Pavilion, completed in 1874, was designed by Calvert Vaux. Situated in the Upper Concert Grove, the Pavilion is an open-air shelter that consists of eight cast-iron columns supporting a decorative metal and wood roof with a multi-colored, elaborate stained-glass skylight. Typical of the day, its design borrows motifs from Hindu, Chinese, Moorish, and Egyptian architecture. Its rehabilitation restored a key element in Olmsted and Vaux’s formally designed axial layout of the Concert Grove, as the Pavilion sits on axis with Music Island, which the Prospect Park Alliance reconstructed in 2012. The careful restoration of this public amenity maintains the Pavilion’s historic character while allowing for contemporary uses, offering park visitors a place to rest, picnic, gather and have small performances.
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