Investing in the musical life and legacy of Philadelphia

Bicentennial Commissions

The Society’s Edwin G. McCollin Fund competition selected four nationally recognized composers, each commissioned to write a new chamber work based in some way on the rich history of Philadelphia, for one of four participating performing organizations: the 20/21 Ensemble from the Curtis Institute of Music, Network for New Music, Astral Artists laureate Rolston String Quartet, and PRISM Quartet.

Fifty applications were submitted anonymously by nationally known American composers and were reviewed by a panel of Philadelphia-area musicians, composers, and arts administrators. The winning composers are:

“I am very excited about the Musical Fund Society’s upcoming Bicentennial celebration, especially the concert featuring new chamber works by some of America’s finest living composers,” said Linda Reichert, President of the Musical Fund Society. “The Society and its activities have quietly thrived under the radar in Philadelphia for many years. These Bicentennial events—presented in partnership with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, The Free Library of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania Library archives, and the four excellent participating Philadelphia music ensembles—will spotlight the important activities of our organization, and connect Philadelphia audiences with the rich musical life of past and present Philadelphia.”  

Tania León’s new work for Curtis 20/21 Ensemble will celebrate the Musical Fund Society’s long-lasting and unwavering support of people from all heritages who have helped build Philadelphia’s music scene, and the Society’s ability to embrace the sounds of each generation, foreseeing what might be relevant for future ones and supporting innovators who later became music icons.

“Nowadays, society is more mindful of the contributions composers and musicians have made to the history of humanity,” León said.

Stephen Jaffe is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to write for the Network for New Music Ensemble and Philadelphia’s musical fabric, and for the chance to be part of a group of composers chosen to celebrate the McCollin Fund’s anniversary of enriching Philadelphia’s musical life, being mindful of the deep imprint the vital musical and artistic life of the region has made on him.

“As I soak up ideas and ambience, let them ferment, and aim to produce something previously unheard, new, beautiful and curious, I celebrate the city and the region for the plentifulness that contains the seeds of effervescence,” Jaffe said.

Roberto Sierra will write a work for Prism Quartet inspired by the urban street as a sequel to his work Graffiti, written in 2017. He said Philadelphia, like all major American cities has great street art.

“I am always honored when an institution or an individual is interested in a new work from me,” Sierra said. “This project in particular is special because it was a competition by invitation, and also because the pieces were judged blind.”

For Augusta Read Thomas’s work for the Rolston String Quartet, she is picking up on Philadelphia’s history of inclusion, innovation, communication, industry, healthcare for the world’s family, fertile fields and the love that binds us all together.

“The reason I compose music is to express gratitude,” she said. “The music will flow like the arc of the rivers that define this great city. From planting seeds through to harvesting the fruit of mind and labor embodied in the freedom and the spirit of Philadelphia, thanks is given for our mutual celebration of the human experiences of justice, love and joy, health and knowledge, beauty and insight into the nature of being.”

“Music for me is an embrace of the world – a way to open myself up to being alive in the world in my body, in my sounds, and in my mind.” – Augusta Read Thomas