Investing in the musical life and legacy of Philadelphia

McCollin Fund 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, a quartet from Astral Artists, 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:

  • Tania León — composition performed by Curtis 20/21 Ensemble (wind sextet)
  • Stephen Jaffe — composition performed by Network for New Music Ensemble
  • Roberto Sierra — composition performed by Prism Quartet (saxophones)
  • Augusta Read Thomas — composition performed by Astral Artists string quartet

All four commissions will be presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society on April 26, 2020 at the Mary Louise Curtis branch of the Settlement Music School in 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.”

PRISM Quartet
Network for New Music
Rolston String Quartet