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The Fairmount Water Works is celebrating its 200th anniversary with Leah Stein Dance Co and Mendelssohn Club Chorus.

The Latest Update

Review: TURBINE stirs voice and movement into water

Posted on June 30, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

David Patrick Stearns reviews TURBINE for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Here are two snippets:

“… choristers who can seem faceless on a traditional stage turned into an intriguing collection of individual faces and voices.”

“… it’s hard to imagine that anyone walked away from TURBINE unchanged…”

Read more at The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Conducting TURBINE

Posted on June 28, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

Maestro Alan Harler completes his final season as Artistic Director of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia with the world premiere of TURBINE. In this interview with on-site rehearsal footage, Alan talks about the project as well as his 27-year tenure with the chorus. Hope you can be there to experience the final performances today.

WHYY reports from a rehearsal in the rain

Posted on June 27, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

Arts & culture reporter Peter Crimmins attends a rehearsal of TURBINE performed by Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club Chorus. Listen to the radio interview and read his article One of a kind performance at the WaterWorks. Sold out performances begin tonight at the Fairmount Water Works.

WRTI Radio Interview

Posted on June 26, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

How Many Arms Does It Take To Conduct The Mendelssohn Club Choir?

Conductor Alan Harler answers this question in an interview with David Patrick Stearns on WRTI.

Listen to the interview, read the transcript and check out a video at WRTI-FM






Schuylkill River Significance

Posted on June 24, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

Philadelphia City Parks Association Executive Director Deenah Loeb speaks about the significance of the Schuylkill River. Loeb is an advisor for TURBINE, which premieres along this waterway at the Fairmount Water Works. June 27th & 28th performances by Leah Stein Dance Company​ and Mendelssohn Club, a Philadelphia Chorus​ are sold out. Space available for the Open Rehearsal on June 26th through mcchorus.org/wp/archives/2685

Preview in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted on June 22, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

Classical Music Critic David Patrick Stearns writes an in-depth preview of TURBINE, which premieres in two sold out performances this weekend. Here’s an excerpt:

A Mendelssohn Club concert? An edgy new work by the Leah Stein Dance Company? Or a guided meditation?

With Turbine, the new site-specific dance/choral work premiering this weekend at the Fairmount Water Works, all three descriptions apply. Fifty-eight choristers and 18 dancers will perform among the trees, near the gazebo and other Water Works sites – while also (when possible) taking the audience with them.

“Blend your voices into sounds within and beyond the trees,” reads the first page of the score by Seattle composer Byron Au Yong. “Rest to listen, often.”

The word whispering is sung with “hand across shoulder.”

“Brush hand over head” while singing “beneath the sky.”

A circle in the score comes with instructions to “move your arms in a circle.”

Movement and music are one…

Read the entire preview at The Philadelphia Inquirer

Gallery for information about TURBINE

Posted on April 28, 2015 by Mendelssohn Club Chorus

Interested in learning more about TURBINE? Click on this link to view a gallery of photos, videos, and information about the project.


Choreographing Turbine

Posted on April 24, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

This interview features choreographer Leah Stein, who gives a glimpse into creating this site-specific performance for the Fairmount Water Works. Video includes footage of the creative process and initial rehearsals with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.

Composing Turbine

Posted on April 8, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

This video interview gives a glimpse into composing music for moving choir along the water. It includes waterways in Philadelphia and Seattle. The project premieres at the Fairmount Water Works May 16 & 17, 2015.

Planning TURBINE Video

Posted on March 19, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

Composer Byron Au Yong, choreographer Leah Stein and conductor Alan Harler discuss creating a site-responsive choral work for the Fairmount Water Works. The performers and audience will move throughout this historic and contemporary place along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

First Rehearsal

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

On February 18, 2105, Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia began rehearsing TURBINE. I attended the first rehearsal via Skype on the laptop atop a music stand. Folding chairs on each side must be so nobody knocks me over (see photo above).

21st century technology helps this new choral work inspired by 19th century “miraculous mechanicals” that provided clean water to a growing city.


Residency Notes

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Byron Au Yong

From October 12-26, 2014, I worked with dancers & singers, researched the history of the Water Works and met with Philadelphia experts. Special thanks to Leah Stein Dance Company and the Thornburgh Family for hosting this residency.

· on-site singing & movement studies with Leah Stein Dance Company
· attended Mendelssohn Club’s Big Sing rehearsal at Girard Chapel

Round Table
· Byron Au Yong, composer
· Michelle Hollander, water resources engineer
· Adam Levine, consultant, Philadelphia Water Department
· Deenah Loeb, executive director, City Parks Association
· Leah Stein, choreographer
· Karen Young, executive director, Fairmount Water Works

Visual Culture Program at the Library Company of Philadelphia
· illustrations & photographs of the Water Works
· found article that talked about the necessary “din of industry”
· noted how smokestacks and pastoral scenes co-existed in paintings

Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center
· water treatment, hands-on displays, ecological action steps
· quotes from Charles Dickens and Frances Trollope
· learned that the center was flooded in May 2014

Philadelphia Water Department
· interviewed author/historical consultant Adam Levine
· learned about newspaper clippings & historic cartoons
· received sheet music inspired by the Water Works from the 1800s

Philadelphia Wastewater Treatment Plant
· visit with Adam Levine and Leah Stein
· gathered wood turbine templates from the 1920s
· saw incoming sewage area
· received Imagining Philadelphia: Travelers’ Views of the City from 1800 to the Present

River Boat Ride from Schuylkill Banks
· named Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year
· Schuylkill feels more like a canal with concrete sides

· Eiko: A Body in a Station at 30th Street Station
· Kenny Endo, Kaoru Watanabe, So Percussion at Princeton

Guest Teaching & Site Visit
· Science Leadership Academy
· Sidney Hillman Apartments

From my visit, I realized that Philadelphia and Seattle are built between two waterways. Moreover, both cities protect and restore urban watersheds. It’s great to know these cities advocate for clean water as a civic obligation and human right.

Byron coming to Philadelphia

Posted on August 16, 2014 by Leah Stein Dance Company

We are excited to invite Byron to Philadelphia this October. He’ll be here as we spend an intensive two weeks cultivating the beginning of this project. Please stay tuned for an update after his visit.


Leah Stein Dance Company (LSDC) will commission Seattle-based composer Byron Au Yong to create a large-scale choral score for a major new work, TURBINE, with the Mendelssohn Club Chorus (MCC) under the direction of Alan Harler. LSDC has created several works integrating choral singers into her choreographic vision. (See work sample battle hymns.)

TURBINE is the next collaboration between LSDC and MCC in partnership with historic Fairmount Water Works along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. This historic site is a landmark in Philadelphia history, demonstrating a key moment in understanding the tides and movement of water and in architectural invention. It offers a resonant metaphor of the sustenance of life. There will also be an educational component to this project joining LSDC with the Youth Programs at the Water Works during the development of the work.

MCC singers and LSDC dancers will travel along the river, above the shore, along the long paths of the site, approaching from the distance and ‘flowing like water’ parallel to the river itself. The audience will be integrated into these pathways. Also, the shoreline will be included in the performance as the potent edge where water and land meet. There is a possibility of including a large barge where the singers and dancers ride on the barge in the water. A dynamic conversation between Byron Au Yong and Leah Stein began last year when Byron visited Philadelphia as was introduced to Leah by MCC choral director Alan Harler. Both artists are informed and inspired by the physicality of sound and the acoustics of space.  Rather than a traditional choral score, Au Yong, a dancer as well as a composer, will collaborate with choreographer Leah Stein to write music that is directly influenced by the architecture, landscape, and acoustic elements of the historic site as well as the movement of the singers and dancers. The choreography will also be inspired by the site elements as well as the choral score that Au Yong creates.

The creative dialogue between the two artists will allow for a new form of ‘scoring’ music and movement. Au Yong’s score will allow the singers to move, to travel, to perform en masse and in small groups, duets and solos. His score may include physical directions, as the choreography may include sonic elements. TURBINE will highlight the historical, cultural and multi-faceted significance of this historic site.

The partnership with LSDC, MCC, and the Fairmount Water Works will lead to a celebratory event bringing attention to the significance of the Schuylkill River and the role of water in the city’s history and contemporary life.

Project Media

battle hymns PLEASE BEGIN AT 16:45 (commissioned score by David Lang)
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Selected to show large chorus moving and interaction between singers and dancers. Composer David Lang’s libretto inspired by letters of war, songs of Stephen Foster and Abraham Lincoln’s words: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”
Performed in San Francisco, CA, in 2013 with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, the San Francisco Choral Society, and Volti Chorus directed by Robert Geary. Choreography and stage direction by Leah Stein.

Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas
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Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas (hiking singers, water percussionists)
64 bottled operas. Created with support from Jack Straw Foundation, MAP Fund and Site-Specific Arts; Performed at the Seattle Symphony Benaroya Hall Garden of Remembrance (Seattle) 2011, Town Hall (Seattle) 2010; the Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts (Seattle) 2008; and 64 outdoor waterways throughout the Pacific Northwest 2008; Richard Rodgers Award Finalist 2008; Sound/Light Installation created with Randy Moss, Jack Straw New Media Gallery (Seattle) 2008.

Byron Au Yong Biography video
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Selection chosen to share more about unique vision and inspirations of composer. Byron Au Yong creates musical events scored for Asian, European, and hand-made instruments. His works have been featured in venues that include the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, Seattle Aquarium, and Tokyo Art Museum. Recent projects include Piao Zhu: Flying Bamboo created for the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Surrender: A T’ai Qi Cantata commissioned by The Esoterics and YIJU: Songs of Dislocation developed at the Jack Straw New Media Gallery.

Start and End Dates



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

13 updates
Last update on June 30, 2015

Project Created By

514 Mifflin Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Leah Stein Dance Company strives to bring dance to a wide spectrum of people from diverse backgrounds, age groups and communities. Inspired by the physics of movement and the forces of nature, Artistic Director Leah Stein seeks to deepen and enliven a sense of place. The Company is a dynamic group of talented dancers who…

In Collaboration With

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
San Francisco, California


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