Taylor Mac opens the Bergen International Festival with an American extravaganza

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September 24, 2020

The 2021 Bergen International Festival opens with the world premiere of an abridged symphonic version of Taylor Mac's celebrated performance A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.

Update 26 March 2021: Taylor Mac – A 24-Decade History of Popular Music has been postponed and will not take place during the 2021 Festival as previously announced. 

The performance presents a bedazzled subjective history of America through popular song. 

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music has, at its core, been about expanding our understanding of our community, history, and humanity.  To help us do that we take dichotomies and work to bring them closer together. Who would ever imagine a queen from New York City singing with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra? We can’t wait to hear and see what happens,’ says Taylor Mac.

The American artist is known for creating works full of simultaneous beauty and resistance. Mac is a singer, composer, playwright, actor and general theatre-maker, and creates performances that blow up any attempts at categorization. With magnificent costumes, distinctive renditions of classics from far back in the American songbook and a great stage personality that alternates between being charming and stinging, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music has achieved great success in various formats.

As a one-time event in Brooklyn, Mac staged the show as 24-hour marathon performance. ‘One of the greatest experiences of my life. I have slept on it, and I'm sure, wrote The New York Times. The performance was also one of the finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2017 and was the winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama awarded to a theatrical work that best explores America’s history as a way of examining the great issues of our day. 

An all-American theme

For the opening performance in Grieghallen on 26 May, the work will, for the first time, be arranged for a symphony orchestra. Commissioned by the Bergen International Festival, its world premiere will be performed by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. The approximately 2-hour program will feature new arrangements of American classics from Civil War ballads to 1960’s protest music.  For this special edition of the project, Taylor Mac is collaborating with the American composer and arranger Ted Hearne and conductor Alan Pierson. Taylor Mac will also be joined by long time collaborators, Music Director Matt Ray and costume designer Machine Dazzle. 

The theme for the 2021 Bergen International Festival is ‘This is America?’, and festival director Anders Beyer is delighted to be able to present an opening performance created and produced by a living American icon.

‘Taylor Mac's work is saturated with meaning, is reflective and full of questions about society in general and the American way of life in particular. Beyond the dazzling performance, the glittering costumes and stage extravaganzas, this is a show that fights against conformity, categorization and social demons,’ says the festival director.

As previously announced, the 2021 Bergen International Festival artist in residence will be American composer Missy Mazzoli. Music and artists from the USA will also characterize the rest of the programme.  

Preparing a festival during a pandemic

Due to the ongoing pandemic and infection control measures changing rapidly, there is a high probability that plans for the 2021 Bergen International Festival will also be affected. The festival will follow the health authorities’ orders and recommendations and wants to create safe conditions and the least possible inconvenience to the public. Therefore, ticket sales will not start until the spring. 

Artists around the world are facing significant challenges at the moment. Therefore, the festival wants to draw attention to the work they do by launching artists and performances on a continuously, knowing that the final festival programme may look different.

Facts / Taylor Mac

  • Uses "judy" as a pronoun.

  • Playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer based in New York.

  • Has written 17 works for theatre and won numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellow, a Tony nomination and a finalist nomination for the Pulitzer Prize

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music is performed in Grieghallen on 26 and 27 May 2021. Would you like to be notified when tickets become available? Sign up here for our newsletter! 

This engagement is supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 


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