Cal Performances at Home premieres Steel Hammer, a new film featuring the acclaimed oratorio by Bang on a Can’s co-founder, Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe. Steel Hammer is a meditation on over 200 versions of the “John Henry” folk ballad. The various versions—based on hearsay, recollection, and tall tales—reveal both the evolution of the story, as well as the timeless tale of human versus machine. Wolfe draws upon these extreme variations, fragmenting and weaving the contradictory versions of the ballad that have circulated since the late 1800s into a new whole in order to tell “the story of the story” and to embody the simultaneous diverse paths it has traveled. To tell the tale, the Bang on a Can All-Stars add a slew of instruments—including mountain dulcimer, wooden bones, banjo, harmonicas, and body percussion—to their usual line up as well as a dynamic trio of three female voices.
“[An] epic explosion and reconstruction of the folk ballad.”
—The Boston Globe on Steel Hammer
Immediately following the Watch Party on May 6, ticketholders can join fellow audience members, Steel Hammer director, animator, and editor Jeremy Robins, and Cal Performances Director of Artistic Planning Katy Tucker to share your thoughts on the performance.
An Illuminations: Fact or Fiction event >
The Cal Performances at Home Spring 2021 season is dedicated to Gail and Dan Rubinfeld, leading supporters of Cal Performances and the well-being of our artists for almost 30 years.
Major support provided by the U.S. Bank Foundation.
Patron Sponsor: Françoise Stone