Southern Exposure presents Dolce Suono Ensemble with Lucy Shelton & Jamez McCorkle

Dolce Suono
Dolce Suono

 

In its third concert of the 2014-15 season, Southern Exposure welcomes the extraordinary Philadelphia-based sextet Dolce Suono Ensemble, called “stunning” by the Philadelphia Inquirer and “an ensemble that eloquently advocates for new music” by The New York Times. The free concert takes place on Wednesday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the USC School of Music Recital Hall.

 

Joining Dolce Suono is legendary soprano Lucy Shelton, a trailblazer in the contemporary music field for five decades, and rising-star baritone Jamez McCorkle.

 

Founded by flutist Mimi Stillman in 2005, Dolce Suono Ensemble includes flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion. The New York Times said about Stillman, she is “not only a consummate and charismatic performer, but also a scholar. Her programs tend to activate ears, heart and brain.”

 

This concert will be no exception, featuring two major works written for Dolce Suono and Shelton. “Earth” by USC’s Guggenheim Award-winning composition professor Fang Man, sets poetry by eighth-century Chinese poet Li Bai – the same poems used by Mahler in “Das Lied von der Erde.” Pulitzer-winner Shulamit Ran’s evocative “Moon Songs,” draws on Li Bai’s poetry and includes text about the moon in biblical and modern Hebrew.

 

The concert will be preceded by a 6:15 p.m. lecture by noted music historian and Chinese music scholar Joseph Lam of the University of Michigan. A display of Chinese-themed works by local visual artist Yisha Wang, MFA graduate of USC, will be featured.

 

The concert is made possible, in part, through the generosity of the USC Confucius Institute.

 

The recipient of the 2007 Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the Southern Exposure New Music series features a diverse mix of guest artists from around the globe, as well as the talents of students and faculty at the university. Concerts are free in the USC School of Music Recital Hall, and most are standing room only so early arrival is suggested.

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Q&A with Singer/Songwriter and South Carolina Native Marshall Chapman

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One of the advantages of having Lee Smith as our One Book, One Columbia author is she has a lot of cool friends—like South Carolina native Marshall Chapman, one of the state’s most significant musical figures of the last 40 years. Chapman has been a songwriter and performer in Nashville since the 1970s, and her songs have found their way on albums by Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, and Joe Cocker, among others, and she also has 13 solo albums of her own. Of those, the most recent two, Big Lonesome (2010) and Blaze of Glory (2013), represent some of the finest work of her career. These albums come on the heels of Chapman’s turn to prose—her two critically-acclaimed and award-winning memoirs, Goodbye Little Rock and Roller (2003) and They Came to Nashville (2010), both books which demonstrated a life lived hard and well. In recent years Chapman has also written for such publications as Oxford American, Nashville Arts Magazine, Garden & Gun, and Southern Living.

This is all in addition to her collaboration with Smith, Jill McCorkle, and Matraca Berg, Good Ole Girls, a musical play which has toured throughout the South and had a brief run off-Broadway. Chapman will be performing songs from that play with Smith and McCorkle at 701 Whaley this Thursday, February 26th as part of the closing party for this year’s One Book festivities. Chapman will also be playing a show on Wednesday, May 13th, at Conundrum Music Hall.

Jasper caught up with Chapman recently to chat about her long history in the musical world and late-career renaissance.

Jasper: Blaze of Glory was one of the best-reviewed albums of your career. Do you think you could have imagined 30 or 40 years ago that you would still be making great music?

Marshall Chapman: No, not really. Mainly because I never thought I’d live this long. (laughs)

J: How has the songwriting process changed over the years?

MC: I don’t chase it like I used to. These days, I just let the songs come to me.

J: Did you have any specific goals or ideas in mind when you were writing for this record?

MC: Not really. But I knew I was onto something. At first, I thought it was going to be this sexy record. I even had a working title—Sexagenarian. But then it deepened into the whole mortality thing. As soon as I finished “Blaze of Glory,” [the song] I knew it would be the title of the album. And also the last song you hear.

J: These songs all feel really fresh, even though it’s still very much the sound and style you were working in during the 1970s and 1980s. The straight-up Bo Diddley take on “Love in the Wind” and the soulful rendition of “Nearness of You,” for instance, sound like reinvigorated takes on classic territory.  Why do you think that is?

MC: Oh, I don’t know. I was working with producers and co-producers back in the 70s and 80s. I didn’t really know that much about making records. I was like Gidget goes to Nashville and gets a Record Deal. But with these last two [Blaze of Glory and Big Lonesome], I was much more focused. Probably because I’m older. It’s like … Last call to get it right! I’ve been doing this a long time. And it’s taken every bit of that time to learn how to trust myself in the studio.

J: You didn’t tour as much behind this record as Big Lonesome, and you’ve become more of a writer, actor, and collaborator (like on Good Ol’ Girls) in recent years. How does that balance work? Has the lack of touring affected your ability to promote your music?

Well, there’s a personal reason I didn’t tour as much behind this album as with Big Lonesome. Let’s just say all the wheels supporting my life came off all at once and leave it at that. As for “lack of touring” affecting my “ability to promote” my music, those two things are pretty much entwined. Nothing gets the word out like a live performance. But it’s true. I’m cutting back on live performances.

As for the rest, I’ve always enjoyed writing prose, so writing the two books felt pretty natural. I’ve always been interested in the stories behind songs. Especially when the stories are better than the songs!

The idea for Good Ol’ Girls was conceived by songwriter Matraca Berg. Matraca called me out of the blue one day, saying she wanted to do a musical with me and Lee Smith. She was a big fan of Lee’s writing, but she didn’t know her. So I called Lee, since I knew her from when she lived in Nashville in the 1970s. At first Lee didn’t seem interested. But then she called me back saying she was in and that she was bringing in Jill McCorkle and a director! [Paul Fergusen, who ended up doing the

adaptation.] The show has toured the South and even had a run off-Broadway. It’s playing in a couple of theaters this spring. But this week at 701 Whaley, Lee, Jill and I will be doing our own version of Good Ol’ Girls. And probably throw in some new stuff. I never really know what‘s gonna happen when the three of us get together. But I can assure you this — something will happen! It’s outrageous whenever the three of us get together. Why we haven’t been arrested is beyond me.

As for acting, I’ve done three movies in the past three years—all since turning sixty-two. Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something.

J: You’ve lived in Nashville for a long time (since you matriculated at Vanderbilt?). What does being from South Carolina mean to you now? What’s it like coming back for tours?

MC: Where you come from … it stays with you. Especially if you’re from South Carolina! Seriously, it’s always special coming back to South Carolina to perform. I was in Spartanburg a lot this past fall dealing with the death of my mom. I was driving around there thinking, Hmmmm, maybe I could come back and live here! I even looked at some property off St. John Street.

J: You’ve written two award-winning non-fiction books about your life, Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller and They Came to Nashville. Any plans for a third, either fiction or non-fiction?

MC: Well, I’ve been writing a monthly column called “Beyond Words” for a Nashville magazine for nearly five years. They told me I could write about anything I wanted, and I imagine I’ve taken them to task on that. (laughs) Anyway, I’m thinking about putting a collection of those [essays] in a book. As for a novel … I’ve had a few stories published, so I’ve danced around fiction. But the idea of writing an entire novel like Lee and Jill do all the time terrifies me. Which means I’ll probably do it one day.

J: The record closes with the title track, which is a kind of uplifting take on mortality, almost like a gospel song. You also recount the most pivotal moment of your life, seeing Elvis as a 7 year-old in the song. Can you tell me a little bit about the idea and inspiration behind that tune?

MC: I wrote the first verse to that song while sitting at my breakfast table. I had a feeling it might be a keeper, so I captured just that little bit on a little recorder. A few weeks later, I returned to it and immediately wrote a second verse. And then a bridge about Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and a few other musical heroes who died young, i.e., in a blaze of glory. But something wasn’t right. It felt forced. So I went for a walk, and when I got back, I started from from scratch. I just went back to where it all began—seeing Elvis. As soon as I wrote “that colored balcony came crashing to the floor,” I’m thinking, Now what! I mean, you don’t want to raise the bar too high. So I got real quiet. And then that last verse about the sun just landed on the page. “Blaze of Glory” wrote itself. All I had to do was get out of the way.

For more information about Marshall Chapman and the latest updates about her various projects, check out tallgirl.com

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REVIEW: CCB’s Body & Movement Explored by David Ligon

Philip Ingrassia and Autumn Hill - photo by Ashley Concannon
Philip Ingrassia and Autumn Hill – photo by Ashley Concannon

The art scene has progressed immensely in Columbia, SC over the past decade, and while Columbia City Ballet may have previously seemed to lag behind, performing the same pool of two- and three-act story ballets since William Starrett took over, only creating new ones every few years, the company seems to be moving forward of late and progressing along with the city.

 

On Friday, February 20 at 7:30 PM Columbia City Ballet presented its third annual Body & Movement Explored series. This event is a departure from what the company typically performs. Starrett has said this is an experimental project for the dancers as well as emerging choreographer to see if it can bring in an audience, and one day be presented on a bigger stage.

 

It is always exciting to see dancers you have become familiar with onstage be able to share another part of themselves with the audience. Most of the choreography was by Columbia City Ballet dancers. This year marks the first time choreographers came from out of state and volunteered their time to create works, including Rachel Leonard, a freelance choreographer from Florida; Jenny Broe, Owner of StudioFX in Charleston; Kevin James of Smuin Ballet; and former CCB principal dancer, Wayland Anderson. The Columbia City Ballet choreographers included soloist Philip Ingrassia, and corps members Ashley Concannon, Amanda Summey, and Denis Vezetiu.

 

Mr. Vezetiu choreographed two pieces as well as co-choreographed one with Ms. Concannon. His most captivating was his pas de deux, “Walk,” which showcased his incredible strength and control as he manipulated dancer Nadine Tetrick around his body. She never touched the floor, as he was always controlling her. Her port de bras reacted to him like movement through water. They were one body moving together creating something beautiful to Ludovico Einaudi’s minimalist score.

 

Ludovico music was used in four different pieces, as well as other minimalist composers including Philip Glass and Zoe Keating. What is interesting is how these composers created an atmosphere and texture with their music, rather than becoming monotonous because of its repetitiveness, lack of dynamic contrast with only slight rhythmic and melodic variations.

 

Jenny Broe, one of the visiting choreographers, created an enthralling contemporary piece of work to an up-tempo, club remix version of Bryan Adams’ “Wicked Games.” The choreography was seamless throughout, creating a battle between the dancers as to who could out dance whom. There was no pause for the dancers who moved from one structure to the next in groups or in pairs. The dancers would enter or leave the arena by walking fiercely like runway models. The other stand out choreographer was Rachel Leonard, who choreographed the opening piece “Speak” as well as the finale “Garcons et das Filles et des Bancs”. The last piece was set to operatic music with four sets of couples divided by gender and sitting on benches. There were phallic movements and a titillating flirtation from the four girls and four boys making it humorous and engaging fun. The boys unfortunately, missed some of the musical cues that would’ve made her vision really come to life.

 

Starrett recently commented that this is an experimental show trying to find an audience and support. He choreographed a pas de deux, “All for You,” for real life married couple Ingrassia and Autumn Hill. It was a tongue and cheek country western, on the bayou piece with choreography familiar to anyone who has seen Starrett’s previous work. For the music he collaborated with Josh McCaa who is married to CCB principal, Claire McCaa. McCaa’s country western music and voice were great, but didn’t quite sync up to the choreography. Starrett’s work with CCB is typically classical story-line fairytale ballets, like CCB’s upcoming “Cinderella.” “All For You” gave Starrett a chance to try something on a smaller scale and in a less-serious mood. It might have seemed that Starrett was going for laughs at times rather than substance, but maybe the programming of a light piece provided a good contrast with the passionate and personal work of the other choreographers.

 

Amanda Summey’s piece “Identity Crisis” was fresh and thought provoking. Hip-hop, with elements of contemporary ballet, the eight women were wearing red masks that covered the lower half of the face and wearing street clothes. With their faces covered, they had to rely completely on body movement for expression. The music used was just a rapper with no instruments, but the rap voices layered on top of each other, creating a vocalized rhythm. Summey is a poly-artist: a visual artist and sketcher, ballet dancer, choreographer, and theater graduate from Northwestern University, she brings graffiti street art and intellectualism to her work.

 

The dancers who stood out were the constant duo, Bonnie Boiter-Jolley and Claire Richards. They were in the most pieces but were always paired together. Although these two compliment each other physically – they are tall, slender and blond – it would have been nice to see them dance separately, for each brings her own versatility to the stage.

 

In the future, CCB should model this show after other workshops around the country by auditioning choreographers to present full-length works (20-30 minutes) so the dancers can get fully invested in the work. There are theaters that can host such an event, other than the informal black box, that won’t run up the cost as much as putting it on at the Koger Center would. Having a professional event at such an informal space has its downsides: there isn’t enough lighting to explore the space, and the sound was a little low, which in turn meant we could hear every step and breath taken on stage. I believe the Columbia arts community will support a mixed-repertory series. Body & Movement Explored should be expanded and promoted bringing one-act ballets of various lengths with plot-less rather than story line structures. I think the series could be artistically and fiscally viable.

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