By: Jalyn Dockery
Dance has taken its own form of art and for generations, it’s been molded into many different styles and movements. From Memphis Tennessee, Charles Riley, also known as Lil’ Buck tells his story of how the movement was introduced to him.
Interview and Article By: Tajuane & Bernard Dockery
Riley Mulherkar is a trumpeter, composer and the Musical Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents: Songs That We Love. Newberry Opera House’s Heather Hawkins and a jazz enthusiast, Bernard Dockery, recently interviewed Riley for the Opera House’s Penelope Speaks podcast.
During the interview, Riley shared how growing up in Seattle Washington, with its rich history of Jazz music that dates back to the early 1900s, had an impact on him as a young child. He recalled attending “Big Band shows” at the high school and watching some of his babysitters playing in the band. It was then that he developed a love for jazz music and the trumpet. When asked why he gravitated to the trumpet he jokingly responded that “It was always very clear that the trumpet players were the coolest ones. They were in the back; they had the wildest hairstyles or dyed hair. They were the ones that did solos and so it was obvious to me that was who I wanted to be.”
After high school, Riley went on to study at The Julliard School in New York City. Soon after coming to New York, he connected with the Jazz at Lincoln Center organization, where Wynton Marsalis became a mentor and teacher. Riley called this time spent at Jazz at Lincoln Center early in his career as his “sort of formative years”. He would attend concerts and spend time backstage or attend jam sessions at Dizzy’s Club where he and his peers learned how to “create a project centered around a theme and translate that to an audience.” It was out of those experiences that Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents: Songs We Love was birthed.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents: Songs We Love premiered during the 2016-2017 Season at Jazz at Lincoln Center and coincided with the centennial of the first recordings of Jazz music in 1917. The show is a celebration of the first 50 years of Jazz music and pays homage to Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ma Rainey, and the power of music in storytelling. Music was influenced by events like the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance. Riley believes “Jazz is such an incredible lens with which to understand our country, “ and “we continue to learn and we continue to discover lessons through the music about this country in general, our society and the whole world when we explore this music.” He explains that Jazz is a “social music” that makes people feel. He says of the show, “we’ll know we are doing our job if we see people moving.”
Riley is no stranger to South Carolina. He is the Artistic Director for the annual Joye in Aiken festival. This festival began as a partnership with The Julliard School but over the years the festival has evolved into a week-long performing arts festival and outreach program that has experienced tremendous success. Riley is excited about returning to South Carolina and sharing his love for music at an additional venue, with us here at the Opera House.
By: Doug & Bunny Williams
Since we were quite familiar with the Quebe Sister’s genre of music—Texas Swing, Heather Hawkins asked that we sit in on the interview.
As the Quebe Sisters were sitting on their couch in Dallas, Texas I noticed an old Bob Wills playbill (we own three) on the wall behind them, I was immediately set at ease about the interview.
We did not know the Quebe Sisters personally but did know a lot of Texas Swing fiddlers, including Johnny Gimble, who appeared on stage with us at the Opera House three times, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018. In fact, it was at one of Johnny Gimble’s summer music camps that we first heard about these three little girls, called the Quebe Sisters, who were phenomenal fiddlers as children.
Grace, Sophia, and Hulda have long since grown up, and with their rhythm section of upright string bass and archtop guitar, have toured the music halls and festivals of North America, Europe, and Russia. Their music, although influenced by the vintage swing pioneers like Bob Wills, is their own—expressed through their young minds, hearts, voices, and fingers. They call it “progressive Texas Swing.”
The Quebe Sisters will visit the Newberry Opera House on Sunday, May 22 at 3:00 for a free concert in Memorial Park. Come join Bunny and me and enjoy the music of these Texas Championship Fiddlers.
By: Kendal Griffith
Pilobolus, what is it, you ask? By definition, it is a genus of saprophytic fungi notable for the forcible ejection of the entire ripe sporangium. In the dance world, it is a company known for its dynamic, intriguing, and strange choreography which relies on its intertwining, risk-taking, and organic dancing.
During an interview with Matt Kent and Renee Jaworski, Co-Artistic Directors and former company dancers, they explained the meaning and background of how Pilobolus came to be. “Pilobolus was founded at Dartmouth College were four men who hadn’t been dancers before, took a dance class and began to create pieces using nontraditional vocabulary. They were interested in science and the natural world around us,” said Matt Kent.
“The Company has been together for 50 years and we are celebrating our “Big Five-Oh! The company officially started in 1971. So we are celebrating our 50th anniversary over the next two years. We wanted to start celebrating a little before but Covid sort of putting those plans on the back burner for a while so we started celebrating just recently in October opening with the premiere of our Big Five-Oh in Asheville, NC” said Renee’.
“We draw inspiration from so many different places. Some of our most interesting collaborations have been with people without any dance training” said Renee’. Pilobolus has drawn this inspiration from acts like magic, martial arts, circus arts, poets, authors, storytellers, and the list goes on.
In their work with Penn and Teller, they created a Houdini-type piece based on the escapes Houdini became famous for. Their repertoire also includes dances inspired by Native American storytelling, shadow work, and, during the pandemic there was even a dance created in one of the dancer’s basements on Zoom.
In addition to doing outdoor concerts, the Pilobolus dancers lived in a pod of isolation where the dancers, choreographers, and directors lived together. It harkened back to the old days of communal living which Matt said was nostalgic and life-changing. After a period of time, the dancers were able to dance mask-less and enjoy what they do best, which is improvisation.
Shadow work is one of the company’s signatures. In this process, the dancers are tasked with
creating random things. Like an elephant, for instance, one dancer will move their body in a creative way to replicate the trunk while another will show a different piece like the ear. In their one-of-a-kind piece, “Behind the Shadows,” they reveal how this is done.
Join Pilobolus at the Newberry Opera House on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 at 8:00 P.M. We are excited to have this truly original company back on our stage again. From “Megawatt”, a high energy kick-off with music by Primus, Radiohead, and Square Pusher to the “Solo for the Empty Suitor” as a softer-toned duet entitled “Shezan.” Their show promises to be a roller coaster of emotions. It’s not clear if “Behind the Shadows” will be presented this time but this author certainly hopes so!
By: Jalyn Dockery
Storytelling through music has been such an impact on many different generations. I was very inspired after talking to Dr. Everett McCovey, Founder, and Director of the American Spiritual Ensemble. He has experienced powerful storytelling through the civil rights movement and had a dream of preserving that music for all to hear.
Newberry, SC - The Newberry Opera House is thrilled to announce the 2021-22 Season featuring theatre, dance, music, and family favorites for all ages. With gracious hospitality the Newberry Opera House season will go on sale Friday, August 6, 2021 at 10:00 A.M. Executive Director, Molly Fortune and the team can’t wait to welcome you home to the Newberry Opera House, it is sure to be a season to remember!
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