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A Fitting Exclamation Point: The Quad City Symphony, April 11 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Tuesday, 21 April 2015 13:17

The closing Masterworks concerts of the Quad City Symphony’s centennial season included a commission meant as a prelude leading, without pause, into Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I was skeptical. The Choral symphony – one of the greatest compositions in music – was a logical conclusion for a season-long celebration of 100 years, but attaching contemporary music to it raised two questions: What could the new music possibly add, and would it diminish Beethoven’s towering work?

Yet James Stephenson’s A-ccord worked on several levels April 11 at the Adler Theatre. It successfully connected Beethoven to 21st Century musical thinking. More importantly, it neatly summarized the rigor and thoughtfulness of Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith’s highly symbolic program – which presented a unified message bridging time, style, and language, and ceded the spotlight to guest vocalists as the Quad City Symphony closed its milestone season.

A-ccord brought all that together, featuring both voices and instruments, placing an English translation of Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode” (a component, in German, of the Ninth Symphony) alongside words from Quad Cities poet Dick Stahl, and treating Beethoven’s source material in a contemporary way, with an innovative use of a single melodic line with rhythmic and orchestral variations.

 
A New Way of Seeing: Hey Rosetta!, April 24 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 17 April 2015 12:20

Hey Rosetta! Photo by Scott Blackburn.

It’s not often you’ll hear a story about label interference making a record better, so let’s marvel at Hey Rosetta!’s Second Sight.

The band was twice short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize and has been nominated for a Juno Award – the Canadian equivalent of the a Grammy – and Second Sight has been warmly received. SputnikMusic.com described it as “a collection of profoundly beautiful and well-arranged songs that I’m sure will stand the test of time.”

Yet the story of its creation shows some of the opportunity inherent in a little adversity.

The Canadian septet had finished recording the album’s 11 songs, and the band’s label liked it, but ... the staff felt it needed a single, something to launch it. Singer/guitarist/pianist/songwriter Tim Baker – in a recent phone interview promoting the band’s April 24 Communion Tour gig at Rozz-Tox – said he disagreed.

“We thought we had a great record, and we had to go back in” to the studio, he said of the band’s frustration. Hey Rosetta! assented because they also wanted to make the album as commercially viable as possible, “to get it out to people.”

But writing to grab people’s attention is difficult, and something that was foreign to Baker as a songwriter. “I’d never written a single before,” he said. “We’d gotten this far just playing our sprawling tunes and touring all the time. If we were going to try to get something on the radio, then I really wanted it to be moving and really mean something to me. And hopefully be one of those songs that isn’t just skin-deep, kind of asinine music. ... A song that actually reaches past and does something to you. ...

“We took it as a challenge ... trying to write something short and catchy but meaningful. ... I think we got it, but it was a trial for sure.”

 
Keepers of the Golden Egg: Shook Twins, April 16 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:46

Shook Twins

Shook Twins came into possession of the magical, giant golden egg in 2010. According to the story on the band’s Web site, Laurie Shook happened upon a young man holding the thing, and when she asked about it, he said a woman gave it to him and told him to sign it and pass it on to the next person.

Laurie Shook was that person, and she promises on ShookTwins.com that she will eventually hand the egg off to somebody else: “Until then, it shall be musical!”

In that way, the egg is being passed every night Shook Twins perform – including almost certainly April 16 at the Redstone Room. Laurie and her identical twin Katelyn don’t appear eager to part with it, but they turned the egg into an instrument: Laurie filled it with popcorn (making it a giant egg shaker) and mic-ed it (making it a drum).

 
“Everybody’s Game Is Up”: Natty Scratch Celebrates 43 Years with a Reunion PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 11:40

I’m trying to pin Chris Noth down on some dates, and he’s not helping.

“The older you get,” he said, “the years just start running together.”

In fairness, it’s not merely age. The topic of our interview is Natty Scratch, the band Noth co-founded that will be celebrating 43 years of existence this weekend with a pair of shows featuring all the group’s original members – and people who’ve joined over the years.

The band’s current lineup includes founding members Noth (guitar and vocals), Tommy Langford (bass and vocals), and Steve Cooley (percussion and vocals). Keyboardist Rick Stoneking joined in the early 1980s to replace Noth (who joined several touring bands), and drummer/vocalist Richie Reeves has only been with Natty Scratch for about a decade.

For this weekend’s concerts, the group will also feature original drummer D.L. Blackman (who cut back on performing, making way for Reeves) and – returning from Alaska – guitarist/singer/co-founder Pat Ryan. (Noth said he’s not sure when Ryan left the Quad Cities, except that it was before his own return in 1991.)

 
Bloom Where You're Planted: Quad City Arts Visiting Artist Nnenna Freelon, at Area Venues April 8 through 18 PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 06:00

Nnenna FreelonPrior to her career – or rather, careers – as a jazz vocalist, composer, author, and actor, Nnenna Freelon was employed in the worthy but far less glamorous field of health-care administration. She says, however, that in her late 20s, while working as a North Carolina-based administrator in the early 1980s, “I suddenly had an epiphany that I was not happy, even though I loved working in a hospital environment. Because even in that job, I used to find myself in patients’ rooms singing.

“I just had a nay-saying kind of narrative,” she continues. “You know, ‘I want to sing, but I don’t want to live in New York or California ... .’ It just didn’t seem attainable. But I remember whining, blah blah blah, to my grandmother about it, who was 93 at the time, and she said something to me that was very profound. She said, ‘Bloom where you’re planted. If God wants you to sing, He can handle wherever you are and whichever situation you’re in – what you know, what you don’t know – and nothing is too hard."

 
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