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Pulitzer Prize-winning Colson Whitehead to come to Charleston

On Monday, March 19th, Pulitzer Prize winning author Colson Whitehead (right) will speak at the Charleston Music Hall as part of The Paperback Tour for The Underground Railroad. The event is being organized by The Charleston Library Society as part of their annual Speaker Series. In 2016, The Underground Railroad won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Price for fiction and was named one of the “Ten Best Books of the Year” by The New York Times Book Review. It traces the story of Cora, a slave on the Randall Plantation in the deep South, who has been beaten and brutalized. She escapes slavery and sets out on the Underground Railroad – almost a character in and of itself – a literal network of railways and tunnels running throughout Antebellum America in search of freedom. Her journey, though, is as hard fought as her life, and Whitehead’s mix of mythology and reality creates a profound, emotional reading experience. While touring in support of The Underground Railroad’s paperback release, Whitehead will stop in cities across the country, including Charleston. “We are thrilled to host Mr. Whitehead,” says Charleston Library Society Executive Director Anne Cleveland. “The response from our Book Club’s discussion of The Underground Railroad was thought-provoking and memorable. To host him [in] Charleston, with its deep Southern history described in his novel, will make for a very special night.” Every ticket sold is accompanied by a signed paperback edition of The Underground Railroad. Tickets are available only through the Charleston Music Hall. To purchase tickets, call 843.853.2252 or visit CharlestonMusicHall.com.

Hootie & the Blowfish alum showcases music scene at historic Charleston venue

Story by Meg Kinnard; photo by Mary Ann Chastain
COLUMBIA — Charleston, South Carolina, has become a go-to destination for travelers seeking a dip into southern hospitality, history and haute cuisine, ranking consistently as a top domestic and international travel destination.
Now the lead guitarist and songwriter for one of the state's most popular rock bands is putting on an event to showcase some of the state's musical appreciation, alongside celebrated national music acts. On Friday, Feb. 13, Mark Bryan's "Live at the Charleston Music Hall" kicks off its radio run with performances by Greenville native Edwin McCain and bluegrass musician Sam Bush. Future acts have not been announced, but Bryan says the show will have a regular run on both public television and radio channels. This weekend's shows are airing on public radio and television throughout South Carolina. Shows later this year will be broadcast nationwide. Bryan is perhaps best known for his work with Hootie & the Blowfish, the Grammy Award-winning band he helped found while a student at the University of South Carolina and with whom he still plays occasional shows. In 2010, Bryan founded Chucktown Music Group, a company intended to help create exposure both for his own musical efforts but also for up and coming artists in the Charleston area. "It was a way for me to collaborate with other artists and songwriters, and as a producer to make albums with some of these up and coming artists," Bryan said recently in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Live at the Charleston Music Hall" has its beginnings in Bryan's conversations with owners of the historic venue, a 19th century rail station that was transformed to an arts venue in the 1990s. In looking for artists for two pilot episodes, Bryan reached out to McCain and Bush, and then pitched the show to South Carolina Educational Television and national PBS outlets. Audiences will be a mixture of the artists' fans, as well as local music lovers. Bryan is energized about the exposure he hopes his show will give Charleston's music scene.
"It's this place where there's a vibrant scene with a lot of talented artists, a lot of venues where you can hear music, good radio, good press, but no industry infrastructure," Bryan said. "You can tell that there's enough talent here for something to bubble up on a national level, but we haven't built the infrastructure that Nashville or Austin or Athens has." That's what Bryan says he tries to do though his Chucktown Music Group, as well as via a program he helped found at the College of Charleston. Since 2009, Bryan has been teaching a course to help students learn about all facets of the music industry, from booking to publicity and songwriting. Two years ago, he also helped kick start a music industry concentration, giving students the chance to specialize as part of their studies. "We are helping kids get an education and, in turn, jobs in the music industry all over the country," Bryan said. "If you're not an artist or a musician, there's still a lot you can do in the music industry." Image: Members of the band Hootie & The Blowfish, from left, Darius Rucker, Dean Felber, Jim "Soni" Sonfeld, and Mark Bryan, arrive for the unveiling of a permanent piece of public art in honor of the band's 25th anniversary on Oct. 21, 2010, in Columbia. Bryan is putting on a show to showcase some of the state’s musical talent, alongside celebrated national music acts. On Friday, Bryan’s show “Live at the Charleston Music Hall” kicks off its nationally-televised run with performances by Edwin McCain and Sam Bush. www.ctmg.us www.charlestonmusichall.com

Halsey Institute to celebrate 30th anniversay with Groundhog Day Concert

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, in collaboration with the Charleston Music Hall, will present an intimate evening of music featuring Charleston’s finest locally and nationally recognized musical acts. This unique gathering of musicians is scheduled for Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Charleston Music Hall, located at 37 John Street in downtown Charleston, S.C. Groundhog Day ConcertThe Groundhog Day Benefit Concert will feature music by The Opposite of a Train (Bill Carson, Nathan Koci, and Ron Wiltrout) with special guests Kevin Hamilton, Charlton Singleton, Wilton Elder, Clint Fore and John Cobb. This “house band” will provide accompaniment to the evening’s invited guest artists including award-winning duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent (Shovels and Rope, featured in the January issue of Southern Living), Lindsay Holler, Stephanie Underhill, Joel Hamilton, Rachel Kate, and Michael Flynn. According to Carson, who is the music director for the event, "This concert is a way for the local music community to show its support for the fantastic contemporary arts programming that the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art provides year-round, and year after year. The Halsey often collaborates with musicians, actors, filmmakers, architects, designers and others to create its unique multi-disciplinary offerings. The participating musicians all want to shine the spotlight on the Halsey Institute in gratitude for their dynamic and inspirational role in this community." The evening will begin with the premier of a micro-documentary about the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art produced by local media creatives Lunch + Recess. “Groundhog Day is an underappreciated and much overlooked holiday,“ says Halsey Institute Director Mark Sloan, with a chuckle. “The Halsey Institute would like to draw attention by celebrating our 30th anniversary and Groundhog Day with a special, intimate evening of music. This concert will be a rare opportunity to experience an exceptional collection of musical talent sharing one stage in a single evening.” The concert begins at 7 p.m.; the doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for the Gallery section, $30 for Orchestra, and $50 for limited VIP tickets. Student tickets include any age student with a valid ID, and seating is only in the Gallery. VIP tickets include premium seating, a hand-printed poster, two drink tickets, and an invitation to an on-stage after party. Ticket sales benefit the Halsey Institute’s programming and are available at the Charleston Music Hall’s box office (37 John Street or (843) 853-2252) and online at ETIX. ABOUT THE HALSEY INSTITUTE The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts provides a multidisciplinary laboratory for the production, presentation, interpretation, and dissemination of ideas by innovative visual artists from around the world. As a non-collecting museum, we create meaningful interactions between adventurous artists and diverse communities within a context that emphasizes the historical, social, and cultural importance of the art of our time.

Musical event celebrates little known story of Jewish rescue

A largely unknown and uplifting event in the dark history of the Holocaust will be told through a concert that combines the musical forces of a full orchestra, a choir from Bulgaria, choirs from around the U.S. and soloists. Songs of Life Festival: A Melancholy Beauty, being performed for the first time in South Carolina after successful performances in New York, Washington D.C. and Boston, recounts how Bulgaria’s 49,000 Jews were saved from the Nazis by ordinary citizens, government and church officials. 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the rescue. The performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Nov. 2 at the Charleston Music Hall and 7 p.m., Nov. 3, at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia.

Songs of Life will be performed by the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra, augmented by Bulgarian folk instruments, the Philip Kutev National Folklore Ensemble of Bulgaria, University of Florida Chamber Choir, the Bach Festival Youth Choir, Young Sandlapper Singers, the Limestone College and Community Chorus and several professional soloists. The centerpiece is A Melancholy Beauty, a new oratorio that had its world premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and has been performed at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York and the Wang Center in Boston. A Melancholy Beauty is a creation of Varna International, a South Carolina-based organization that for 15 years has presented music festivals throughout Europe. The organization is headed by husband and wife team Kalin Tchonev, a native of Bulgaria, and Sharon Tchoneva, a native of Israel. Sharon Tchoneva's Bulgarian grandparents were saved during the rescue. This is the first time the work has been presented in South Carolina. “We felt it was important to stage the production this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the rescue, and it seemed appropriate to bring it ‘home,’” Sharon Tchonev said. http://youtu.be/uX2kpMHCwIM The idea for A Melancholy Beauty came to Kalin Tchonev while he was attending a performance of the musical Mama Mia in Berlin. Seated nearby was a group of people with mental disabilities, and he began reflecting on the fate of such people in Nazi Germany and how Bulgarians Jews had been saved from the death camps – including his wife’s family. “I realized that if it were not for the miraculous rescue, I would not have my wife and son today,” Kalin Tchonev said. “We wanted to pay tribute to the brave people who stood up – ordinary people who arose to defy evil.” They did so by commissioning composer Georgi Andreev and librettists Scot Cairns and Aryeh Finklestein to create A Melancholy Beauty. Andreev, chief conductor of the State Folklore Ensemble, has written many works for chamber orchestra and piano and arranged 400 Bulgarian traditional songs. Cairns’ poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review and The New Republic, and he is the author of six poetry collections. Finklestein, cantor at Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Massachusetts, has written the libretti for three oratorios. A Melancholy Beauty combines classical choral-orchestral music with Bulgarian musical influences and traditional instruments such as the gadulka (a type of lute) and kaval (flute). The soloists will perform the roles of several key players in the drama including King Boris, the head of the Orthodox Church; a pro-Nazi commissar; his private secretary, who warned the Jews; and a political leader who opposed the deportation. The performance will be conducted by Donald Portnoy, music director of the USC Symphony Orchestra. “Approaching Maestro Portnoy was a natural decision for us, as we always seek to work with a good local orchestra, and Kalin holds master’s degrees from the USC School of Music and was acquainted with Maestro Portnoy,” explained Sharon Tchonev. “He immediately embraced the idea.” The South Carolina productions will open with a performance by the National Folklore Ensemble. The Optimists, a film about the rescue, will be shown as well. The movie won First Prize at the Jerusalem International Film Festival for Documenting the Jewish Experience and won an honorable mention award at the Berlin International Film Festival. “Because the story isn’t widely known, we wanted to provide the audience with an understanding of the history that inspired A Melancholy Beauty,” said Sharon Tchonev. “We can’t think of a better way than screening the 20-minute version of this beautiful and deeply moving film told from a personal perspective of what happened to the filmmaker’s family.” For more information, visit the Songs of Life website. Via: Songs of Life Festival