“It was great to see AWoW in action once again doing what it does so beautifully — making great art accessible and connecting artists with each other and with new audiences.” That’s what filmmaker Barbara Rick said after the Artists Without Walls’ Showcase at Lehman College.
The lights dimmed at 7:15, followed by the slow tolling of a bell, a driving guitar and the crashing of drums. And to AC/DCs lyrics’ “I’m rolling thunder,” Billy Barrett walked onto the stage.
“The first thing you need to know is that I was raised by sociopaths,” and with those words a great evening of entertainment was set into motion. Billy’s upcoming memoir, Highway Star, smacks of unique storytelling genius. He moves words around so that his stories pop off the page with a crispness and clarity. And there is no shortage of stage presence, which is sure to cause a stir in the literary community. Billy and award winning, best-selling author Peter Quinn will soon begin editing Highway Star.
Jazz and blues vocalist Antoinette Montague and legendary jazz pianist Danny Mixon lit up the room with some welcoming blues’ notes, “Let The Good Times Roll. “Noting that it was the “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald’s ninety-sixth birthday, Antoinette followed with one of Ella’s big hits, “A Tisket A Tasket.” Antoinette and Danny slowed the tempo with a soulful rendition of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” and a rarely heard tune “I’m a Little Blackbird,” popularized by Florence Mills. They ended with a quick out, an “AWoW” blues theme. You can hear this great duo at The Baha’i Center, 53 East 11th St, NYC, on May 14.
Marni Rice, chanteuse-accordionist and theater artist from New York City and Xio Evans, dancer choreographer from Costa Rica, co-wrote and performed a riveting work called “Have You Seen My Son?” a performance piece about gun violence. The text is in Spanish and English and the performance is dedicated to the issue of social justice. If this duo comes your way you must see them. This act is stirring, compelling and timely. Brilliant.
Owen and Moley O Suilleabhain, singers from Ireland, and Koro Koroye, a spoken word artist from Nigeria, performed together for the first time. Their performance explored the ancient traditions that they have inherited and how they have transformed this heritage into a voice they can truly call their own. Now living in the melting pot of New York City, they are sharing
the common experience of rediscovering their ancient identities with their own contemporary voices. Their wonderful performance represents what Artists Without Walls intends, cultures coming together to create new and exciting works of art. This surely qualifies. A show stopping performance by three talented young performers.
Boys Swam Before Me, a play written by playwright and author Seamus Scanlon followed. “Boys” centers on a son, Victor McGowan, who is surreptitiously visiting his mother, May McGowan, in a nursing home. The play, which included stellar performances by actors Paul Nugent and Katherine O’Sullivan, examines memory, loss and longing. Don Creedon masterfully directed this compelling work.
Violinist and fiddler Annette Homann combined her fascination with voice and violin in her original spring-feeling song “Permanently.” She followed with a fiddle variation of the “Radetzky
March,” a work of the Austrian composer Johann Strauss Sr. Annette called it “The German (speaking) Irish connection” combining the March with rhythmic marching patterns and Irish fiddle stylistics. A very talented fiddler and a delight to watch
Salina Sias, accompanied by guitarist Thad DeBrock shared stories of her journey toward self-identity, acceptance of her Mexican roots while beautifully performing original numbers from her up and coming album, including a personal song she penned in Spanish.
Honor Finnegan and her guitarist Aviv Roth closed out the evening in rollicking fashion, singing two songs, “Life is Short” and “Internet Junkie from her CD, The Tiny Life,” as well as one of her newer pieces, which has been recorded by critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, Amy Speace. The Tiny Life was #9 on the Folk DJ Charts in February 2012, and Honor was
recently selected as a finalist in the prestigious New Folk Songwriting Contest as part of the Kerville Folk Festival in Kenville, Texas. Honor combines a great (and big) voice with a witty, easy-going stage presence.
A fun evening packed with stellar performances.
One final note, a big thank you to the folks at Lehman College for hosting this event; the Studio Theater, the production crew and the staff are all top notch. And finally, to the people most responsible for putting on the show, Deirdre O’Boy and Joseph McElligott, a hearty, “You guys are the best.”