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Call to Artists: MCA's 67th Annual Holiday Bazaar

67th Annual Holiday Bazaar Call to Artists!

The Memphis College of Art 67th Holiday Bazaar and Fundraiser (Juried Show) is now accepting submissions. The Early Submission Deadline is Wednesday, August 30. The Final Submission Deadline is Monday, October 2. To apply online follow the link below.

There will be a ticketed Opening Celebration on Friday, November 17, 6-10pm, and the bazaar will be open to the public on Saturday, November 18, 9am – 6pm. The bazaar is located in Rust Hall, Memphis College of Art 1930 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38104.

This much anticipated, juried event has drawn thousands of people to the MCA campus since its inception in 1949. The show was revamped and improved in 2016. This is the second edition of that newly reimagined Holiday Bazaar. In addition to supporting local artists in the MCA community, 30% of proceeds from each sale will benefit the college’s scholarship fund, which disburses nearly $5 million in scholarships each year.

The Holiday Bazaar is an excellent opportunity for both emerging and established artists to showcase their work in a high-traffic, gallery event. Work from students, faculty, alumni, and trending local artists will be for sale. As an open call, any local artist may submit, and there is no cost to apply.

Stax Music Academy to play Levitt Shell, European tour
(image) Yesterday I stopped by the Stax Museum of American Soul Music for the thousandth time. It never gets old; it is, as Steve Cropper once said of working there, “like going to church.” This time around, I focused on the little things that I may have passed by earlier. Duck Dunn's pipe, the marked-up tape box for a Mar-Keys session, Al Jackson, Jr.'s “peace-sign bootjack to remove his boots after a day of studio sessions.” And then there were the current exhibits: Hit the Road, Stax! Wayne Jackson and the 1967 Stax/Volt European Tour (through Sept. 30), A Century of Funk: Rufus Thomas at 100 (through Aug. 31), and the most stunning, Portraits in Soul: Rare Images from the API Archive. This last exhibit, featuring gallery-quality prints of Stax artists' publicity shots, most in stunning color, will end on Labor Day, so get there while you can.
But what's most sanctified about the reborn Stax complex is that it's not just a museum. I also stopped in to see where the Stax Music Academy summer students have been rehearsing, next door in the Soulsville Charter School gymnasium. At the time, they were taking a well-deserved break, shooting hoop and singing karaoke, but even then it was clear that these young people shared a powerful camaraderie. This year's Summer Music Experience included the usual in-depth instruction in Stax history, vocals, instrumentals, marketing, audio engineering, songwriting, and choreography, as provided by the Stax Music Academy staff. Students also attended intensive sessions with multi-instrumentalist, keyboardist extraordinaire, and producer Booker T. Jones. As a grand finale for the summer program, they will light up the Levitt Shell this weekend, presenting such classics as Isaac Hayes' “Theme from Shaft,” Shirley Brown's “Woman to Woman,” and two dozen other Stax songs.
Finally, on July 7, a select group of twelve students will embark on the Stax Music Academy European Tour, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the original overseas tour by the Stax/Volt Revue. In 1967, this tour represented an epiphany for many of the label's artists, as they witnessed sold out shows across England and the continent. When the artists returned home, they had a new sense of their music's appeal and importance, propelling them to even greater heights in the years to come. Following in their footsteps, the academy students will open for Stax legend Mavis Staples on July 17th in Bristol, England at Colston Hall (one of the original 1967 tour venues), and open for Stax icon and recent GRAMMY winner William Bell on July 21st at the Sage Gateshead Americana Festival in Sage/Newcastle, England. Be assured that the students of today's reborn Stax will return to Memphis on a note of inspiration, much as their forerunners did half a century ago.

Belvedere Chamber Music Festival brings classical performers and composers from around the globe.
(image) People the world over associate the Bluff City with the sounds of rock-and-roll, the blues, jazz, Stax-flavored soul, and Goner’s brand of garage-punk. Classical music rarely gets a mention in that list — despite the accomplished Memphis Symphony Orchestra (see Chris McCoy’s cover story below), the PRIZM Ensemble (see Alex Greene’s June 15th column), and others. The Luna Nova Ensemble is another hidden gem for the music lover in search of something a little more refined.

Luna Nova Music is celebrating the 11th annual Belvedere Chamber Music Festival at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church June 21st-24th. The festival will include performances of works by Bach, Bartok, Martinů, and Ravel, as well as original compositions by three composers selected from the 189 entrants to the Luna Nova student composition contest.

Patricia Gray, Ph.D., is the executive director of Luna Nova Music. Gray has been a musician her whole life and once taught in the music department at Rhodes College, after which she began working with the music tech division of the Associated Colleges of the South, a consortium of colleges like Rhodes. “That was a springboard,” Gray says. “That’s where Luna Nova came from, because I was working with a lot of composers and performers of new music who were from small colleges, and they didn’t all have the support that they would like to have. So we were able to blend a lot of resources from a number of institutions and build an ensemble and build a concert series and create a lot of wonderful networking between really talented people. That just started with a bang.”

Gray couldn’t help but notice that students, talented though they might be, did not always have access to the funds, technology, or professional performers necessary to lay down a high-quality recording of their compositions. And it’s exactly that kind of recording that a student bound for post-graduate studies or a career in recording or performance would need. Gray and her husband Robert Patterson found a void in the music community, and they set about filling it.

Luna Nova was initially funded by a Mellon Grant, but when the grant ran out, Gray and Patterson kept the ball rolling. They established Luna Nova as a private 501(c)(3), and with the help of Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, they began the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival to showcase the composing talents of students worldwide and the performance abilities of local and national classical musicians. “Since we’ve been independent in Memphis, it’s been worldwide,” Gray says. “We’ve had people from France and Italy and Australia and China.”

This year marks the 11th anniversary of the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival, and once again, Luna Nova has partnered with the Beethoven Club, a group of local musicians dedicated to the promotion and sustenance of classical music, to put on the international student composition contest. The winners of this year’s contest are Alex Burtzos from New York, Brendan McMullen from Seattle, and Jack Frerer from Australia. (Fun fact: Burtzos is the founder and president of ICEBERG New Music collective, a group that has been working with Memphis’ own Blueshift Ensemble during a residency at Crosstown Arts this week, see below.) Each of the three composers boasts a list of impressive bona fides, and each will have a piece performed in this year's festival.

The performers will be John McMurtery (flute), Gregory Maytan (violin), Nobuko Igarashi (clarinet), Craig Hultgren (cello), Paul Murray (baritone), Perry Mears (piano), Daniel Gilbert (violin), Tomaz Robak (piano), Jonathan Kirkscey (cello), Marisa Polesky (violin), Jenny Davis (flute), Brian Ray (piano), Robert Patterson (horn), Mark Volker (guitar), and Michelle Vigneau (oboe).

The Belvedere Chamber Music Festival will be presented at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on June 21-24, 2017. Evening concerts start at 7:30 and are free and open to the public. Afternoon concerts are Thursday and Friday at 3:00.
Memphis Concrète Festival: Making Synthesizers Weird Again

Just up the river from Memphis, in 1944, one of the first compositions known as musique concrète was presented, The Expression of Zaar, using manipulations of wire recordings to create an audio collage independent of the sources it was based on. The composer was Halim El-Dabh, and while he was closer to Memphis, Egypt, than the Bluff City, it's somehow fitting that by the 21st century, his approach has gained a foothold in Tennessee. Nowadays, of course, synthesized sound permeates nearly every genre, but it generally owes more to the tradition of disco or synth pop. Yet the tradition of musique concrète lives on as well, and Memphians will get a heavy dose of it in this weekend's Memphis Concrète Festival.

It may come as a surprise that most of the festival's acts are local or regional. While Tav Falco combined synthetic noise with rock-and-roll as early as 1979, a torch now carried forward by the NOTS, the textural (as opposed to melodic) use of synthesizers among locals has otherwise remained under the radar for most labels and media. But Robert Traxler, who organized the festival, found that once he began looking, an entire world of such artists emerged. "You start talking to people, and it kinda snowballs," he said. "I'm hearing so much stuff that was completely new to me. And some of it just right here in town. You may not see them a lot, but you know there are more people out there than what you see firsthand. So a lot of my drive was to find people that are in fragmented scenes and bring them together."

Traxler notes that, out of more than two-dozen acts, "the majority are from Memphis." Even among these local acts, "the variety is pretty exciting. You have some ambient, drone, experimental dance music, noisier stuff, and some that's more abstract. A lot of different artists representing different subgenres." Among the Memphis acts, >manualcontrol

What surprised Traxler most was the variety of artists emerging from Mississippi, including the noise textures of Pas Moi and the edgy dance sound of Argiflex from Cleveland, Hattiesburg's NEPTR and Division of Labor, Jackson's Blanket Swimming, and Oxford's Ben Ricketts, who is also known as a more traditional singer/songwriter. Beyond our neighbor to the south, look for artists from as close as Nashville and as far afield as Virginia. Pittsburgh's snwv (pronounced "sine wave") is notable for his generative, systems-based approach, which sets up sonic layers that interact according to loose parameters that evolve independently.

This "generative music" can also be experienced in one of the free exhibits that open each day of the festival. Saturday's exhibit, called "You Are Standing in a Room," involves a feedback system based on noises from the surrounding space, which processes and re-processes them into new sounds that gradually amplify the room's particular overtones. Traxler himself developed this for the festival, inspired by the work of experimental composer Alvin Lucier. Sunday's free exhibit, "Hand–>Ear," while not premised on any particular conceptual approach, will feature a theremin (the world's first electronic instrument, invented in the 1920s) and various materials connected to microphones that patrons themselves can play and process with effects.

Finally, Saturday's grand opening will include a screening of Forbidden Planet in its entirety, with the original score replaced with compositions by Traxler and other collaborators. While the original dialogue will remain in the mix, scenes without dialogue will be re-imagined with the new music performed in real time. All in all, it promises to be a unique event for Memphis: an ambitious weekend of experiments for the aurally adventurous.

'From Memphis to the Mersey' forges trans-Atlantic bonds
(image) Memphis has long figured in the musical imagination of Liverpool, England. One need only visit the Cotton Museum on Front Street to see the more fiduciary connections, as commodities made their way from the Mississippi shores to British ports for hundreds of years. But with the bills of sale went less mercantile influences, including songs and eventually records carried by seamen between such ports of call. The Beatles, especially George Harrison, were famously obsessed with Carl Perkins, Elvis, and other giants of Sun Records; they also nearly recorded Revolver at Stax Records, hoping to adopt the snap and crackle of the drums captured on McLemore Avenue.

But this fascination ran both ways. Nearly every guitar group springing out of Memphis was spurred on by the Beatles and other Merseyside groups. Certainly the Beatles loomed large over classic records by Tommy Burke and the Counts and, later, Big Star. Within the span of three years, Bobby Whitlock moved from recording handclaps during Stax sessions to contributing nearly all of the organ heard on Harrison's All Things Must Pass.

Thus, it's appropriate that these deep, soulful connections be recognized in a new program for songwriters called “From Memphis to the Mersey,” arising from a partnership between the local Memphis Music Exchange and Liverpool's Monkey Mind Productions. Described as “a songwriters’ exchange that will select two emerging artists from each city for an immersive cultural and creative experience on both sides of the ocean,” the program invites songsmiths to submit their work for consideration. They must be at least 21 and not currently signed to a label.

The lucky four judged most promising will work with Grammy-winning Stax legend William Bell and jazz singer/producer Susan Marshall from Memphis, and with Garry Christian and Joey Ankrah of The Christians, a Liverpool group that scored chart-toppers in the 80s and 90s. This August, spending three days in each city working with such legends, the winning contestants will gain a deeper insight into their craft and into the commonalities of their shared history. Each city visit will culminate in the songwriters presenting their work in concert.
“Hands across the water (water)/Heads across the sky!”, as Paul McCartney famously sang in “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Now's the chance, thanks to these nonprofits and the support of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau and Arts Council England, to reach out and make that connection more real than ever.

Interested parties should apply at the link below by 6 pm, Monday, July 26.
Me and Leah set to celebrate debut CD
(image) This week, the folk-pop duo Me and Leah will release its debut album – a sparse and beautiful 9-song, self-titled effort – on the digital label American Grapefruit.

Me and Leah is a new endeavor for Memphis music mainstay Jeff Hulett, who trades in the highly orchestrated grandiosity of previous projects like Snowglobe and Glorie for an understated presentation of some of his best material to date, collected from his various projects over the years. His partner-in-crime, local musician and artist Leah Keys, provides a perfect backdrop for his earnest songwriting and voice with a plucky banjo and ethereal vocals.

“We couldn't be happier. It represents what we do live. No frills with this album - it is what it is and we are excited to release it,” says Hulett. “We are both big fans of short and simple songs. Songs that have good lyrics and get to the point, but are also catchy and memorable. This record clocks in at 30 minutes. It's a good cooking dinner album.”

The album was recorded and mixed entirely in one day – April Fool’s Day, no less – at High/Low Recording under the watchful eyes of house engineers Toby Vest and Pete Matthews.

“Toby and Pete ran point and really helped us realize the vision we had,” says Hulett. “Recording was very comfortable. It was Leah's first go in a studio so I was a little nervous going in, but she was a total champ and killed it. Recording with just two people is so much more manageable.”

To celebrate the release, Me and Leah is throwing a party at the Amurica space in Crosstown this Friday, June 23 at 7 p.m. sharp. The excellent Jana Jana (Jana Misener from the Memphis Dawls) will open the show, and the $10 admission charge includes a free copy of the Me and Leah album on CD.

As for the band’s future, Hulett looks forward to a time when he and Keys might expand their songwriting partnership (“We are starting to write more songs together now,” he says), and even the direction of the band itself. But for now, the duo is dedicated to simply promoting its fine debut as a two-piece.

“It's not something we are focused on now, but I can't help but hear some of these songs with bass and drums and maybe some Whittemore (John, local lead guitarist),” says Hulett.

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