|Local Spins Live Contemporary Folk Series at St. Cecilia Music Center|
by John Sinkevics
It’s a precedent-setting series in a historic building spotlighting local and regional artists who rarely get the opportunity to perform in such a setting.
The Local Spins Live contemporary folk series debuting Thursday evening in St. Cecilia Music Center’s pristine Royce Auditorium in Grand Rapids will test the venue’s traditional musical boundaries, expose new audiences to the building and give some of Michigan’s most compelling folk-infused artists a singular stage experience.
In partnership with the Spins On Music website and Mackinaw Harvest Music studios, the 118-year-old St. Cecilia Music Center expands its musical horizons “by presenting local musicians who are known and loved in the community” to many fans who will “experience our beautiful building” for the first time in “unplugged-style” performances, says executive director Cathy Holbrook.
It puts these artists on a stage normally reserved for classical music ensembles and nationally recognized jazz artists and plugs them into St. Cecilia, a venue that’s mostly a mystery to local bands and gigging musicians.
The series – covering a broad range of folk styles – kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a round-robin acoustic showcase featuring six well-known singer-songwriters: Ralston Bowles, Karisa Wilson, Michael Crittenden, Lux Land, Lucas Wilson and Michelle Chenard, and continues on Feb. 21 with The Crane Wives and Delilah DeWylde & The Lost Boys. The series wraps up on March 28, when Michigan’s “royal couple” of folk, Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, take the stage, with special guests The Fauxgrass Quartet. (Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, available at St. Cecilia and through its website.)
Crittenden, a veteran singer-songwriter, Troll for Trout frontman and well-known Grand Rapids producer who owns Mackinaw Harvest Music, raves that the acoustics in the 650-seat Royce Auditorium are unparalleled, the kind of stage where amps aren’t really needed because you can hear voices and instruments throughout the hall in fashion. Many fans have never seen these artists in a listening room like this, without the clinking of beer glasses and chattering patrons.
And that thrills those taking part in this first-time series in “a really cool made-for-music venue,” says DeWylde, the colorful West Michigan honky-tonk country/Americana/rockabilly singer-bassist who will perform with her band on Feb. 21. “I mean, historically cool. There is something to be said about standing on the same stage where so many talented others have stood.”
It’s also a kick to “share our music with a crowd that might not otherwise venture into a bar or beer festival to see us. There really are not that many places to play around Grand Rapids, so your gig map is pretty limited. So along comes this really cool series, and ta-da, a string of new shows that were never there before.”
The genesis of the series can be traced back to the ArtPrize Musicians’ Showcase which took place at St. Cecilia last fall, when I sensed real excitement among those local acts who got a chance to play the Royce Auditorium. Holbrook and I chatted about the idea of spotlighting these Michigan artists in a formal series for the first time with the help of Crittenden, who spearheaded the introduction of songs as ArtPrize entries.
Each concert will feature a post-show meet-and-greet with the featured artists, with Thursday’s reception also featuring entertainment by Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Kelsey Rottiers. Beer and wine will be available before the concert, at the intermission and during the post-show event. Beverages are not permitted inside Royce Auditorium during the concerts.
If this three-concert experiment is successful, there’s talk of expanding the acoustic series in the future to include jazz and blues artists. The sky is the limit.
“The acoustics are wonderful in St. Cecilia's. They will forever be damaged I'm afraid after being exposed to rockabilly music,” DeWylde jokes. “Seriously though, it's a beautiful building, and we are thrilled to be part of the series.”
For more information about the series, along with videos and stories about the featured artists, visit localspins.com or scmc-online.org.
Jan. 10 – Singer-songwriter round-robin with Ralston Bowles, Michelle Chenard, Karisa Wilson, Michael Crittenden, Lux Land, Lucas Wilson
Feb. 21 – The Crane Wives, Delilah DeWylde & the Lost Boys
March 28 – Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, The Fauxgrass Quartet
Tickets: $15 adults, $10 students
(Available by calling 459-2224, online at scmc-online.org or at St. Cecilia box office, 24 Ransom Ave. NE)
All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.
Published January 7, 2013
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