Cultural series helps celebrate centennial
Tonight’s Aaron Neville concert at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts marks the first of what will be a yearlong series of musical and artistic events celebrating the University of Memphis’ 100th anniversary.
In addition to Neville, the concert will feature performances by the University of Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble, Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra, Sound Fuzion, the University Singers and the U of M Opera.
The show will include the first airing of two new original anniversary-inspired pieces, “Centennial Fanfare” and “Presidential Portraits.” Both compositions were written by U of M music professor James Richens.
Other upcoming events include:
Song of the Silk Concert: An evening of performance provided by an all-star cast from China sponsored by the Confucius Institute and Asian Studies at the University of Memphis Rose Theatre.
Photo exhibit and reception marking the release of “Dreamers. Thinkers. Doers. A Centennial History of the University of Memphis” at Mynders Hall with co-author Janann Sherman.
David Dorfman Dance: “Prophets of Funk”: This influential American contemporary dance company performs to the “popular-and populist-funk sounds of Sly and the Family Stone” at the Rose Theatre.
Sousa Spectacular: U of M band department presents a “rousing tribute to John Philip Sousa” at 3 p.m. at Harris Concert Hall.
CCFA fall performance event “New Voices” showcases works by University of Memphis student choreographers and dancers at the Theatre and Fine Arts building, room 124.
For more information, including a full list of Centennial events, go to memphis.edu/centennial.
— Bob Mehr: (901) 529-2517
I Know I’ve Been Changed.
“Since when I first started, I always included gospel stuff in some form. I’d sing ‘Down by the Riverside,’ or I’d close all the shows with ‘Amazing Grace,’ ” says Neville. “To me, gospel comes from the soul. And everything catapulted from gospel, whether it’s R&B or country music.”
For his next project, slated for release in 2012, Neville plans on going a different direction, realizing a lifelong ambition of recording a doo-wop album.
“That was one of my first loves as a kid. My older brother, Art, had a doo-wop group when I was about 9. They’d sit out on the park bench in the Calio (Calliope) projects and sing harmonies at night, and then they’d go around and win talent shows. They used to run me away until they figured out I could hold a note. Then they let me sing with them,” Neville says with a laugh.
“To me, when I was a kid, music was like medicine. As long as I could sing along with the Orioles and Clyde McPhatter, nothing else in the world mattered to me.”
However, It’s another kind of music that Neville credits with creating his signature octave jumping vocal style.
“When I was a kid, I used to go to movies and see the cowboys: Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers. So I’d come out of the movie and I was that cowboy, whoever I’d just seen. I’d be yodeling along with them,” he says.
“The yodeling always fascinated me. That stuck in my vocal range, going from one octave to another. So, for me, it was the cowboys and the doo-wop all mixed up together, as well as the gospel, even the blues, which my parents loved.”
Reflecting for a moment, the creatively restless Neville notes that a blues record might be in his future as well.
“You know I started out at 16, signing blues in the French Quarter with an all-blind band. So, yeah, I’d like to do a blues album, too. Like I say, I don’t ever want to be pigeonholed. I’m just glad to get a chance to do all these things.”
An all-star cast from
China performs the Song of
the Silk Concert on Oct. 4 at
Rose Theatre at
the University of Memphis.