6 reasons to get excited for Alverno Presents’ 2013-14 season
Over the past few years, an entire cottage industry has sprung up around promoting Milwaukee as an “art city.” Lost in all the noise, however, is art. Alverno College’s performing arts series, Alverno Presents, has long sought to correct that oversight by offering unique, challenging, and accessible events that tap both local and national talent. With one event already in the books and another set for this weekend, The A.V. Club presents six highlights of Alverno’s 2013-14 season, from outdoor music fests and live film scores to Marvin Gaye mash-ups and week-long celebrations of artistic expression.
Global Union (September 21 at Humboldt Park)
For a certain number of otherwise well-rounded music lovers, “world music” conjures up images of jade knick-knacks and “Jazz Loon” CDs. Alverno’s annual Global Union music fest has successfully stomped, kicked, and danced on these lame stereotypes for the past eight years, bringing dozens of decidedly new-school international musicians to Bay View’s Humboldt Park. This year’s lineup includes a vocal ensemble from Pakistan (Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers); a hip-hop collective from Montreal (Nomadic Massive); and Milwaukee’s longest-running black gospel group, Masonic Wonders. Sure, you may not be familiar with many of these acts, but there’s no better time and place to broaden your musical horizons beyond whatever indie songs are being used in the latest cell phone commercials.
Altos: Earth (October 7 at Oriental Theatre)
The Milwaukee Film Festival (Sept. 26-Oct. 10) has quickly become one of the city’s most anticipated events. In keeping with the fest’s tradition of bringing in a live band to perform during a silent film, Milwaukee Film is collaborating with Alverno Presents and Milwaukee’s very own “surly high school orchestra,” Altos, to provide a live, original score during a screening of a rare 35mm print of Aleksander Dovzhenko’s silent Soviet classic Earth (Zemlya). The nervy, otherworldly music of the 12-piece Altos—who will bump their membership up to 18 for this one-off event—should be a perfect fit for Earth’s bleak portrayal of Ukrainian farmers struggling under the rule of Stalin. Don’t miss this one, because you won’t find anything like it at an afternoon multiplex screening of We’re The Millers.
The Hinterlands: The Circuit (October 18-19 at Pitman Theatre)
Detroit-based performance art troupe The Hinterlands is no stranger to Milwaukee. The group brought a rowdy “psychedelic Wild West show” to town in 2011, and staged a dance party/science experiment dubbed Isaac Newton Is Our DJ the year before. 2013 finds the rag-tag outfit putting a unique spin on another old-timey American institution: vaudeville. Yes, travel back to a time when musicians, comedians, magicians, and dancing ladies ruled the stage long before staring at your phone became the country’s No. 1 pastime. Expect plenty of music, dancing, and God-knows-what-else in this batshit mash-up of American entertainment history.
Nick Sanborn: Lend Me Your Voice (November 8-9 at Pitman Theatre)
What happens when an artist collaborates with another artist? Can a supporting player affect the vision of the main act? How many top-flight musicians can fit onto one Milwaukee stage? These are the questions Nick Sanborn will attempt to answer in a personal exploration of his career as both artist and supporting artist. Sanborn will be familiar to Milwaukeeans as a former member of Decibully (he now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina), but his career as side-man for groups like Collections Of Colonies Of Bees and Megafaun has given him a unique perspective on what it means to be a musician who doesn’t receive top-name billing. Brad Cook (Megafaun), Christopher Porterfield (Field Report), Chris Rosenau (Volcano Choir), and many more of Sanborn’s musical friends will be on hand to bring his story to life.
Unlooped Presents: Marvin Gaye (March 1, 2014 at Pitman Theatre)
For the past three years, Milwaukee DJ and producer Tarik Moody’s Unlooped series has been shining a spotlight on the city’s vibrant-if-underappreciated electronic music scene. Past shows have featured local musicians reinterpreting the work of artists like producer J Dilla and Wisconsin’s own Justin Vernon. For his Alverno show, Moody will tackle the one and only Marvin Gaye—more specifically, Gaye’s 1978 double album Here, My Dear, which detailed the musicians broken marriage to Anna Gordy. Similar to Sanborn’s event, a host of local musicians will join Moody, including Mark Waldoch, Klassik, and the ever-busy Christopher Porterfield.
Solo Flight: Colin Stetson, Jeanine Durning, and Morgan Thorson (April 14-20 at various locations)
At the heart of all Alverno shows is creativity and the fundamental need for expression. The final, week-long show of the series’ 54th season addresses the creative impulse head on with performances from three disparate artists: bass saxophonist Colin Stetson (Arcade Fire, Bon Iver), spoken-word artist Jeanine Durning, and dancer/choreographer Morgan Thorson. The week will also feature a panel discussion between the three artists, moderated by Sara Krajewski, director of UW-Milwaukee’s Inova Gallery.