Samford University's Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center has announced the programming for its 2014-15 Signature Series of presented events. This season's slate features touring artists from the dance, performance art, classical and popular music genres. It is highlighted by performances by Michael W. Smith, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Allen Touissant, MacArthur "Genius Grant" winners Kyle Abraham and Regina Carter, and Swiss masque troupe Mummenschanz.
Season tickets for the 2014-15 Series will go on sale on May 1 and will range in price from $120-$200 for 12 shows. Season tickets can be purchased at the Samford Arts box office on the campus of Samford University. Box office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The box office can be reached by calling (205) 726-2853. More information and order forms can be found online at www.samford.edu/wrightcenter.
According to Sean Wright, director of the Wright Center, keeping the ticket prices affordable was a key goal in building the 2014-15 Signature Series. "Study after study has shown that the number one barrier that keeps people from attending arts events is price. We want everyone to be a part of these amazing performances and so we have priced this season to knock down those barriers," Wright said. "We are incredibly excited to be bringing some of the finest artists in the world to Birmingham this season and we want all of central Alabama to be able to enjoy the very best in the performing arts at an affordable price."
This year's Series features five performances that are copresented with other Birmingham arts organizations, including the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO), the Samford School of the Arts, the Birmingham Chamber Music Society, the Alabama Dance Council and the Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation. Wright said, "We are thrilled to partner with so many organizations this season. Through these partnerships we are not only able to bring incredible artists to the Samford campus for performances, but we are also able to bring these groups into the community to conduct outreach activities with multiple constituencies. It gives us all the opportunity to reach the broadest audience possible and to make the greatest impact on the city."
The Series will kick-off with One Singular Sensation! A Celebration of Marvin Hamlisch on Sept. 19. This musical extravaganza will feature four singers straight from Broadway performing all of the hits from the prolific composer. Songs will include "The Way We Were," "One," "What I Did For Love," "They're Playing Our Song," and many more.
The Heart Behind the Music Songwriter's Showcase, on Oct. 10, features Deana Carter, Billy Dean, Teddy Gentry of the group ALABAMA, and Lenny LeBlanc. "The Heart Behind the Music" tour brings to the stage some of the world's best singers and songwriters who share the meaning behind their hit songs. This tour provides an up close and personal insight into some of the greatest music ever written and performances by some of the music industry's most talented musicians.
On Nov. 3, the Wright Center and the Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation copresent Arabesque, the only independent contemporary dance company based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Making their American debut as a part of the Center Stage cultural exchange, this company combines realism with symbolic movement to create work that explores the nuance and beauty of Vietnamese life.
A little of the Big Easy comes to the Wright Center when New Orleans Legends, featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Allen Touissant, take the stage on Nov. 10. These two New Orleans icons are performing together for the first time in an once-in-a-lifetime jazz event.
Dec. 5 brings a special event copresentation with the ASO of Christmas withMichael W. Smith. This show, also a part of the ASO's Red Diamond SuperPOPS! Series, combines the vocal talents of celebrated Christian singer Smith with the musicianship of the ASO. This performance is not part of the Signature Series Season Ticket and is an add-on event, Wright noted, however, season ticket purchasers may purchase single tickets to this event with their Signature Series season ticket and guarantee their seats before the general public sale.
The Wright Center will copresent Abraham-in-Motion with the Alabama Dance Council on Jan. 17. This performance will be part of the annual Alabama Dance Festival and returns MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham to Birmingham with a brand new work following his scintillating performance of Pavement in 2013.
The Signature Series will once again present a concert in the intimate Brock Recital Hall, this year featuring string quartet Sybarite5 on Feb. 6. This ensemble combines classically-honed technique with an eclectic repertoire that ranges from Mozart to Radiohead, captivating audiences while changing the perception of what a chamber music performance can be. The performance will be the capstone of a four-day residency working with local music composers and students.
Copresented by the Samford School of the Arts Davis Architects Guest Artist Series and the Birmingham Chamber Music Society, the Signature Series will host a performance by Mnozil Brass on Feb. 26. This Austrian brass band brings exquisite musicianship and a sublime sense of humor to classical music. Now in their third decade of performing, this band brings a sense of fun to some of the best compositions, creating a unique listening experience.
Following up on their highly successful visit in 2012, Eisenhower Dance Ensemble returns to the Wright Center on March 3 with "Motown in Motion." Detroit's premiere dance company will be performing an evening of incredible movement underscored by the classic music of the Motor City, capping off a four-day residency, Wright noted. Featuring music by Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Michael Jackson, and Marvin Gaye among many others, this show is a delight for the young and the young at heart. This performance is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
The legendary masque troupe Mummenschanz will perform at the Wright Center on March 6. For more than 40 years this unique company has dazzled audiences with their weird timeless creatures and incredible colorful forms, blended together with a wit and pathos that is unrivaled.
The Wright Center stage will be transformed into a jazz cabaret on March 23 for an intimate concert with Regina Carter and Southern Comfort. Ms. Carter is considered by many to be the foremost jazz violinist of her generation and has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship, for her signature musical voice and style. Her newest album "Southern Comfort" is her most personal yet, using her family's history as the focal point on a musical journey through the South. For this performance, the audience will be seated on the stage, creating an atmosphere that promises to make this an amazing evening of music.
The Wright Center again partners with the Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation to present the Alabama premiere of H.T. Chen & Dancers's newest work "South of Gold Mountain" on April 19. Prior to their performance, the New York based company will spend a week in residence, conducting workshops across the region and working with local dancers who will be a part of the final performance.
The series concludes with the contemporary Christian crossover ensemble, the Annie Moses Band, on April 23. This family group blends bluegrass, folk, pop, classical, and jazz forms, celebrating music in all its styles by creating a sound like no other. Following up on their first commercial release, "Pilgrims & Prodigals," and their acclaimed performances at the Grand Ole Opry, the Nashville-based band is embarking on their first major U.S. tour.
Season at a Glance
Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m., One Singular Sensation! A Celebration of Marvin Hamlisch
Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m., "The Heart Behind the Music" Songwriter's Showcase featuring Deana Carter, Billy Dean, Teddy Gentry and Lenny LeBlanc
Nov. 3, 8 p.m., Arabesque, copresented with Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation
Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m., "New Orleans Legends," featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Allen Toussaint
Dec. 5, 8 p.m., "Christmas with Michael W. Smith," copresented with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra as part of the Red Diamond Super POPS! Series
Jan. 17, 8 p.m., Abraham-in-Motion, copresented as part of the Alabama Dance Festival
Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m., Sybarite5, in Brock Recital Hall
Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m., Mnozil Brass, copresented as part of the Davis Architects Guest Artist Series and the Birmingham Chamber Music Society Season
March 3, 8 p.m., Eisenhower Dance - "Motown in Motion"
March 6, 7:30 p.m., Mummenschanz
March 23, 7:30 p.m., Regina Carter, cabaret on the Wright Center stage
April 19, 4 p.m., HT Chen & Dancers, copresented with Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation
April 23, 7:30 p.m., Annie Moses Band