By: Claude Milot
In the old days, that is, before the advent of the phonograph, the only way to listen to great music was to hear it live at a concert, a church, or at a private recital. Now, of course, we can listen to music on our radios, our CD players, or even our phones without having to be there in person. Still, the most enjoyable, I maintain, is live music.
Those of us who have been around awhile can all recall special moments, perhaps an outdoor concert in Central Park, a Broadway musical, a Verdi opera at the Met, jazz at the Blue Note (you can tell I lived in the New York area for many years), even a piano recital by a precocious child. Fortunately, AP residents still have opportunities to enjoy live music without travelling very far. Norfolk, with its classical and pop concerts, opera, and Broadway revivals, is not much more than an hour away. Closer yet is the music performed in our own Albemarle region this spring.
If you like choral music, you probably heard the Albemarle Chorale in Hertford, on May 5. If your preference is for the sound of Nashville, you may have driven to Edenton for “Legends in Concert,” a tribute to the Grand Ole Opry by Flatbilly and the Rocky Hock Opry. But there’s much more to come in the month of May.
If you’re a fan of bluegrass, there is nothing better than the Bluegrass Island Festival in Manteo on May 15-18. There will also be live music out-doors at Edenton’s Music and Water Festival and Elizabeth City’s Potato Festival, both May 17-19. Closer still are two concerts as part of Hertford’s Riverbash.
Most intriguing for me is the major feature of Riverbash’s “Church Street Block Party” on May 4th at 7 p.m. Intriguing because it will be a concert by Ellis Dyson and the Shambles, a group that is beginning to make a name for itself. Sometimes described as Southern Folk, the group’s music combines aspects of ragtime and New Orleans jazz, up-beat Prohibition-era jazz, and laid-back mountain tunes. Some of their songs are vignettes, stories with humorous characters; others are murder ballads, still others phantasmic story-songs.
The band features vocalist Ellis Dyson on banjo backed by a guitar, a bass, a trumpet, and a fifth member on saxophone or clarinet. The players are all educated, professional musicians who studied at UNC-Chapel Hill where Dyson was a Southern Studies major and the others self-described jazz nerds. They formed a band in 2013 and have been touring up and down the East Coast ever since, stopping from time to time to record their original compositions. Their last recording is entitled “Shambylania,” which can be sampled on YouTube. Better still, come to see them perform live at Riverbash’s Church Street Block Party.
If you need a change of pace after enjoying Riverbash’s many downtown events, come to the lawn at the Perquimans County Recreation Center on Sunday, May 5th and relax to the sound of smooth jazz at the Kool Down Concert over-looking the Perquimans River. Performing from 4 to 6 p.m. will be Joel Taylor & Connected, a jazz combo from ECSU. Bring a chair or a blanket. Food is available, and admission is free.