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Mayhem and harmony: Martin School of the Arts spring season to sow seeds of music, poetry, fun; trace quests, journeys

Contributed • Jan 13, 2018 at 6:40 PM

Mayhem and poetry. Strings and keys. Visual art and health care. Polyphony and percussion. Children’s stories and the ravages of poverty and AIDS. A North Philadelphia creative sanctuary and three minutes of terror.

While the connections may not be immediately apparent, spring 2018 at East Tennessee State University’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will weave these and many more dichotomies into a season that features vocal and instrumental music, slam poetry, comedy, numerous life journeys, visual vistas and a touch of introspective horror – all with a harmonious result.

The season begins with a look “Along the Horizon” at “Contemporary Drawing in Tennessee.” This exhibition, curated by Andrew Scott Ross and Vanessa Mayoraz of the ETSU Department of Art and Design faculty, focuses on drawing as a useful medium for artists. The exhibition, displaying the work of 13 Tennessee artists, opens Jan. 16 at both the Reece Museum and Slocumb Galleries and runs through mid-February.

In conjunction with the exhibit, an artist panel discussion exploring the range and limits of the medium will be held Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. in 127 Ball Hall, followed by a 7 p.m. reception in the Reece Museum.

On Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium, the School of the Arts will bring some merry mayhem to campus in the form of three poets – The Mayhem Poets – who are on a mission to change the face of spoken-word poetry using a blend of theater, improv, comedy and hip-hop – without the “gangsta” poses.

“This will be a somewhat different approach to poetry than many people might expect,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of the Martin School of the Arts. “There will be a little bit theater, a little bit of slam poetry, a little bit of comedy and a lot of fun.”

While The Mayhem Poets have their say verbally, activist/artist Regina Holliday uses her artwork to speak volumes on the subject of access to medical records and its effects on health care and mortality. After losing her husband to kidney cancer in 2009, Holliday started The Walking Gallery, painting health care-related images on jackets and other attire, so that as the wearer walks, the message is spread.

Holliday will share her personal and public journeys at ETSU on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Culp Auditorium as the visiting artist for the annual “Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts,” sponsored by ETSU’s College of Public Health, Martin School of the Arts and Quillen College of Medicine.

Harmony will build as March opens with a performance by the London-based a cappella group The Swingles on March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mary B. Martin Auditorium of Seeger Chapel at Milligan College. The five-time Grammy-winning vocal ensemble has numerous film and TV soundtrack credits, including “Sex and the City,” “Milk,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Glee” and the December 2017 Matt Damon film “Downsizing.”

The Swingles – seven young singers, including Greeneville, Tennessee, native and ETSU alumna Sara Davey – boast a repertoire ranging from Bach and Debussy to The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Turkish folk songs. They stroll “from one grouping to another, turn to each other while singing, show pleasure in the sounds they are creating,” reinventing classics and pop songs that are known to “hush the audience to complete rapt silence,” says the Irish Examiner.

Mid-March cues the percussion – Third Coast Percussion, to be exact, another Grammy-winning group – on March 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Science Hill High School auditorium. Established in 2005 in Chicago, this artist-run quartet of four classically trained percussionists is praised for its direct connection with the audience, elegance, wit and “inspirational sense of fun and curiosity,” says the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

While in Johnson City, Third Coast will not only have a master class with ETSU music students, but also with Science Hill percussionists.

“Third Coast is so much fun and has so much talent,” DeAngelis says. “We are excited that they will be able to share their expertise with both ETSU and Science Hill students. The Martin School of the Arts loves to make those campus-community connections.”

Some discordant notes will join the chorus on April 9 as Martin School of the Arts screens “Voices from Chernobyl,” an award-winning film that documents the stories of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster from the perspective of the people affected by it. Citizens and responders of all ages reflect on the mystery of Chernobyl and the future in a now-dystopian landscape. The free screening on April 9 at 7 p.m. in 127 Ball Hall is planned as part of ETSU’s Earth Month festivities.

The season will crescendo on April 17 with harmonious interplay between the Parker Quartet – yet another Grammy winner – and ETSU piano faculty member Dr. Esther Park. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, Johnson City. Following a 2017 summer season that had the string ensemble crossing North America for appearances at music festivals in Maine, Colorado and Virginia, the Parker Quartet will begin its fourth year in-residence at Harvard University, as well as performing around the country. Pianist Park is a graduate of Yale’s School of Music, with a master’s and doctorate in musical arts.

The spring season also includes three films in the ongoing 2017-18 South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers series, featuring animated and live personal journeys and suspenseful reflections.

On Feb. 12, the combination of documentary and animated feature “Liyana” follows a young Swazi girl on her heroic trek to rescue her two young brothers. The film uses the power of storytelling to address the effects of poverty, alcohol and HIV/AIDS. On March 12, filmgoers will meet a North Philadelphia family and share its joys and crises in the documentary “Quest.” Then, on April 16, the screeching strings, plunging knife, 78 camera set-ups and 52 edits of Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho” shower scene will be the focus of “78/52.”

At ETSU, each Southern Circuit film is free and followed by a catered light reception with the filmmaker, who also provides a talkback after the screening. All spring Southern Circuit films are on Mondays at 7 p.m. “Liyana” and “Quest” will be screened in the Culp Auditorium and “78/52” in 127 Ball Hall.

“We are known for our eclectic and diverse seasons,” DeAngelis says. “Spring 2018 is certainly no exception.”

For tickets or more information, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587). For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

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