World Premiere: Hiss Golden Messenger & William Gedney • 'Heart Like a Levee'
Directed & designed by Jim Findlay
Hiss Golden Messenger is the indie folk project of Durham-based musical omnivore M.C. Taylor. “At once firmly steeped in tradition and immediately accessible” (NPR), Hiss Golden Messenger calls up a wide spectrum of American vernacular music, from Archie Brownlee to the Staple Singers, from Van Morrison to Townes Van Zandt. At Reynolds Industries Theater, Duke Performances presents Heart Like a Levee, the world premiere of a specially commissioned song cycle by Taylor, performed by an ace ensemble.
Heart Like a Levee is the latest installment in Duke Performances’ From the Archives initiative, which pairs artists with archival resources from Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library to develop bold and ambitious new work. In this case, Taylor’s cycle draws upon a group of photographs from 1972 by documentarian William Gedney (1932-1989), known for his uncanny ability to “catch fleeting moments of grace, joy, melancholy, and humor” (The New York Times).
Gedney’s visit to the Blue Diamond Mining Camp in Leatherwood, Kentucky generated the moving portfolio of photographs of everyday life that provides the source material for this collection of songs. Working alongside OBIE-winning stage director and designer Jim Findlay, Taylor offers a set of songs that address family, work, home, and love, as inspired by the photos’ subjects.
Made possible, in part, with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and support from the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University.