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Festival of Music and Art: Three performances close out fall series

By Carrie Humphreys
Coastal Observer

Young. Vivacious. That’s how Marc Devigne describes Vivace, an operatic pop vocal quartet appearing at the Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art today.

“In Italian, vivace means full of life,” Devigne said, “Vivace transcends what we are as a group.”

Hence the name.

Vivace’s members, Devigne, Melody Mercredi, Tiffany Desrosiers and D.J. Calhoun are all in their twenties. Based out of Vancouver, they got together specifically to perform in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

“There was a national search for two guys and two girls classically trained with a pop twist,” Devigne explained. “Well, we built a repertoire and after the Olympics decided to keep on singing together. “

Accompanied by piano and violin, the foursome stir listeners with their dramatic renditions of “Unchained Melody” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” for example. Their genre is described as “classical crossover” with music ranging from pop, to arias to their own material. They’ve performed extensively throughout Canada and have recently expanded their tours into the United States.

“The younger generation thinks that opera and classical music is a bit stuffy, so we try to bridge the gap between the classical and contemporary music of today,” Devigne said. “We breathe new life into classical music, making it appealing to the older generation as well as young people.”

The Canadian songsters all listen to contemporary music and have an appreciation for that genre as well as classical and operatic. Their motto is that a beautiful melody at the end of the day is still a beautiful melody whether written hundreds of years ago or written yesterday.

The melody speaks for itself, according to Devigne. “Wherever we play people come to us and say, ‘wow, how beautiful. I’ve never heard music quite like that before.”

If you go: Vivace. Oct. 10, 7 p.m., Reserve Golf Club. Tickets $25 at pawleysmusic.com

Blues man’s never been happier

By Carrie Humphreys
Coastal Observer

Mac Arnold grows vegetables in between gigs. He personally plows up a portion of his 80 acres bursting with corn, beans, and tomatoes in Pelzer. At 71, married 39 years, Arnold said he’s never been happier. He recently opened a restaurant nearby featuring his freshly cultivated veggies and is touring all across country with his band “Plate Full o’ Blues.”

“I cook a lot, too, you know,” Arnold said. “That’s how we came up with name Plate Full o’ Blues. The band would rehearse at the house when we first started up. I’d cook up a big meal and after we rehearsed we all sat down for a break and started eating. We were eating and looking around for things to come up with a name for the group and that’s what we ended up with. We said, ‘Well, we’re always eating and playing music, so let’s call us that.”

Arnold is happiest, of course, playing the blues his style. He grew up in a musical family, he said, and sang in the church choir. He still plays his unique sound on a homemade guitar concocted from a steel gas can, wood, nails and screen wire, much like the one he strummed as a child.

“I have about 20 of them around the house,” he said, explaining that he often auctions them off during fundraisers for the “I Can Do Anything Foundation,” which he founded to promote music and art in the public schools. He’s raised nearly $85,000 and is still going.

“I want to do something to keep our children in school,” he said. “I take the blues into the school and teach the kids the fundamentals of music all the way from playing to writing songs themselves.”

Arnold played in a high school band called J. Floyd and the Shamrocks, who were often joined by none other than James Brown on piano. In 1965, when Arnold turned professional, he had to get tutoring, he said, to learn how to read music and compose it.

He spent his early career in Chicago where he worked with A.C. Reed, the Muddy Waters band, and played back-up for BB King and The Temptations. Later, relocating to California, he worked on the set of Soul Train, among other gigs. Arnold boasts that his distinctive bass sound can be heard on the theme song of the TV show “Sanford and Son.”

By the late 1980s, Arnold, weary of the road life, returned to South Carolina and retired. In 2006 he was coaxed into returning to the stage. His reemergence was the subject of a documentary shown at the music festival in 2011.

Arnold and the Plate Full o’ Blues performed at last year’s festival and returns Friday by popular demand, according to festival organizers.

“I’m flattered to be asked back. I think people just love the blues all over,” he said, adding that the band was on the way to a cross country tour to Colorado, Montana, Chicago and Cincinnati.

“We’ve made five trips to Europe,” he said. “In Europe we are big, we are rock stars like The Beatles.”

Their top request? “Cackalacka Twain.”

If you go: Mac Arnold and Plate Full o’ Blues. Oct. 11, 7 p.m., Reserve Golf Club. Tickets $25, $35 and $50 at pawleysmusic.com

Uptown Boys

By Carrie Humphreys
Coastal Observer

The classic rock music of Billy Joel is the essence of the Movin’ Out Band. Their concerts pay tribute to the incredible singer-songwriter.

The Movin’ Out Band is the original band from the Tony Award winning Broadway musical “Movin’ Out,” which featured Joel’s music. The band includes several members from Joel’s own band, even a piano man, Wade Preston, handpicked by Joel to play in the hit musical. Preston joins five other talented gents (ages 45 to 60) performing here Saturday during the festival finale.

The audience can rock and roll, swing and sway, to 90 minutes of Billy Joel’s greatest hits: favorites such as “Just the Way You Are,” “New York State of Mind,” “Tell Her About It,” “Honesty,” “She’s Always a Woman,” “My Life” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

“We may throw in an Elton John piece or two,” said Dennis Delguadio, the guitarist.

Although the Movin’ Out Band was formed in 2001 strictly for the musical, which closed in 2005, the troupe is still going.

“While we were doing the show, we’d go out and do some corporate gigs and things together, so when the show ended we said, Why not keep playing and singing? We also all sing this beautiful music,” Delguadio said. “We’re all professional musicians and have other gigs, but we enjoy coming together for these Billy Joel concerts. We’re like old friends. We travel well together and all get along well.”

The professional rockers often share their expertise with younger musicians and plan to visit the Waccamaw High and Carolina Forest music departments, focusing in particular on ensemble playing.

“Playing in a band is like playing a sport; each kid plays a role,” Delguadio said. “A band is the sum of its parts. We tell these kids that playing in a band is the best job in the world.”

If you go

If you go: The Movin’ Out Band. Oct. 12, 7 p.m., Reserve Golf Club. Tickets $25 and $35 at pawleysmusic.com

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