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Festival of Music & Art: R&B legend ‘opera giant’ for 25th anniversary

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A graduate of “the university of doo-wop-ology” will be the premiere performer at the 25th annual Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art.

“Anything I do has got some doo-wop in it,” Aaron Neville, 74, says in the introduction to a biographical collection of recordings. “It’s just part of me—it’s the texture that I’m singing in, it’s the endings, it’s the harmonies. At 3 o’clock in the morning, I wake up with a doo-wop song going in my head and I can’t go back to sleep because I’m singing it over and over.”

He will perform Oct. 3, the second of three weeks of performances in this year’s festival.

Neville’s first hit single was “Tell It Like It Is,” which was top of the R&B charts for five weeks in 1967. He went on to win Grammy Awards for his triple-platinum 1989 collaboration with Linda Ronstadt and reached the country charts with the title track of 1993’s “The Grand Tour.”

Also on the schedule are:

A.J. Croce, the singer-songwriter son of the late Jim Croce, who died when his son was barely 2. Now 43, Croce’s been recording since he was 19 and has evolved from a blues-based artist into a “pop music iconoclast.” This year, he began performing on “Music City Roots,” broadcast on PBS. (Oct. 2.)

Mike Farris, who won the Grammy Award this year for Best Roots Gospel Album, the first time it was presented. The Tennessee native said afterward his mission is to “shine a light” on the music. “There are two basic seeds of western music: old Black spirituals, where it all began, and old Appalachian music,” he said. (Oct. 8.)

Natalie Douglas, a jazz singer who was the winner of last year’s Margaret Whiting Award. (Oct. 9.)

Steve Tyrell, a Grammy-winner who has become a fixture of the Great American Songbook after replacing the late Bobby Short at the Café Carlyle in Manhattan. He also performed in 2009 and 2012. (Oct. 10.)

Ken Levigne, the Canadian tenor who performed at last year’s festival. He burst onto the concert scene in 2009 when he hired an orchestra and rented Carnegie Hall for a performance. That became the focus of his touring show. (Oct. 15.)

Jeremy Davis and Clay Johnson, leaders of the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra, a 17-piece big band ensemble from Savannah. (Oct. 16.)

The festival will open Sept. 25 in downtown Georgetown with the return of plein air artists and an outdoor performance by the Squonk Opera on Sept. 26. The opera company created its first show in a Pittsburgh junkyard with choreographed cranes, earth movers and other machinery. For the festival, it will perform “Pneumatica,” a production that celebrates air with a combination of original music and inflatable devices.

The 40-foot high Lady Pneumatica, with a wind turbine on its head, will rise over Front Street breathing steam and raising its inflated arms to the sky. Squonk’s music incorporates the swoops and eddies of air with electronic bagpipes and a vertical accordion that is Lady Pneumatica’s lungs, played like a piano while it rises and falls with her breath.

The closing night, Oct. 17, is a tribute to Motown by a traveling company of singers and musicians.

For updates and ticket information, go online to pawleysmusic.com.

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