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The Healing Force | Shana Tucker | Peabo Bryson

Arts: Pawleys Festival of Music begins 26th season

By Carrie Humphreys
For the Observer

As envisioned by its founder, the late Lee Minton, the goal of the Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art is to provide the community with an array of entertaining and educational cultural events. The dream continues this weekend as the festival starts its 26th season.

The opening weekend features the Seaside Palette and the Chalk Walk on Saturday in Downtown Georgetown starting at 9 a.m. What has become the traditional festival kickoff encourages the visual arts with local artists working outdoors. Seaside Palette artists will seek out locations along Front Street and the harbor. Chalk artists will have sidewalk space at Francis Marion Park.

The Chalk Walk is also an opportunity for the public to try their hand along with the professional artists who will compete for prizes. Seaside Palette artists will also have their works judged for prizes. Those will be awarded at a Live Paint Sale at the Kaminski House.

Also at Francis Marion Park, The Healing Force will give three performances of “The Rhythm of the Drum.”

The Healing Force is a family affair.

“My husband and I had a dream,” said Gail Anderson from her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. “I met him in New York City when I was a folk singer in my 20s and he was a recording artist. We felt that the Creator put us together so we could blend our talents. We dreamed of having a family of performers one day. The family is one of the strongest units God created.”

Their dream came to pass. Performing with Anderson are her husband Joseph and two of their children, Sonji, 42, and Karim, 37. The foursome’s name was suggested by a friend. “She thought our music was healing, magical,” Anderson said.

African drums, like the kjembes and duuns, plus African gourd instruments called shekers, rain sticks, tic toc drums, rattles and agogo bells form the basis of The Healing Force’s magical music. The distinctive sounds of the thumb pianos (from gourds and metal) can be heard throughout the song and drum performance.

The family has traveled to Africa three times to perfect its art. “We feel so blessed to be able to appeal to everyone and to help bring people together, to provide more understanding and appreciation for others,” Anderson said.

The family will encourage the audience to participate by playing some of their traditional African instruments. “We like to jam with people,” she said.

Seaside Palette | Sept. 24, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wet Paint Sale 3:30 p.m., Downtown Georgetown.

Chalk Walk | Sept. 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Francis Marion Park.

The healing force | Sept. 24, noon, 1:30, 3 p.m., Francis Marion Park. All events are free.

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Shana Tucker: The vocalist and the cello

By Carrie Humphreys
For the Observer

“Pawleys Island is a new place for me,” said Shana Tucker. “I had to look it up. More than anything I love going someplace new, being able to get on a plane and travel somewhere to share my music.”

She labels her musical genre as “ChamberSoul,” influenced by jazz, classical, acoustic pop, soul and folk sounds. She began exploring her talent as a toddler growing up on Long Island, N.Y., taking piano lessons from her great-grandmother. She discovered the violin in fourth-grade; the cello in junior high. She said her career took off while attending Howard University, where she was part of a singing piano trio. She majored in arts administration. After graduation, she returned to New York and completed her cello studies at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music.

While cello is her instrument of choice, she said she considers herself “a vocalist who plays cello.”

It was while living in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and raising her son that Tucker produced her first CD “Shine” with fundraising support from local fans. Her vocal style has been likened to Cleo Laine or Diana Krall.

In 2012, as a result of “Shine,” a Cirque de Soleil recruiter invited her to Las Vegas to perform as cellist and mezzo-soprano in their production “KÀ” at the MGM Grand Hotel.

Tucker, 42, now lives in Las Vegas where she performs in 10 Cirque shows a week. But it is her traveling main stage shows, she said, which rejuvenate her talent. Her repertoire is 90 percent original.

Topping her list of career highlights? “Being the opener for Norah Jones, and also The Indigo Girls,” she said.

Four musicians will accompany Tucker at her festival performance. “I can’t wait. I love bringing music to people of all ages, live music affects everyone in such a positive way.”

Shana Tucker | Sept. 30, 7 p.m., Reserve Golf Club. $45 / $35 / $25. pawleysmusic.com

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Peabo Bryson: ‘The Pavarotti of soul singers’

By Carrie Humphreys
For the Observer

Peabo Bryson can sing every musical genre. “I have a distinctive voice, like no one else,” Bryson said from his home in Atlanta.

His vocal versatility, he said, has worked to his advantage. He has crooned solo and in duets with such artists as Natalie Cole and Roberta Flack. He sings R&B, pop, soul, ballads and opera. Bryson has the distinction of being the first artist in music history to have separate records topping four different charts. He’ll showcase his crossover abilities when he, along with his band and backup singers, appear at the Pawleys Island Music Festival on Oct. 1.

Born in Greenville, Bryson said he cherishes the opportunity to come home to South Carolina. His love for music stemmed from his mother, who often took the family to concerts by artists such as Sam Cooke, Little Richard and Billie Holiday.

He learned his values growing up on his grandfather’s farm in Mauldin, he said. “I’m the oldest male in the family, so I was taught to work and work hard. My family taught me good judgment and spirituality. And I learned when to say ‘no.’ ”

He also knows when to say yes. He took a leap in 1991 with the title theme for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” with Celine Dion. It was a pop hit, an Ocsar-winner and a Grammy-winner. “I never met Celine until we were in the recording studio. Now we’re good friends,” he said.

The next year he recorded “A Whole New World,” the title theme for Disney’s “Aladdin,” with Regina Belle. It was another Oscar and Grammy success.

Born Robert Peapo Bryson, he made his professional debut at age 14 singing backup for Al Freeman and the Upsetters, a Greenville group. It was Freeman’s difficulty in pronouncing the French-West Indian name Peapo that led Bryson to change its spelling to Peabo.

Bryson left South Carolina in 1968 to tour with another local band, Moses Dillard and the Tex-Town Display. Bryson’s big break came during a recording session at Atlanta’s Bang Records when the label’s general manager, unimpressed with Dillard’s band, noticed Bryson and signed him to a contract as a writer, producer and arranger working with local bands. In 1976, he launched his own recording career with “Underground Music” on the Bang label. His first album, “Peabo,” followed. A regional success, Bryson signed with Capitol Records and his career blossomed.

In addition to singing and writing music, Bryson has appeared in theater and operatic productions, most notably the tenor role of Sportin’ Life in the Michigan Opera Theater production of “Porgy and Bess,” the lead in the touring production of “Raisin” (based on “Raisin in the Sun”) and in the title role in a touring production of “The Wiz.”

Today Bryson credits his fifth grade teacher for teaching him how to read music and Moses Dillard for teaching him everything else.

Cicely Tyson was another mentor, he said. “Cicely would watch me on stage and critique me. She would say, ‘You got to give the audience what they want. They want you to tell them how to feel.’ ”

Bryson, called the “Pavarotti of soul singers” by the New York Times, has survived and prospered despite the passage of time and changes in popular musical. He’s performed at the White House three times, traveled the world (southern France is a favorite destination), made more than 20 albums and includes Elton John among his many fans. His R&B successes include “Feel the Fire” and “I’m So Into You,” which spent two weeks as the nation’s number one hit. The 1991 single “Can You Stop the Rain” won Bryson a Grammy nomination for best R&B vocal performance by a male, as did “Lost in the Night” in 1992.

Throughout his career, Bryson said his first priority is being “true to myself. I’m at a good place now.”

Now 65 and a grandfather, Bryson has no plans to retire. “I’m singing in the same key as I did in 1977,” he said. “Why would I retire?”

Peabo Bryson | Oct. 1, 7 p.m., Reserve Golf Club. $85 / $45 / $30. pawleysmusic.com

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