World War I, a 10th birthday and the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC’s Wilson Library—what could these three have in common? A lot, it seems, as Carolina Performing Arts will celebrate all three with its 2014-2015 season, which it announced Thursday evening. The organization enters its 10th season this year; during the last decade, they’ve established a knack for attracting artists of international acclaim and themes of intrigue. This year’s schedule is no exception.
The season begins with a pair of shows in conjunction with the larger Southern Folklife Festival, celebrating the department’s 25th year anniversary. The concerts pair The Rebirth Brass Band and Dumpstaphunk on Friday, August 22, and Tift Merritt and Merle Haggard the following night. CPA will also participate in a campus-wide commemoration of the centenary of World War I, which began in the summer of 1914. Artists in this series include Kronos Quartet, Taylor Mac and Hotel Modern and Arthur Sauer.
The CPA 10 series revisits a few of its own greatest hits and perennial favorites: Dianne Reeves, Brooklyn Rider, The National Theatre of Scotland and The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma, to sample.
Despite the many familiar names, CPA executive director Emil Kang says the major focus of the 2014–2015 schedule stems from challenging audiences to face the unknown and appreciate performance on a different level.
“Often times, many people see the performing arts as transactional, as an opportunity to just buy a ticket, see a show, go home. We are always constantly seeking deeper connections with all of our partners, audiences included,” he says. “The long-term goal is to get audiences to become comfortable with that which they don’t know, and that goes for everyone, from a 10-year-old middle schooler to an 80-year-old retiree.”
Kang hopes to accomplish this through boundary-pushing events that aren’t quite proper “shows.” One such evening in late February is billed as a conversation with Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. The internationally renowned Ma won’t play a single note. Instead, he’ll be talking about the very nature of art and performance. Another free forum will feature Congolese artists—a composer, a filmmaker, and a choreographer—working to present a body of work that demonstrates the diversity of the Congolese people.
While this season may find some strength in its big-name bookings, the interspersed one-off shows are solid, too. There’s the bluesy Robert Cray Band performing on October 10th, pop-leaning composer and pianist Gabriel Kahane on October 22nd, and an evening of bluegrass from UNC alumni Steep Canyon Rangers and Mipso.