Saturday, October 24, 2015

Lonnie Holley - Secular Gospel at St. James Hall

(R-L) Steve Nistor, Lonnie Holley and Kelly Pratt at St. James Hall, Vancouver.

On Friday October 23rd the Maiwa Textile Symposium presented Lonnie Holley and Guests with the Gee's Bend Quilters at St. James Hall in Vancouver, Canada. Lonnie Holley, is an artist, sculptor, performer and musician. In his sculptures, Holley's use of recycled and found materials is an example of the will to make under impoverished conditions that also exemplifies the Gee's Bend Quilts. The Vancouver audience were treated to an example of the type of raw creativity that gave birth to entire musical genres such as blues and jazz.

Louisiana Bendolph and Matt Arnett.

The evening opened with a conversation about quilting and art in the Deep South led by Louisiana Bendolph and Matt Arnett. For many members of the Gee's Bend community their optimism, fortitude and generosity is rooted in religious faith and there is no hard line between faith, music, singing, and social activities like quilting. Holley is closely tied to the quilters, frequently travels with them, and has personally attended all of their exhibition openings. 

In this context Holley's music can be seen as a kind of secular gospel that has merged with his own unique performance style. Holley's work is improvised not only musically but also texturally as his songs build on thoughts and ideas he wants to express. His set list, sitting on top of his keyboard, does not contain the names of songs, but rather key ideas that he will form into songs on the spot. 

Lonnie Holley and Kelly Pratt.
Holley was joined by Steve Nistor and Kelly Pratt, seasoned musicians each with a long list of accomplishments on their own. The trio have performed together in the past, notably at the 2014 Pickathon Music festival. This was Holley's first appearance in Western Canada. We have posted a short video clip below.


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