Stephen Wade, author of The Beautiful Music All Around Us, opened up his residency at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret on Sunday, January 18. There, the author/musician will spend the better part of the next eight weeks introducing audiences to the astonishing music and stories he unearthed for his award-winning University of Illinois Press book.
As always, Stephen is a tireless advocate for the music. The Kathleen Dunn Show on Milwaukee Public Radio brought him into the studio to discuss his work, the show, and the stories behind the songs. Click here to listen to the entire segment.
Lake Effect, the local affairs magazine on WUWM, had Stephen into the studio to play live.
For the visually minded, hosts Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle interview Stephen on the daytime TV show The Morning Blend.
The reviews, meanwhile, are in, and glowing. Broadway World:
On the Stackner’s intimate stage, the award-winning Wade breathes life into these musician’s stories—their personalities, their lyrics and melodies such as “Shortenin’ Bread” or “Tom Dooley,” even the first lilting measures of Aaron Copland’s famous opera “Rodeo.” Photographs projected on a screen behind Wade illuminate these private histories while Wade embellishes their unknown names with the facts and myths surrounding their lives.
An accomplished and life-long banjo player, Wade picks and stomps through the notes and melodies woven into the audience’s memories. Strains of familiar tunes resonate in the Cabaret while merged with Wade’s enthusiasm and his exceptional banjos to elevate these street musicians to their rightful place in musical history.
“It’s a world of sound,” Wade sighed, that “can bark down low and up high sounds like bells.” “It goes from a harpsichord to a talking drum. It’s like a Model T in syncopated rhythm…. It’s like a watercolor, full of happy accidents. And it’s hard to tune. It’s a musical mule.”
It’s a glorious description that’s also true to how Wade thinks about both music and life, in which everything becomes a metaphor for something else—forging connections between the sounds we make and the beautiful music all around us.
Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s The Beautiful Music All Around Us is a journey through the American South’s musical history led by Grammy-nominee Stephen Wade, who combines the intellectual excitement of a dedicated scholar with the unabashed emotional expressivity of a folk demigod. The show is drawn from his award-winning book of the same title and is a compilation of live banjo and guitar performance, spoken word and projected historic photographs. These elements combine to create a window into the lives of Americans whose names are not well known but whose contributions are staggering.
Going north? “The Beautiful Music All Around Us” continues through March 15 at the Stackner Cabaret, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI. For tickets, visit milwaukeerep.com or call (414) 224-9490.