On the opening night of the 2011 Westobou Festival, Mac McCaughan will debut an original score to a selection of films by avant garde filmmaker Maya Deren.
McCaughan, a member of the bands Superchunk and Portastatic, will have his usual guitar and drums. But he’ll also include strings, trombone and a vibraphone, some of which will be played by musicians from Augusta, when the band takes the stage under a big screen showcasing Deren’s films.
“It’s unusual for sure,” said McCaughan, co-founder of Merge Records. “It’s so different than any movie-going experience you’ve had. It’s different than any concert you’ve seen.”
The event, Transfigured Time: Music for the Films of Maya Deren by Mac McCaughan, kicks off 10 days of Westobou Festival events from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8. Augusta’s fourth annual celebration of the arts features fewer acts but bigger names, including more collaborations and one-of-a-kind performances, like Transfigured Time.
The event is modeled after the success of last year’s 13 Most Beautiful, a production at Sacred Heart that combined Andy Warhol’s screen tests with accompaniment from indie rockers Dean & Britta.
“We wanted to see more of that kind of thing happening,” said Molly McDowell, the festival’s curator and art director. “That’s exactly what we got. This is a world premiere. The music is brand new.”
More than 50 performances showcasing local, regional and national talent are included in this year’s festival.
“It’s non-stop. Even with fewer events, there are so many I want to see,” said Coco Rubio, of Semi-Precious Productions, the local label that presented 13 Most Beautiful last year and will present Transfigured Time for the 2011 festival.
Transfigured Time features four short films – Ritual in Transfigured Time, Meshes of the Afternoon, At Land and The Very Eye of Night – that will be set to original compositions by McCaughan. Some of the films were silent, but others were stripped of sound for the production.
“Musically it covers a pretty wide range,” McCaughan said. “It’s rock. It’s minimalist. That was the stuff that was harder for me to write. As part of a band, I want things to wrap up in three minutes. It requires more restraint from my natural inclination, because each song develops over 14 or 15 minutes. You can go more places and do more things because you have the luxury of time.”
The world premiere of McCaughan’s score is just the first of several high-profile acts in this year’s festival, McDowell said.
“The events are a step up in quality and recognition,” she said. “We want people to say, ‘Man, I can’t believe that’s happening in Augusta.’ ”
FOR THE 2011 SEASON, the festival debuts a new venue – the former parade grounds of Richmond Academy. It’s the site of big-name concerts, including Rosanne Cash, with opening act Blue Rodeo, on Sept. 30 and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings on Oct. 7.
“Nothing has ever been staged on those parade grounds before. It’s a new downtown venue for us that can easily hold 3,000 people,” McDowell said.
Almost every day of the festival features a headliner, McDowell said.
Day one – Sept. 29 – features a reception for the year’s signature artist, Art Rosenbaum, and Transfigured Time.
Three big musical events fill day two, including Cash’s performance, and the Georgia premiere of Incarnatio Mysteria. The Davidson Chorale, under the director of Timothy Powell, will follow its June Lincoln Center premiere of the piece with a performance at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. That same evening, Langhorne Slim brings Americana rock to Sky City.
The first weekend of Westobou continues with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of public radio with This American Life host Ira Glass, who speaks at Augusta State University on Oct. 1.
Paine College will also host Westobou Festival events, including I Waltzed With God The Morning of Genesis, an amalgamation of music, dance, spoken word, art and fashion. The performance will be held Sept. 30, while an opening reception featuring the art of Augusta artist Nancy Wellington Bookhart is Oct. 2, and the exhibit remains open through Nov. 30.
THE SECOND WEEK of Westobou begins with an evening of jazz, featuring saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet’s longtime pianist, Joey Calderazzo, along with Augusta’s own Jessye Norman, at the Imperial Theatre on Oct. 3.
The following day kicks off the first of three events celebrating 50 years since Harper Lee published her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. A documentary on the author’s life will be shown at Augusta-Richmond County Library, followed that evening by a screening of the book’s film adaptation. The library will also host an exhibit Oct. 5 on the life and work of Horton Foote, the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind To Kill A Mockingbird.
That same day is host to one of Westobou’s most unique events, McDowell said. Augusta State music professor Carl Purdy and retired ASU art professor Priscilla Hollingsworth will present Hums and Oms: Performing Sculpture at the school. The performance features original compositions of Purdy’s played on clay pots sculpted by Hollingsworth.
The largest dance event of the festival is Oct. 8. The Augusta Ballet presents Botanica, a modern ballet by dance theater, Momix.
“It’s a tribute to the garden city. It explores the natural world we live in,” said Jennifer Franks, executive director of Augusta Ballet. “It’s fantasy. It’s a visual, sumptuous fantasy. It’s living, breathing art. Poetry in motion. It captures the spirit of Westobou: Expect the unexpected.”
The festival wraps with three large musical performances on its final weekend, including Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Lizz Wright, and a show by Symphony Orchestra Augusta.
R&B singer Wright brings both gospel and jazz to Imperial Theatre on Oct. 8, the final day of Westobou. The event overlaps with the Symphony’s presentation of A John Williams Spectacular at Bell Auditorium, which includes music from films like Star Wars, Jaws and Jurassic Park. The performance will feature a 90-piece orchestra and 200-voice choir.
“I think people are going to be blown away by it all,” Rubio said. “There’s a lot you don’t get to see here very often. We hope people take advantage of it, because we’re lucky to be able to have events of this caliber in Augusta.”