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Arts & Culture
Each Thursday, WFAE checks in with a local arts and entertainment reporter about things to do in Charlotte during the upcoming weekend.

Music Outside, African American Heritage Festival, Dance And More: Lots On Tap In Charlotte

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It’s time to take a look at events on tap for the weekend in the Queen City. The Charlotte Museum of History is hosting its annual African American Heritage Festival, an outdoor jazz series kicks off, the Davidson Players have a comedy production this weekend only, and the Bechtler Ensemble will be at the Duke Mansion.

Gwendolyn Glenn: Joining me to talk about the Bechtler Ensemble and other events is Dashiell Coleman, co-writer of WFAE’s arts and culture newsletter, Tapestry. Hi, Dash.

Dashiell Coleman: Hi, Gwen. How are you today?

Glenn: I am great. So Dash, as you tell us about the Bechtler Ensemble, describe the venue as well.

Coleman: So, the Bechtler Ensemble features cello, guitar, violin and piano. They’ll be at the Duke Mansion in southeast Charlotte, where they’ll be performing 20th century French compositions and some cheerful Danish pieces as well as works by Russian composer Scriabin and Armenian composer Hovhaness.

The Duke Mansion is a beautiful, historic home built in 1915, and it serves as a bed and breakfast and event venue. The performance is outside, and people are being encouraged to check out the mansion’s gardens while there. Just a note, Gwen, guests should bring their own chairs -- and seating will be spaced out.

Glenn: When is the performance happening?

Coleman: It’s Sunday at 6 p.m.

(RECORDING OF JOHN DILLARD MUSIC PLAYS)

Glenn: That’s the sound of bassist John Dillard, who will be at Victoria Yards in uptown this weekend. Dash, Victoria Yards has become a popular spot for live performances and this weekend, the Jazz series kicks off. And in June, it will feature bass players with Dillard as the headliner. Who else will be performing?

Coleman: JazzArts All-Stars will be there tomorrow night to highlight some up-and-coming stars in Charlotte. That will include Gustavo Cruz, Samuel David, Holland Majors and Olivia Ratfliff. Now the Ron Brendle Quartet is also playing tomorrow night. He is, of course, well known around town. He has been named one of the best bass players in Charlotte for years. And a little more about the headliner, John Dillard. He’s been described as one of the “funkiest” bass players, and he’s won two Grammys.

Glenn: And Dash, this weekend only, “Love, Lost and What I Wore,” a play based on the book of the same name by Ilene Beckerman, is on stage.

(RECORDING OF SCENE PLAYS)

Glenn: Now, of course, that was an excerpt from the Off-Broadway production featuring Tyne Daley, Rosie O’Donnell and others, who won’t be in the local production, right Dash?

Coleman: Right! This is an all-local cast. It’s all women from the Davidson Community Players. It follows the lives of 28 women. It focuses on love and loss, obviously, and what’s especially interesting is that it’s framed through the women’s choices of clothing and apparel over the years -- so things like wedding dresses and accessories.

Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Glenn: Now the Charlotte Museum of History is having its annual African American Heritage Festival, which kicked off Tuesday. It celebrates the history and culture of Charlotte’s Black community. You talked to Adria Focht, the museum’s CEO, earlier this week about the festival.

Adria Focht (recording): A little bit of something for everybody. A lot of history, of course. And hopefully, people can get engaged and really think about the continuity of the Black experience in Mecklenburg County and think about how we got here today and where we go from now.

Glenn: Dash, the festival is virtual and in-person this year. Tell us some of the highlights.

Coleman: Yeah, there have been virtual events throughout the week, including a West African dance demonstration by the Charlotte Ballet and a panel of historians talking about the Rosenwald Fund, which built thousands of schoolhouses for Black children across the South in the early 20th century.

There’s a sold-out JazzArts ensemble concert Friday that features a timeline of music created by Black musicians from the 19th century up to modern times.

Saturday is the last day of the festival, and people will be able to attend an in-person performance from Drums 4 Life on the museum grounds as well as watch a live painting demonstration where four local artists will paint portraits of notable Black figures from Charlotte’s history. And one big thing, Gwen: The museum is letting people inside for time since the pandemic to see a new exhibit about the Siloam School. That’s a Rosenwald school building that the museum is trying to restore and relocate.

Glenn: And some of these events, you do have to register for, right?

Coleman: Right. And the one in person, that starts Saturday starting at 2:30. And it’s all free, but you have to register because of limited space due to social distancing.

Glenn: Also this weekend, the Charlotte Cirque and Dance is holding a free dress rehearsal on Friday, and a full production, “Animalia with Dr. Knows A. Lot” later that evening as well. What can folks expect to see at this performance?

Coleman: This rehearsal is for a new show called Random Acts of Kindness, and it’s billed as showcasing just that -- things like giving someone flowers or a hug. It’s meant to be heartwarming, and the cast will be showing love for each other and the audience through dance and circus arts. “Animalia” is an action-packed performance that follows a character named Dr. Knows A. Lot as he explores a world full of dancers playing creatures like panthers, koalas and even fish.

Glenn: Now Dash, this isn’t just dancers dancing on a stage in most dance performances, right?

Coleman: Right. Gwen, they’re doing some interpretive dance and using elongated ribbons, and it’s going to be very colorful. This is a great thing to take your kids to. It’s very colorful, and they’ll be very amused.

Glenn: And the times?

Coleman: The dress rehearsal is at 4 on Friday, and the full show is at 7:30.

Glenn: Let’s shift back to some more music from AFTM, who will be playing at River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center this weekend.

Coleman: Yeah, AFTM is an up-and-coming group out of Athens, Georgia — of course a great music town. They’re known for Southern rock and indie rock sounds, and their first album came out in 2019. They’ll be at the Whitewater Center on Friday at 7. At the same time on Saturday night, Lord Nelson will be performing for River Jam. They’re a rock band out of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Glenn: And other events include Eat Black Charlotte Week, with prix fixed meals at select Black-owned restaurants, which continues through Saturday; Damn Tall Buildings, Bluegrass with an attitude, is live at Queens University outdoors on Sunday at 2 p.m., and … Willie Walker and Conversation Piece will be performing on Sunday night at Middle C Jazz Club. Walker has played with Najee, George Howard and many more. Dash, thanks for helping preview this weekend in entertainment.

Coleman: Hey, Gwen, happy to be here.

Glenn: Dashiell Coleman is co-writer for WFAE's arts and culture newsletter, Tapestry.

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