Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"Soul Notes": a musical this weekend


Creighton Irons, a most talented UNC senior, Morehead Scholar, and Chapel Hill native, is finishing an interdisciplinary degree in race relations. His senior thesis is a musical that he has written: "Soul Notes." I saw it in a trial run last fall and was just bowled over by the music, the message, the breadth and depth of it. And that wasn't even with costumes or sets.

From my notes, snippets of lyrics.

"Then say that you walk into a bank. You want to get a loan but your credit record’s black. Turns out your parents know the clerk and he winks to let you know he’s gonna make it work. As you leave a brown man shuffles in. He’s shown the door before he can begin. You can’t let this get you, can’t let it upset you, because it’s not your fault you’re white--and besides everybody gets a raw deal sometimes."

"I haven’t added all that much to the rhythm of the world . . . Those whose shaped my music are for the most part dead and gone . . . jazz and funk and classical. And the last thing I want to do is take away anything from anyone that I respect so much, but I cannot think that Beethoven should be reserved for Germans or Madonna for women or Sinatra for white men . . . Music flows from my soul, from some . . . that I can’t know."

"Somehow this history has seeped inside of me and I may find that I'll never be free."

Here's what Creighton has to say about the show:

This show is the musical result of scores of personal interviews that I conducted in Jamaica, South Africa, and the American South. These interviews, most of them with black and white musicians, explore the big issues surrounding race in intimate and vulnerable ways. Backed by a full rock band, a talented cast of 20 from all corners of UNC’s campus brings these interviews to life with the sounds of reggae, blues, rock, gospel, and bluegrass.

I grew up in Chapel Hill always knowing that ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ were different in certain ways, but never knowing exactly why or how. My first semester at UNC challenged not just these notions of inherent difference, but of race altogether. Now, after a few years of going at the issues surrounding race relations in America head on, I find myself with new perspectives and convictions, as well as new questions to go with some of the old ones. I dove into racial issues to better understand why our common humanity is so often trumped by seemingly arbitrary distinctions and divisions, and although I haven’t found all the answers, so many of my stereotypes and prejudices have evaporated along the way.

My greatest hope for Soul Notes is that it will inspire in its audience some kind of new thought and soul-searching on race, culture, faith, rationality, love, and other big concepts…. Even in liberal Chapel Hill, a culture of racism works its way into our hearts and minds from when we’re young, and it seems that the ways we’ve tried to attack it aren’t working all that well. If the answer were purely intellectual or structural, we’d have figured it out by now. I can’t help but feel that if we let ourselves have a true and honest dialogue about race, from the bottoms of our hearts instead of the tops of our heads, if we really dig into our souls, then we’ll step closer to the harmony that the singers in this show embody.

Performances of "Soul Notes" will be in the Kenan Theater in the Center for Dramatic Arts on the UNC campus.

March 4 at 8:15
March 5 at 8:15
March 6 at 8:15
March 7 at 4:00 and 8:15
March 8 at 5:00 p.m.

To reserve tickets ($5 each), email the following address:

Tickets (open seating) are to be picked up at least 15 minutes before the show begins.

There's a teaser performance at noon on Thursday, March 3, at the Johnston Center.

Creighton was a strong presence on our Airport Road-MLK committee. At last night's council meeting he was selected to be on the committee to organize the celebration of the name change on May 8. I look forward to working with him again. Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to "Soul Notes." Don't miss it!

UPDATED here and here.

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