Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance to Welcome Nnenna Freelon


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Shakori Hills to Feature Two Local Treasures: The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Nnenna Freelon play a home stage this fall

Pittsboro, NC - The Fall Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, taking place October 9-12, 2008 will be welcoming two very different, yet fascinating acts who call the Triangle area home. They will both be taking the stage on Saturday. A fairly new band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops have toured enough in the past two years to make audiences believe they've been around much longer. Their brand of old-time endears itself to listeners from the first note. Nnenna Freelon, on the other hand, has been compared to Nina Simone and other great women of jazz. Her list of stages on which she has performed is remarkable: Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and even the White House. Shakori Hills will be honored to have both of these acts upon their stages.

The responsibility an artist takes performing a traditional kind of music is huge. Nnenna Freelon takes on this responsibility with ease and respect. A six-time Grammy Award-nominee, she has earned a well-deserved reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer. Her performance at the White House for the 20th Anniversary of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the 43rd annual Grammy Awards telecast, her performances for the legendary Julie Andrews at the Society of Singers’ “Ella Awards,” Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, and at the most famous jazz festivals around the globe have all been rousing successes. Anyone who has heard and seen Freelon sing knows she is a skillful interpreter of even the most familiar jazz standards.

Along with a fantastic career in musical performance, Freelon is also widely known and respected for her dedication to using the power of music to educate young people, both musicians and non-musicians. Her master classes and workshops teach adults and children that they too can change the world, but it takes dedication and perseverance, the substance of Nnenna’s educational activities. Her messages reach into the very soul of the person listening and encourage, in fact motivate them, toward constructive change and to create positive energy.

Despite her career, Freelon considers her two most important lifetime roles those of wife and mother. Her husband Phil Freelon is an accomplished award-winning architect, his firm The Freelon Group, based in Durham, has worked on projects such as the Durham Bulls Athletics Park, RDU Airport, and many buildings on NC Central’s campus. Her son, Pierce, has a budding musical career of his own. His band, The Beast, is a fascinating mix of jazz, hip hop, and soul. Pierce also dedicates much of his efforts to educating audiences with and about music. The Beast will be making its second Shakori appearance this fall on Friday evening. Nnenna’s inspiration is shown clearly through her son’s talents. She has led her children and students by example – follow your dreams, dedicate yourself, and work hard in all you do.

In an altogether different type of tradition The Carolina Chocolate Drops take the stage as a threesome of young black old-time musicians. At first listen and glace, this is something new, but listen to them tell their stories and they will share a long-standing tradition of black string music. Their young faces are a blip in time compared to the trip that first banjo took across the waters from Africa to the United States.

The band consists of Rhiannon Giddens, Justin Robinson (both from the North Carolina Piedmont) and Dom Flemons (from Arizona). Their N.C. Piedmont style of old-time was handed to them mostly from their friend Joe Thompson of Mebane, N.C., who is said to be the last black traditional string musician. The band strives to carry on the long-standing traditional music of the black and white communities from the area.

Rhiannon’s voice is at one point operatic and the next taken right from a front porch in Appalachia. Her banjo picking reflects the joyful play of a traditional reel and the respect of its African ancestors. Justin plays the fiddle and sings, his smile belying how much fun he’s having and his feet moving right along. Dom sports such abnormal instruments as the spoons, the bones, and the jug with the comfort with which a rock percussionist only holds his drumsticks. The audience plays a part, singing along, overjoyed by the dance tunes and moved by the ballads.

Everyone knows that the Piedmont of North Carolina is rich in musical talent. Shakori Hills strives to bring that talent to light and celebrate it in the best way possible. These two spectacular acts are just some of the treasures to be found this fall. There is plenty more to keep everyone entertained and happy including delicious local food vendors, talented artisans selling their work, and a wide variety of safe and exciting children’s activities.

Other performers: Featured performers: The Del McCoury Band, The Duhks, Donna the Buffalo, Eileen Ivers, Abe Reid and the Spikedrivers, Apple Chill Cloggers, Atsiaktonkie, Barrelhouse Mamas, The Belleville Outfit, Big Fat Gap, Bluegrass Experience, Boulder Acoustic Society, Bubba George Stringband, Cane Creek Cloggers, Des Ark, Divisa Nacional, dub Addis, Elikem African Dance, Eric Ginsburg, the everybodyfields, The Fairlanes, The Green Deeps, Haw River Rounders, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Hot Politics, HuDost, John Specker, Jule Brown, Mad Tea Party, Martha and the Moodswingers, Megafaun, Midtown Dickens, Moontee Sinqua, Mosadi Music, No Strings Attached, Paleface, Plena Libre, Preston Frank, Rootzie, Saludos Compay, Samantha Crain, Sarah Shook, Speedsquare, Stephanie’s Id, Thacker Dairy Road, Toubab Krewe, Unknown Tongues, and more…

Tickets are available online at shakorihills.org and by telephone at (919) 542-8142. Regular adult four-day passes are $75 in advance and $85 at the gate. Four-day passes for youth ages 13-15 are $45 (children 12 years and younger are free). Day tickets are also available: $22 for Thursday, $30 for Friday, $37 for Saturday, and $26 for Sunday. On-site parking is $4 per day or $10 for the weekend.

Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance is sponsored by Shakori Hills, Inc., a non-profit formed in order to provide an environment for community building through arts and education for Chatham County and beyond.

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