On Friday, September 29, 2017, Slover Library will host a first ever musical collaboration with the Virginia Stage Company by bringing the stars of Ring of Fire to perform live for Slover Sounds.
At 12:30 PM on the 29th, Ben Hope and Katie Barton will perform a selection of Johnny Cash classics as well as some of their own original tunes. Hope and Barton, a real life couple, play Johnny and June Carter Cash in the stage musical Ring of Fire, about Johnny Cash’s life and career.
The collaboration, presented by the East Coast Music Conference (ECMC), grew out of a chance meeting between VSC’s new Producing Artistic Director, Tom Quaintance, and one of the directors of the ECMC. The ECMC will be hosted by Slover Library next May and both the library and the conference were already looking for ways to create events in advance to engage other arts organizations and the community. This led to the idea of using the existing Slover Sounds series to highlight Virginia Stage Company’s season opener.
Since it opened two years ago, Slover Library has been bringing live music to its patrons twice a month via its Slover Sounds series. The free performances have become a staple of Norfolk’s ascendant live music scene. Slover Sounds hosts a variety of musical styles and artists have come from as far away as South Carolina and New Jersey for the opportunity to play, though most are from the Norfolk area.
The library has played host to steel drums, bluegrass, acoustic, soul and more. Regional artists who have been featured include True Body, Bonne Chere, Narissa Bond, and Billy Mercury. The programming for Slover Sounds is done by Michael Lusby. He says he is actively looking for artists who haven’t performed at Slover Sounds and that artists love playing the space.
Shows are typically in the Forum by the main entrance but some are also held in the large community room on the 6th Floor. It was there that Billy Mercury’s album release preview was held for a standing room only crowd. Since that performance, Mercury’s career has been taking off with a video receiving over 20,000 views and bookings at several major events including the main stage of the A3C festival in Atlanta and a featured slot at ECMC. Lusby doesn’t think Slover Sounds deserves much credit for Mercury’s success, but Billy Mercury is another example of the growing range and quality of the series and the cache it carries.
Lusby looks forward to doing more shows like the Billy Mercury release. The sound system on the 6th floor is due to be upgraded. He says he’s excited for that and that the upgrade is part of Slover’s dedication to promoting art, music, and technology together within the community.
A musician himself, Lusby is not distracted by the success of the series or the technology. He says that to him what’s really exciting is “to bring music to people”. He recalls the story of a conversation he had with a fellow Slover employee after a recent True Body show. “She was like, ‘I always thought of myself as a music fan, but I never listened to any music around here. When I saw True Body I realized, oh wow, there’s actually people who make good music right here.’ That was, I think, the highest compliment I think I’ve gotten. That’s exactly what I want to do.”
In the coming weeks and months, Slover Sounds has a number of events already booked that have Lusby excited. In addition to the Ring of Fire performance, Billy Mercury returns to the Slover on October 13 for a show that’s sure to pack the house, and Lusby is especially looking forward to having The Framers perform on October 28.
Looking forward a bit further Lusby says, “The event I’m excited for is ECMC, that’s for sure. I think it’s going to be totally killer. We’ve had a few big events, but none that are dedicated to music, so I think it’s a natural spot to be here at Slover. I know a lot of the staff are excited. It’s going to be a killer event.”
Approximately 50 performances will be hosted at Slover during the four days of ECMC along with panels, speakers, and various games, contests and activities for musicians and music fans alike. All six floors of Slover Library will be activated for the conference. Artists from as far away as Japan and Brazil have applied to perform at Slover during the conference.
With its towering Forum space, award winning design, state of the art technology, and broad engagement with the community, Slover Library is a venue like no other in the region, and Slover Sounds is able to produce truly unique and memorable shows.
The Ring of Fire event is yet another example of the musical quality and diversity that Slover Sounds is coming to represent. The collaboration between Slover Sounds and Virginia Stage Company will hopefully be just the first of many such partnerships as Norfolk continues to develop into one of the premiere art and music scenes on the East Coast.