OUR TOP PICKS OF THE MONTH’S EVENTS
Dancing into Town
The New York City-based dance company, Jessica Lang Dance, will make its New Orleans debut, performing at the Freda Lupin Memorial Hall at NOCCA on Jan. 18 and 19. As the director, Lang, a Juilliard School alumna who has created more than 75 works with a variety of prestigious companies, has her dancers shine in classical and contemporary styles, fusing fashion with ingenious choreography. Information, NobaDance.com.
A Legendary Bluesman
At age 87, B.B. King has been one of the reigning bluesmen for decades. The living legend will perform at Tipitina’s Uptown on Jan. 20. King, a Mississippi native who has been emulated for his signature bee-sting vibrato technique and praised for being down-to-earth despite his long-lasting fame, has won numerous awards for his musicianship and was named by TIME magazine as one of the top 10 best electric guitarists of all time. Information, Tipitinas.com.
Shakespeare for a New Generation
The New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane is one of 42 professional theater companies that participate in “Shakespeare for a New Generation,” a program that showcases the Bard’s productions to middle- and high-school students in communities across the country.
The festival stages full-length, professional productions of one of Shakespeare’s most frequently studied plays, bringing the world-reknowned tragedies and comedies to life with a refreshing energy. On Jan. 9-11 and 15-18, Hamlet, the story of the ill-fated Danish prince, will take place at Dixon Hall at the university. Information, NewOrleansShakespeare.tulane.edu
Interview with Nancy Staggs
A native of Nashville, Nancy Staggs has been singing and performing her entire life. Since moving to New Orleans four years ago, she has balanced a career at a retail shop while maintaining her passion for music. She has been featured on live studio albums for country singers including Alan Jackson, and recently began to perform solo at locations around New Orleans. Upcoming shows for the honey-voiced crooner take place at Mojito’s on Jan. 4, 23 and Feb. 1.
How long have you been performing? Honestly, I can’t remember not performing. My first solo was in a Christmas play at school when I was in kindergarten. When I was 6, I made my first recording with my Fisher Price tape recorder of my favorite Christmas songs.
What did your training entail? I started taking voice lessons when I was 14 at the local community college and continued with various teachers in various genres of music throughout high school. I participated in various school and civic choirs throughout childhood and high school. My high school choir was one of the top choirs in Tennessee. I received a full music scholarship to Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) where I studied Vocal Performance. There I participated in vocal groups, bands and choirs. I also studied Vocal Performance at Belmont University from 2002-’05.
Describe your style. Blues and jazz with a touch of soul. My biggest influences are Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. As a child, I couldn’t get enough of them. As far as more recently recorded music, Susan Tedeschi for her amazingly powerful voice, Diana Krall for her rich lower range and jazz styling and arrangements, Amy Winehouse for her soul and Jamie Cullum for his brilliant arrangements of songs from completely different genres. Growing up I also loved (and sang along to) Mariah Carey, Martina McBride (remember, I’m from Nashville) and Whitney Houston. I also love a cappella choir and church music and I think singing in church had a huge impact on my singing.
How has performing in New Orleans affected your style? New Orleans has changed my outlook on music and musicians. I grew up in Nashville, the place singers go to “get discovered.” Musicians there aren’t particularly welcoming to other musicians. Everything in music is truly a competition there. I have no desire to become a hugely famous singer – I just love making music. It’s my sanity ... my escape. I have found that in New Orleans, most musicians feel the same way. The first month I was here, Charmaine Neville pulled me up on stage at Snug Harbor after hearing me at an audition the day before. At the time, I really didn’t understand how big of a deal that was. That was my first time to see her and my first time to go to Snug Harbor. Here, musicians help each other out because we know how hard it is to be a musician sometimes! It’s also the nature of this city to lend a helping hand to others. The bottom line is that in New Orleans people make music because they love it and they love what it means to this city.
Through Jan. 6. PhotoNOLA: Currents 2012; Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Information, OgdenMuseum.org
Jan. 4. Guster plus Yellowbirds in concert; House of Blues. Information, HouseOfBlues.com
Jan. 5. LPO presents “The Music of Queen;” Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Information, MahaliaJacksonTheater.com
Jan. 6. Phunny Phorty Phellows parade; Uptown streetcar route. Information, PhunnyPhortyPhellows.com
Jan. 8-13, 15-20, 22-27. Jersey Boys; Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Information, MahaliaJacksonTheater.com
Jan. 9-13, 16-20, 22-24. Southern Rep Theater presents Venus in Fur; venues TBA. Information, SouthernRep.com
Jan. 10. General Pakenham’s Final Supper; Hotel Mazarin. Information, NewOrleansHotelCollection.com
Jan. 15. Justin Bieber in concert; New Orleans Arena. Information, JustinBieberMusic.com
Jan. 17. The Good Apple Gala; National World War II Museum’s Stage Door Canteen. Information, 561-7312.
Jan. 19. SimplePlay presents Coyotes and Roadkill Ghost Choir plus Vox and the Hound. Information, OneEyedJacks.net
Jan. 23. Los Lobos – Acoustic En Vivo; Tipitina’s Uptown. Information, Tipitinas.com
Jan. 29. Children’s Hospital Guild Mardi Gras Mambo Bingo; Pontchartrain Center (Kenner). Information, 896-9373, chnola.org