The third annual Sarahfest, billed as a multidisciplinary “artistic journey” hosted by the University of Mississippi’s Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and Living Music Resource, is underway with the theme “Liberty and Justice for All.”
One of the highlights of this year’s Sarafest is a concert by Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. The group is set to perform classic Mississippi folk music at 5 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 8) in Nutt Auditorium.
Thomas is the granddaughter of Mississippi blues legend Othar “Otha” Turner. Turner founded the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, whose music has been featured in films including Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.” The band also has worked with musical giants such as Eric Clapton and Cyndi Lauper.
“Sharde Thomas continues the legacy of a style of music older than the blues,” said Nancy Maria Balach, UM associate professor of music and director of the Living Music Resource. LMR is an online video resource featuring interviews with renowned vocalists and composers recorded on campus.
This is the second year that the Sarah Isom Center and LMR have teamed to host Sarahfest. The two entities share the same fervor for collaboration and community, so the partnership was a natural step, Balach said.
“The interdisciplinary collaborations between the Sarah Isom Center and LMR are achieving these efforts through innovative educational events that foster human connection, empathy, education and understanding both on and off campus,” she said.
After the Sunday concert, Thomas will appear on “LMR Live,” an interactive live interview series hosted by Balach. In previous years, “LMR Live” was taped at the Yoknapatawpha Art Council’s Powerhouse, but this edition will be staged in Nutt Auditorium.
Scott Baretta, who hosts Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s “Highway 61” program, also will be on set with Thomas.
A group of six Ole Miss music majors, referred to as the “Dream Team,” help Balach with her production of “LMR Live” and will assist with the show.
Later this month, LMR and the Sarah Isom Center team up again for more Sarahfest events. UM alumnus and composer Price Walden will be the guest at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 on “LMR Live” and then is set to perform one of his piano compositions at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in Nutt Auditorium.
Walden is one of Southern Living’s first-ever “Heroes of the New South,” and his works explore religion, sexuality and his experience in the region. His latest work is a piece commissioned by Bruce Levingston, the Chancellor’s Honors College artist-in-residence, for the Mississippi bicentennial.
“Sharde Thomas and her Rising Star Fife and Drum Band and Cecil Price Walden are amazing artists,” said Theresa Starkey, associate director of the Sarah Isom Center. “Our partnership with LMR made these two dynamic performances possible, which is exciting. It reflects what happens when you’re open to an interdisciplinary approach to programming and have a belief in the power of the arts to create transformative spaces.”
All Sarahfest events are free and open to the public.
By Anna Herd
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