Merrily They Roll Along, Performing
(4/22/2010) By JAN ELLEN SPIEGEL
WHEN the Arts Council of Greater New Haven began searching for a vehicle to transport arts programs around the city, it ran into a problem. “We didn’t have any money for the vehicle,” said David Brensilver, a council spokesman.
The solution was Exact Change, a once-a-year event that uses CT Transit in New Haven — the public bus system — as the vehicle, literally, for arts performances. This year, its third, Exact Change will be held on May 8, with performances along five regular bus routes that end at the New Haven Green. There is no charge above the normal $1.25 bus fare.
“The program, if it has a mission, is to create more access for an audience who otherwise might not enjoy the same exposure as others, but it also creates opportunities for artists,” Mr. Brensilver said. “And, I would add, it’s fun.”
Performing on a bus, however, has its challenges. Carlos Hortas, a performance poet who, with musicians, participated two years ago, recalled that he needed to time poems between stops and that he had to shout to be heard over street noise. Some riders, he said, were thrilled; others found it an intrusion.
None of that, however, is keeping him from performing again this year. “It goes with my philosophy of art being experiential and hands-on,” he said. “An in-the-moment kind of thing.”
An all-women’s barbershop quartet called Noteworthy, part of the bigger all-women’s barbershop chorus Silk’n Sounds, is participating this year for the first time.
“One of the great things about barbershop is you have no instrument other than your voice, so you can take it places,” said Therese Bennett, a baritone. “It won’t be the first time we’ve sung on a bus. When we travel for competition, we sing the whole the way there.”
But David Chevan and his group, Afro-Semitic Experience — also first-time participants — are doing some adjusting. The group will trim down to four performers instead of its usual six or seven to present its amalgam of black and Jewish music.
Mr. Chevan will forgo his customary instrument, the bass, for a much smaller, three-stringed African bolon, made from a gourd. He said he has jammed on a bus with friends, played on barges and other boats and even on a carousel. He is grateful that he is not prone to carsickness, but noted that a city bus has its risks.
“We have to be very careful, which is why we’re emphasizing the percussive end,” he said, explaining why the group will go heavy on the drums, though Will Bartlett, another member of the group, will have his clarinet.
“If we hit a pothole just right,” Mr. Chevan said, “That clarinet could end up in Will’s nose.”
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