Long Weekend: Music Exhibitions and Festivals


Photograph courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame

You may not be on your way, but we can offer some advice on where you should be going. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is assembling Paul Simon: Words and Music—a 100-piece, 1,500-square-foot exhibition celebrating Simon’s life and lyrics, narrated by Simon himself. It’s the first ever first-person-format exhibition to be showcased at the museum, launched to mark the 50th anniversary of Simon’s first album release—Wednesday Morning, 3 AM—with Art Garfunkel. Visitors can expect a front-row seat to the songwriting process, personal stories, and performances that span the 12-time Grammy winner’s decades-long career, from the duo’s beginning through Simon’s solo years.

Perhaps most notably, you’ll be given access to more than 80 artifacts that Simon personally picked to display, such as handwritten lyrics and correspondence, rare photographs, instruments (including his first guitar), original sheet music, and even his summer camp letters to Garfunkel (see a preview on The Day Tripper blog at cincinnatimagazine.com). Plus, it’s only about four hours away—or four days if you hitchhike from Saginaw. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, rockhall.com

Grab your lawn chair, pack up the snacks, and bring your soul to the 30th Annual Chicago Gospel Music Festival. Begun in 1985 as a gathering and celebration of gospel singers from all over the world, each year 300,000 gospel devotees pack Millennium Park to witness three days of beautiful, moving (and free!) performances.

Chicago Gospel Music Festival
Chicago Gospel Music Festival

Photograph courtesy of the City of Chicago

Chicago’s gospel heritage traces back to 1894, when the Standard Quartette of Chicago became the first black vocal group to make commercial recordings. Much later, the godfather of gospel music, Thomas A. Dorsey, wrote the genre-defining “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and solidified Chicago as one of the country’s premier gospel cities.

Throughout May, there will be free gospel showcases at various churches in the Bronzeville neighborhood leading up to the festival on May 29–31. This year’s heavy hitters are contemporary Gospel superstars Tye Tribbett and Tasha Cobbs. Chicago Gospel Music Festival, chicagogosplemusicfestival.us

Before it was home to everyone’s bachelorette parties, Nashville, Tennessee, was home to the Nashville Cats—a group of top-tier musicians who played with everybody who was anybody that passed through Music City from the mid-1960s onward. Starting March 27, the Country Music Hall of Fame will honor them in Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City.

Simon's 1972 single, "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"
Simon’s 1972 single, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”

Photograph courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Between these world-class session players and the weekly ABC-syndicated Johnny Cash Show, from 1966 to 1974 Nashville attracted the likes of Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Steve Miller, and Simon & Garfunkel. This amalgamation of talent led to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, Neil Young’s Harvest, and legendary performances by Derek and the Dominos, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, and…well, as you can imagine, the list goes on a bit. In contrast to the polished, conservative country-politan sound being produced in most recording studios around the city, this music did not shy away from social commentary—which ruffled some feathers but also made music history.

The exhibition will include live performances, panel discussions, screenings of Cash’s show, and instrument demonstrations by the likes of hall-of-famer (and Nashville Cat!) harmonicist Charlie McCoy—all being booked on a rolling basis, so be sure to check their site. Scheduled to run through December 31, 2016, there’s plenty of time and material for you to become a country-rock history buff. Country Music Hall of Fame, countrymusichalloffame.org

Originally published in the April 2015 issue.

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