Jam-packed nights of entertainment in the Amphitheater have been deliciously derigueur this summer — from the classical to the contemporary, the stage has seen combined orchestras, triple-bills of the best in pop, country and blues, and cherished family films.
But the season isn’t over, and at the early time of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 in the Amp, two of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of their generation — Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter — will take the stage for a special double-bill performance.
In Carpenter’s sixth appearance at Chautauqua, she’ll open the evening with songs from her extensive and lauded catalog.
With five Grammy Awards, two CMA Awards and two Academy of Country Music awards to her name, Carpenter is one of only 15 women members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Carpenter, who has sold over 15 million records and recorded more than a dozen studio albums, released two albums in 2020 alone: The Dirt And The Stars and One Night Lonely, which was recorded live without an audience at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap.
In 2016, Carpenter told Daily reporter GeorgeAnne Oliver that every record “is different, simply because you’re a different person when you write those songs.”
“Making records has always been a matter of writing, writing, writing and then just sort of getting to a place where it just feels like a natural point,” she said in 2016.
For her new album, The Dirt and The Stars, Carpenter wrote on her website that to be a “student of art and music and life … is what makes life worth living.”
“The songs are very personal and they’re difficult in some ways, and definitely come from places of pain and self-illumination, but also places of joy, discovery and the rewards of self- knowledge,” she wrote. “They arrived from looking outward as much as inward. … I suppose I could say there are many themes, but they all come back to that initial truth that we are all constantly ‘becoming’ through art and expression.”
Carpenter and Harris have several dates lined up on their tour together this late summer and early fall, but this is hardly the first time they’ve shared a stage. Notably, in 2021, the two paired up to pay tribute to folk icon Joan Baez, performing “Diamonds & Rust” and “We Shall Overcome” at that year’s Kennedy Center Honors.
“Besides (Baez’s) music, I feel she changed the heart of America through her involvement in the civil rights movement, using her voice, literally using her voice, the way she did,” Harris told Jane Graham for an installment of The Big Issue’s “Letter to My Younger Self” series. “I’d love to tell that teenage girl listening to the radio that one day she’ll be on stage singing for Joan Baez at her induction into the Kennedy Center Honors.”
Harris, who closes the evening, is a 14-time Grammy Award winner and Billboard Century Award recipient. Over a 40-year career, Harris has recorded more than 25 albums, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2018. While Carpenter spent the pandemic recording, Harris told Robin Murray of Clash Music that she had “taken off the songwriting hat” while working on a memoir, and looking to the release of her album Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert (Live), recorded with The Nash Ramblers 30 years ago.
“Early on I think I had an ear — if you want to use that word — for a good lyric, that was full of meaning and poetry. But the longer you live, the deeper you go, and the more your heart grows from all your experiences, I think you relate more (to the emotional center of a song),” she told Murray. “But I don’t think it’s something that I consciously think about. I mean, when I’m singing I allow the song, and the lyrics, and the music to carry me. From the very beginning, I always thought of myself as an instrument to tell stories.”