Chautauqua’s grand opera house has seen plenty of unusual uses this summer, from a drag show to lectures, in addition to the traditional productions from the Chautauqua Opera Company & Conservatory. Now, a blend of Americana, folk and pop take the stage with a special performance from Hiss Golden Messenger at Aoife O’Donovan at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20 in Norton Hall.
Hiss Golden Messenger, with songwriter and bandleader M.C. Taylor at the fore, was established in Durham, North Carolina, in 2007. After releasing their first few albums on their own record label, they signed with Merge in 2014; since then, their 2019 album Terms of Surrender received a nomination for Best Americana Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Award, and the band has performed as part of the Newport Folk Festival. Their latest album, Quietly Blowing It, was released in 2021.
“It’s not exactly a record about the state of the world — or my world — in 2020, but more a retrospective of the past five years of my life, painted in sort of impressionistic hues,” Taylor told media when the album was released. “Maybe I had the presence of mind, when I was writing Quietly Blowing It, to know that this was the time to go as deep as I needed to in order to make a record like this. And I got the time required in order to do that.”
Hiss Golden Messenger is joined Saturday by Grammy award-winning artist Aoife O’Donovan, best known as the lead singer for the string band Crooked Still and co-founder Grammy Award-winning female folk trio I’m with Her, who first performed at Chautauqua Institution in 2017. The trio’s debut album, See You Around, was hailed as “willfully open-hearted” by NPR Music. I’m With Her earned an Americana Music Association Award in 2019 for Duo/Group of the Year, and a Grammy-award in 2020 for Best American Roots Song. She’s a regular performer on the public radio show “Live From Here,” hosted by Chris Thile, who’s both performing and lecturing this week in the Amphitheater for the Week Nine theme, “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture, and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”
O’Donovan is a powerful presence in the folk music world, but blurs and transcends genres; The New York Times once deemed her “a vocalist of unerring instinct.”
Her most recent album, and her third solo one, was Age of Apathy, released in January of this year.
“Music is everything to me — it’s literally the most important thing,” she told The New York Times the week the album was released. “When I think about where do I want my life to go, where do I want to be when I’m older, what’s going to happen after we die — the music is the thing that will get us through to the end. And music is what will be there after we’re gone.”