Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fresh from Vegas, Close brings out-of-this-world vision to UAB's Alys Stephens Center

UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center welcomed old friends back to Birmingham this week for a brand-new show that will blow Birmingham’s mind: “Cirque Alys Aerial Music.”


UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents “Cirque Alys Aerial Music” from uabnews on Vimeo.

The talented performers of MASS Ensemble first visited the ASC in September 2010, when they created a residency and jaw-dropping performance with experimental musical instruments, including a giant “Earth Harp” constructed from the walls of the Alys Stephens Center.

Now MASS is back to present a new show curated, conceived and designed specifically for the Alys Stephens Center. Set for 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, this awe-inspiring event, which takes place both inside and outside, will be an immersive musical experience that combines one-of-a-kind instruments, aerial performers and elaborate staging. Following a series of open-air performances throughout this week by MASS Ensemble, mastermind and artistic director William Close will join the group on Friday after playing shows in Las Vegas for “America’s Got Talent.” Close was a finalist on the NBC program this summer, bringing the Earth Harp to a nationwide audience.

“Cirque Alys Aerial Music” will feature the Earth Harp, billed as the largest stringed instrument on the planet, and the many other unique musical instruments Close has invented.

MASS Ensemble has performed twice daily since Tuesday for the free residency portion of the visit. The performances are set outside in the ASC’s Engel Plaza on a 32-foot-tall truss sculpture, built Sunday and Monday by hard-working ASC crew members. The crowds have been mesmerized as MASS members perform, with Andrea Brook on Earth Harp, Gordon Bash on Drum Cloud, Scott Passaglia on Aquatar and vocals by Rafe Pearlman. Aerialists Selkie Hom and Alysia James twirl and spin with only the sky as their stage, secure on the ropes with their training and athleticism but still providing heart-dropping moments of excitement.

Close will take center stage for the headline performance Friday. It will begin in the ASC’s Jemison Concert Hall, with the instruments and performers hanging above the audience from the secure rafters of the hall. The Earth Harp will be strung across the top of the hall, allowing patrons to hear and feel the vibrations of the instrument. For a grand finale, the performance will move outdoors to the plaza. The audience is then invited to stay for the Aerial Music after-party, featuring MASS’s resident DJ, food vendors and cash-only bars. Birmingham, this is an event not to be missed.

About the blogger: Shannon Thomason, Thomason@uab.edu, is a media specialist in the UAB Office of Media Relations. Her beat covers the arts at UAB.

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