The audience should bring its “listening ears” when Anna & Elizabeth make their Victoria debut in Oak Bay Saturday night.
“If you’re willing to make a little space to hear something quiet, we have lots to share,” says Elizabeth LaPrelle.
Inspired by the richness and tradition of the music, Anna & Elizabeth gather songs and stories from archives and visits with elders.
“What we do is about taking an old song and making a new piece out of it,” LaPrelle said. “Sometimes it’s visual art like our ‘crankies,’ sometimes it’s an arrangement based on adding banjo or guitar or viola. A lot of our ideas come out of getting together in a studio – or one of our houses – and improvising.”
They bring songs to life in performance with sparse, atmospheric arrangements using guitar, banjo, fiddle, and a blend of voices. They accompany their songs with illustrated stories. The two revive the old scrolling picture show, dubbed ‘crankies’ – picture-scrolls illustrating the old songs they sing, which they create in tandem with papercuts, shadow puppets, prints, and embroidered fabric. Known as historians, storytellers, visual artists and gifted, intuitive musicians, LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt started making music and art together in 2011.
“We were both living in rural, Appalachian Virginia, with a fair bit of time on our hands. We set out to do a show that toured just around our little towns, and when we did that, we thought – let’s keep going,” LaPrelle said. “I think that a lot of the sounds we work with, the artistic influences, our own practices as artists, have all developed and grown over time. … One of our themes seems to be always exploring a new medium. When we first started it was paper-cutting, shadow-puppets and sewing as visual art — now we’re figuring out how to make dance films.”
Their musical influences are similar, with throwback to the old world of Sheila Kay Adams and Ginny Hawker.
“We listen to a lot of field recordings in archives, but, we are also modern humans, and currently very inspired by performers like Patti Smith and Meredith Monk,” LaPrelle says. “Personally, I’ve recently been on a Joanna Newsome kick.”
Anna & Elizabeth perform at Oak Bay Recreation Centre Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door), available in advance at Ivy’s Bookshop in Oak Bay, Oak Bay Recreation Centre and at beaconridgeproductions.com online.
Visit annaandelizabeth.com for a preview of the music.
“We’re working on some songs gleaned in research last year – things that we have yet to record, but are part of our live show. I mentioned that we’re making some dance films – so we’ve been busy making sketches and talking to people who build sets and make costumes and hold cameras. The dance piece we’re making a video of is in our current show.”