Friday, October 19, 2018

Chapter & Verse - discovering the artist VerseChorusVerse through prose and song #BelFest2018

Tony Wright walks onto the stage wearing his trademark hat, carrying a guitar case and pulling a suitcase behind him. A solo musician needs to become a seasoned traveller in order to survive nomadic touring schedules and grabbing gigs were destiny offers them.
“I wrote a book. I get bored. You spend a lot of time by yourself when you’re a solo musician.”
Chapter and Verse is a bit of a departure for the artist known as VerseChorusVerse. He’s more used to stepping up to the mic to sing, yet his ebullient nature can also carry an audience with excerpts from his recently published memoir Chapter & Verse(ChorusVerse) which is packed full of stories about being out on the road for twenty years. [Update - now vailable on Kindle (at £5 for a limited period)]

Dressed in black and with a mop of ginger hair that beautifully tones in with the wood of his guitar, he peppers stories from his networking trip to the US with songs from his back catalogue.

As we move across New York, Nashville and Napa – a networking tour brought to us by the letter ‘N’! – we are entertained by his erudite recollections people and places, with dramatic readings interrupted by his riffing on the written word and extra commentary. If the music ever dries up, Wright’s voice would be a gift for the audiobook industry.

As each anecdote ends he heads back to his guitar and gifts the sold-out Belfast International Arts Festival audience at The MAC (including one man who’s come all the way from Belgium) with another song. The biggest fans mouth along with the words; the newest fans shake their heads – in a good way – as his voice shifts from a whisper to a guttural rasp and then to powerful growls. Who needs a backing band when your larynx can accompany your guitar-picking fingers. That’s what the punters at the New York SideWalk CafĂ© open mic night discovered.

The mix of stories and songs is a bit like listening to really well-constructed album, full of good tracks that together add up to something greater; in this case, a better understanding of the artist pacing up and down in front of us. As the reverb for his final Shakedown Sally dies down the audience realise that we have heard a performer who not only grasps every chance he’s given but appreciates them, who has a pair of high capacity lungs hidden behind his guitar, and who can still pull of a Mid Ulster drawl.

Tony Wright is currently artist in residence at The MAC. Hopefully he’ll return to its stage before long. In the meantime, you can catch Chapter & Verse as he heads out on tour with his solo memoir show across Northern Ireland. If you spot a guy with a hat, guitar and suitcase at the bus stop or train station, say hello: you’ll have found a great travelling companion … though you may end up in the next book!
  • 2 November – Waterside Theatre, Derry
  • 4 November – Seamus Heaney HomePlace
  • 8 November – Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey
  • 9 November – Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick
  • 10 November – Riverside Theatre, Coleraine
  • 22 November – Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, Newry
  • 23 November – Island Arts Centre, Lisburn
  • 1 February 2019 – Market Place Theatre, Armagh

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