West Seattle theater standout, Dan Niven is performing with the Total Experience Gospel Choir as they accompany rock band HEART at Bumbershoot. The choir will be providing background vocals for a very special performance of the Led Zeppelin classic, Stairway to Heaven on Aug. 31.
West Seattle, Ballard artists prepare for Bumbershoot
By Sarah Wyatt
Decisions, decisions: watch a group of mariachi musicians, a nationally-acclaimed gospel choir, a 1980s “girl band,” a glass artist or a fire-eater?
Is this an alternate universe?
No, it’s Bumbershoot, the diverse annual arts event that takes over Seattle Center over Labor Day weekend. With artists representing a wide range of performing, visual and literary genres, the festival celebrates the varied nature of the arts and culture scene in the Pacific Northwest and internationally.
Hollis Wong-Wear is a teaching artist and mentor for Youth Speaks Seattle, a role she assumed after a stint at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. The poet, who also performs with a music group, is participating in Bumbershoot this year.
“I've been involved with the festival for five years now, on the community board and literary programming, but this year for the first time I am performing on a music stage with my synth-pop trio, The Flavr Blue,” Wong-Wear explained. “We perform on Saturday on the Fisher Green Stage.”
Wong-Wear enjoys the festival, and appreciates her progression from volunteer to performer.
“I've had amazing experiences at Bumbershoot-- the event truly encapsulates the energy and boundless creativity of Seattle and the region, with an amazing diversity of art mediums and sounds --from the intimate to the spectacle,” Wong-Wear said. “I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to be creative as a programmer and now as a performer. Grateful for the role Bumbershoot plays in the music and art community. “
Wong-Wear said she benefits from the inventive energy in West Seattle, and finds its young residents especially inspiring.
“I feel lucky to have worked at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in its heyday, itself an awesome artist residence community,” Wong-Wear said. “I really appreciate the culture of West Seattle and in particular, the youth of Delridge and White Center, who are conscientious about bringing together art and social justice. A program I helped to found, called FEEST, is currently at Evergreen, and Chief Sealth and brings creative young people around to make food and have dialogue about neighborhood and community improvement. I find the work being done there amongst young people incredibly inspiring.”
Total West Seattle
Dan Niven recently appeared in Twelfth Night Productions' Guys and Dolls, directed by TNP's Founder and Artistic Director Mary Opland Springer, and presented in the West Seattle High School Theater.
“I have performed in West Seattle at Kenyon Hall and Youngstown Cultural Arts Center,” Niven said. “I have also been in the Battle of the Bards, an annual event produced by Ghost Light Theatricals, the resident company at Ballard Underground.”
Niven’s busiest performing role at the moment, however, is singing with the Total Experience Gospel Choir (TEGC), led by Pastor Pat Wright. The chorus plans to perform three different repertoires for a total of four performances over the long weekend, in Portland and at Bumbershoot. The group will provide accompaniment to the popular music group Heart, featuring Seattle sister-act Ann and Nancy Wilson. See our previous coverage including a video of the rehearsal here: http://tinyurl.com/lzw96xa
“The TEGC met Ann and Nancy about a year ago,” Niven explained. “This summer, Pastor Pat and our accompanist Lou Magor have been prepping Gospel choirs at every stop on the Heart tour, and the Choir is on deck for Portland on the 30th and Key Arena on the 31st. I’m really looking forward to this, and I hear that we'll be wearing black bowler hats!”
The group’s energetic sets have been a trademark throughout its local history. Niven believes that the ensemble’s cheerful demeanor serves as a recruiting tool.
“There are many things I like about singing in the Total Experience Gospel Choir,” Niven said. “First, there’s our founder Pat Wright’s generosity of spirit. She’s a consummate entertainer, committed to spreading love, joy, enthusiasm and humanity through song, principally in the ‘old school Gospel’ idiom. Another aspect I like is that it’s a true community organization, in that anyone who wants to join the Choir may.”
In addition to its musical contributions to the community, the group performs volunteer work. Niven believes his work with the choir is an effort that addresses his artistic and altruistic interests.
“Several of our thirty-year-plus members have literally grown up in the choir,” Niven said. “Others have seen us in concert, and find themselves moving past ‘I want to listen to that’ to ‘I want to be part of that.’ We come from all walks and are a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith entity. We’re a Choir family, raising money for worthy domestic and international causes and, most recently, doing hands-on hurricane and tsunami relief work. In short, we endeavor to shrink the world, and that’s a pretty good gig.”
Single-day tickets to Bumbershoot are $60 plus ticket fees, if purchased in advance. Single-day tickets for seniors 65 and over and patrons with permanent disabilities will be available for $30 at festival gates.
Children ages 10 and under are admitted for free with an accompanying adult. For more ticket information, visit bumbershoot.org.