The Columbia Museum of Art will have a different type of art on display evenings this summer, with a free outdoor concert series.
The museum is teaming with a local producer to offer “Chaye Alexander presents Live at Boyd Plaza,” a series a three outdoor performances. The series premiered May 26.
It all began when Alexander and Joelle Ryan-Cook, CMA deputy director and director of external affairs, met during a radio interview.
“We discussed the redesign of Boyd Plaza and she shared her desire for it being used for open air concerts,” Alexander said. Ryan-Cook asked Alexander if she’d be interested assisting in producing a concert series and “of course I jumped at the opportunity.”
Ryan-Cook knew Alexander would have a vision for an outdoor series that would bring something different to Main Street.
“I was impressed by Chaye’s expertise, experience, and passion for filling a gap in the Columbia music landscape,” Ryan-Cook said. “Music is a centerpiece of public programming at the museum and in the district; however, the smooth jazz and R&B that are Chaye’s specialties have been rarer than the Americana, straight ahead jazz, bluegrass, rock, and hip-hop genres.”
Alexander said there are many “amazing” local and national talents” that people should hear and experience. Alexander has provided avenues for musicians to be seen and heard in various ways for decades: She began her career as a radio personality in New York City, then moved to television production, where she worked both behind and in front of the camera.
These days, Alexander provides those opportunities for musicians at Chayz Lounge, a live music and event venue on Meeting Street in West Columbia.
“Live At Boyd Plaza is yet another perfect opportunity for me to share my musical finds,” Alexander said. “It's also a way of introducing variations of jazz that many may or may not be familiar with.
“When Joelle asked me to think outside the box with this music series, I began thinking of ways to fuze jazz with different genres of music and came up with classical/soul jazz, Latin/Afro jazz and a reggae jazz blends.”
So at these three concerts, expect to hear favorite classical/soul, Latin and reggae tunes set to jazz.
“Imagine the music of Beethoven and Stevie Wonder set to jazz; Santana, Tito Puente and Marc Anthony jazzed up and jazzy versions of Bob Marley tunes,” Alexander said. “These are not the sit and tap your feet type of concerts. Each one is designed to have everyone dancing in and outside the plaza.”
The remaining concerts are:
▪ June 23: Luis Alas & the Afro Cuban Connection are set to deliver the best of Afro-Cuban rhythms from yesterday and today. Attendees will enjoy the vibrant sounds of cha-cha-cha and Guaracha, which are the predecessors of today's salsa, to Timba, which is the latest evolution of these rhythms fused with a hint of contemporary jazz.
▪ Sept. 22: Mike Frost & Company will celebrate the music of reggae greats such as Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and Inner Circle, to name a few. Attendees will enjoy popular reggae tunes set to smooth/contemporary jazz.
Alexander says the intent of the concert series is to bring Columbia together for three evenings of “free, fun and family-friendly concerts.” And she likes Boyd Plaza as a concert venue.
“Main Street feels like the heart of the city and Boyd Plaza the nucleus,” Alexander says. “I like the fact that it's not a huge park. I enjoy featuring musicians in intimate setting as it allows them to connect with the audience and it affords the audience a more enjoyable experience. Boyd Plaza provides the perfect setting for the up close feel. It's large enough to accommodate a crowd, but not that large where the musicians appear as a dot on the stage.”
Ryan-Cook says it will be a great place and a great way for Columbians to spend a few summer evenings.
“In Columbia, people tend to be lighter in spirit and more relaxed in the summer, and in early summer all of us enjoy the evenings outside,” Ryan-Cook says. “In addition to all that we are offering on Boyd Plaza, the museum will have galleries open for free from 4 – 5:30 p.m., so it is an easy way to experience art, the outdoors, and music all in one lovely summer evening.”