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The Big Read Celebrates Zora Neale Hurston at Mechanics Hall

Monday, March 04, 2013


Zora Neale Hurston

Mechanic's Hall will be hosting "The Big Read: An Evening of Jazz and More" Tuesday, March 19th. The event will take place from 4-6 p.m. The event is co-presented by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the YMCA of Central Mass, and is free and open to the public.

The night is being held in celebration of Zora Neale Hurston's legendary 1937 novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God." The highlight of the night will involve Worcester-based musician and vocalist Lydia Fortune staging dramatic readings of the novel while performing a selection of acappella jazz tunes from the 30's and 40's. Fortune was invited to take part by Kristin Boudreau, Professor and Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts at WPI.

"This event sheds light on a magnificent writer, Zora Neale Hurston. Her prose is both stunning and beautiful. She was faulted for presenting dialect in such a pronounced manner, but the story is solid and a memorable piece of work," says the singer.

"The story also allows a glimpse into the lives of black people at a time when self-assertion was becoming more possible. This event presents the work in such an elegant manner, marrying music and spoken word together in such a way that is so familiar to the art of Black folks," she adds.

Fortune will be accompanied by fellow jazz musicians Lewis Porter, Terri Lyne Carrington, and John Lockwood on piano, drums and bass respectively.

Porter worked closely with Fortune to pull together the music for the event.

"I will be presenting a song that I wrote specifically for this event called: In Janie’s Eyes. Lewis Porter was very gracious in agreeing to help me pull this tune together in fairly short notice since I neither write nor read music. That is one of the most delightful things to happen to me in a long time," Fortune remarks.

The Big Read is a program created by the National Endowment of the Arts "designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment." The idea behind the campaign is to rekindle people's interest in great literature through community events, readings and discussions.

Lydia Fortune explains why she chose to take part.

"To be a part of a statewide national reading day – particularly featuring the book Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, is a thrilling opportunity to me. I loved the book and events like these help to draw people into the experiences of others. Also, it’s an incredible opportunity to revisit my jazz roots and work with some incredible musicians."

Historic Mechanics Hall is located at 321 Main Street in Worcester. For more information on this event or The Big Read please visit the Mechanics Hall website and The Big Read website.


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