This Saturday, Grand Performances presents their Audacity of Sound festival to the streets of Los Angeles, a wholly free outdoor affair with vendors, activities, and immersive and interactive performances. Audacity of Sound culminates community and culture in a multi-tiered fashion, as with the other events they have hosted over the last thirty years.
Leading the menagerie of this Saturday’s delights is Leigh Ann Hahn, Grand Performances’ Director of Programming. When approaching the line-up, Hahn emphasizes the sentiment, saying, “I’m always on the look out to make sure there’s balance, not only in speaking to various communities that make up our city… but also age ranges and interests to find a balance between artful and popular culture.”
And the line-up dares you to ponder the scope of this spectrum. The festival will open with Garfield High School Marching Band, driving the afternoon to commence with energetic drum hits and horns billowing. Later, singers from LA Opera serve as segue between the sets, dazzling with arias for the streetwalkers. A passing ear may even be treated to “Sempre Libera” from Verdi’s La Traviata, the most recent production put on by the company, having closed out its 2019 season just last week.
The headliners for the day only further exert Grand Performances’ mission, with Canadian indigenous singer Jeremy Dutcher representing the Wolastoq First Nations as well as his love for composing in an minimalistic, operatic fashion. French duo DjeuhDjoah & Lieutenant Nicholson are bringing over a wealth of genres from soul to funk, to their self-dubbed “Afropéan” sound.
Sara Naeini and Cimafunk round out the night bringing their respective Iranian and Cuban influences to the forefront for Long Beach to experience. Sara Naeini’s voice leads as representative of her home country, where it’s impermissible for women to sing publicly in nearly any context. In line with the spirit of seeking freedom, Cimafunk’s history is rooted in the “Africanness” encapsulated in Cuba, with the name coming from “Cimaronn,” a term for free black slaves. He uses this African and Cuban influence to create a sort of polyrhythm Hahn dubs, “a heady stew of funk.”
Highlighted in the midst of these international sounds is the history of Los Angeles’ own backyard through The Gospel of Madame Biddy. Using her journey from child slave in the south, to mid-wife and finally emancipation in California, Audacity of Sound seeks to create a moment of pride, shedding a light on a lesser known part of the African-American community’s history in Los Angeles. Dexter Story and Jae Deal both head the production, with their own experience in various genres as well as their connection to the city.
The Venn diagram of the artists is beautifully intertwined with each performance, as Madame Biddy’s story shares a home with the Urban Voices Project in the core of Downtown Los Angeles. The 24 members of the Urban Voices Project are members of the marginalized community of Skid Row in DTLA, once homeless but no longer through the efforts and support of the program. Hahn elaborates, “They’re a very important part of our cultural landscape, their performance serving as an opportunity for the artist and audience to truly connect in a community.”
David Garza, Las Musas, Sasha Smith, and Amy O’Neal are also on the roster, creating historical experiences in front of as well as within the crowds that’ll be wandering the street. O’Neal even partnered with Grand Performances to create a special line dance for the festival that participants can learn through their YouTube and perform on Saturday.
Beyond the music, there are numerous international food vendors thoughtfully chosen to represent the flavor of Audacity of Sound. And for families or anyone that wants a break from the heat, the YMCA is hosting a reading room with the Los Angeles Public Library system. Children can listen to readings by many advocates in the community including Black Shakespeare. The books chosen explore the shared values embraced between Grand Performances and their fellow partners, instilling diversity, including and sharing as head values for the kids. Plus, there’s bountiful air conditioning.
Many of the elements at play for Audacity of Sound circumnavigate cultural and experimental dichotomies. Hahn explores Grand Performance’s role in presenting these artists on an accessible, adventurous platform:
“We all think of ourselves as risktakers. We like to try new things, but we want comfort too. We want to know that our investment is worth it. We ask people to take a risk. We ask people to come and discover something new.”
Hahn inquires that the people Los Angeles “take the ride” along with Grand Performances. “We’re all inherently curious. And we’ve been introducing artists for over thirty years. Trust us.”
Audacity of Sound kicks off at 3:00 on Saturday, June 6th and closes out at 10:00 with Cimafunk. Hahn finally jokes, “You don’t know what it’s going to be like, but you know it’s going to be good.”