‘Fair Faa Ye, USA’ takes the stage to examine Scots-Irish heritage

A new theater production from Northern Ireland is coming to the Clayton Center for the Arts to say “Fair Faa Ye, USA,” or “Hello, America.”

“Fair Faa Ye, USA” is a one-act play that looks at the links between Northern Ireland, Scotland and Appalachia that have developed over the last 400 years. The play highlights the cultural legacy of the Ulster-Scots, or what is commonly known as the Scots-Irish population.

On Oct. 8 and 9, there will be two free performances at the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Haslam Family Flex Theatre. Both performances start at 8 p.m.

The play tells the story of Billy Wilson, a rising high school football star with a shot at a college scholarship - but the results from his history finals are not what they need to be. Billy’s history tutor gives him a final chance to improve his grade for the year, and his task is to investigate his own family history. Billy doesn’t know where to start, but the arrival of characters from the past starts to give Billy a new perspective on himself and his cultural background.

The play has a few familiar names, all from an Ulster-Scots background and descent. Characters such as Davy Crockett and President Woodrow Wilson, whose roots are well known in helping to forge the American nation that we know today, appear during the play, but there are also a few familiar names from Scotland and Ulster, such as poet Robert Burns, that add their own stories.

Three actors portray all of the roles in this fast-paced, whistle-stop tour of 400 years of history and culture. A Q&A session with Jonathan Burgess, writer and director of the production, will follow each performance.

“The show is a retrospective of 400 years of history, and the job of showing that timeline in just over an hour is a tough one, because the Ulster-Scots have taken so many diverse paths into America,” Burgess said. “What we look at is one of those paths through major characters and events pertaining to the culture over that time.”

In addition to playing in Maryville, the production, which is sponsored by The Ulster-Scots Agency and Tourism Ireland, is scheduled to appear in four other U.S. locations this fall: Washington, D.C.; Staunton, Va.; Radford, Va.; and Berea, Ky.

The company that is staging the show is from Londonderry in Northern Ireland. The show is an adaptation of its original show, “Fair Faa Ye,” which looked at last 400 years of the Ulster-Scots culture in Northern Ireland. The next logical step for the company was a show that included the American aspect of the culture.

The newest production is seeking to introduce, or reintroduce, to an American audience what many people might not realize is an aspect of their own cultural history and make-up, according to Burgess.

“There are approximately 40 million people in the United States today that would say they were of ‘Irish’ extraction, but of that number over 25 million are from the Ulster-Scots, or Scots-Irish, tradition,” Burgess said. “The culture is known as the Ulster-Scots culture as opposed to Scots-Irish, as Ulster is the region of the island of Ireland where these people originate from.”

The free play will be in the Haslam Family Theatre at the Clayton Center. For further information, call the Clayton Center box office at 865-981-8590.

Richter Uzur Duo

7:30 p.m. - Tuesday, Oct. 26

Since October of 2008 The Richter Uzur Duo has appeared regularly on NPR broadcasts of American Public Media’s Performance Today. The cellist and guitarist will bring their unique collaboration to Maryville for a 7:30 p.m. performance on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall of the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Viktor Uzur and Brad Richter met in 2005 when Richter was commissioned by Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where Uzur is cello professor, to write a concert length chamber piece (Navigating Lake Bonneville). The piece prominently featured cello and guitar and as it developed so too did a close friendship and a deep mutual respect that became the foundation for this collaboration.

The two are each classical musicians with successful international solo careers and intensive training from two of the world’s most lauded musical institutions: The Moscow Conservatory and The Royal College of Music respectively.

Their musical interests and abilities, however, are far from limited to classical music. In their teens and twenties, while developing into classical virtuosi, they cut their teeth in rock bands - Viktor as an electric guitarist and Brad as a guitarist and singer. They also delved into folk and world music but eventually put those interests aside as they pursued their classical concert careers.

The Richter Uzur Duo may be unique in the way in which they combine classical, rock and folk music and themes into truly original new compositions as well as in the way in which they collaborate. Because they live almost 1,000 miles apart they do a great deal of composing over phone and internet and write parts separately, combining and re-developing them while on concert tours together. It is rare that two successful classical composers come together to co-write music of such distinction. The fun and friendship Uzur and Richter share in this partnership are obvious on stage and in their music.

Tickets are on sale now at the Clayton Center box office. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for students and seniors.

Jon Nakamatsu

7:30 p.m. - Thursday, Oct. 28

One of the most sought-after pianists of his generation, Jon Nakamatsu is a frequent concerto soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and solo recitalist throughout the United States, Europe and Japan.

On Thursday, Oct. 28, he will bring that expertise to Maryville in a performance at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

According to press reports, Nakamatsu enjoys a continuously expanding career based on a deeply probing and illuminating musicality as well as a quietly charismatic performing style.

Nakamatsu is known throughout the U.S. and abroad as a pianist who, in the words of The New York Times, “has stunning technical control and can do anything at the piano he wants.” A California German language high school teacher with no formal conservatory training, Nakamatsu gave an electrifying performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, plus aristocratic readings of the works of Chopin and other composers which won him the Gold Medal at the 1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Highlights of Jon Nakamatsu’s current season include return engagements with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Annapolis, Bozeman and Greenwich symphony orchestras, Lexington and Reno philharmonics and Santa Fe Pro Musica, as well as performances with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and the orchestras of Cape Cod, Fremont, La Crosse, Lincoln and Norwalk.

Initially brought to global attention when named Gold Medalist of the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Nakamatsu subsequently appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and the Boston Pops at Tanglewood, as well as with many of the orchestras and symphonies throughout the country and the world.

Nakamatsu has collaborated with many of today’s leading conductors. His 1998-99 season was highlighted by a White House performance of Rhapsody in Blue, hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton.

Named Debut Artist of the Year (1998) by NPR’s “Performance Today,” Jon Nakamatsu has been profiled by “CBS Sunday Morning” and Reader’s Digest magazine, and is featured in “Playing with Fire,” a documentary on the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, aired nationwide on PBS.

At the Clayton Center, he will be performing works from Clementi, Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin.

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