Live musical performances have become a key highlight at Ebertfest, and this year's installment running Wednesday, April 19th, through Saturday, April 22nd, at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois, will include three of them! Keying into this year's theme of "Empathy At The Movies," the Festival has scheduled a look back at the world of opera diva Marian Anderson through Rita Coburn's documentary, "The Whole World In Her Hands," with a contemporary performance by University of Illinois soprano Viveca Richards. We take a tour through the heartland with acclaimed folksingers Amber Rubarth and Joe Purdy in David Heinz's poignant debut "American Folk," with Ms. Rubarth performing live on the stage at the Virginia. And last, but not least, at 2pm on Thursday, April 20th, the Anvil Orchestra (formerly the Alloy Orchestra) is back with a live score accompanying Robert Weine's 1920 cinematic landmark, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."
The Anvil Orchestra is comprised of keyboardist and composer Roger Clark Miller and drummer/accordionist/musical saw player/percussionist Terry Donahue. Previously, as the Alloy Orchestra, they performed their original scores alongside black and white silent films. These have been an audience favorite. Roger Ebert in his Great Movies essay has said about The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, "A case can be made that 'Caligari' was the first true horror film... There had been earlier ghost stories and the eerie serial 'Fantomas' made in 1913-14, but their characters were inhabiting a recognizable world. 'Caligari' creates a mindscape, a subjective psychological fantasy. In this world, unspeakable horror becomes possible."
On Thursday night, the 9pm screening of David Heinz's "American Folk," a film about two musicians who encounter the kindness of strangers throughout the land after their flight is grounded by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will be followed by a performance from its star Amber Rubarth. "The songs are lovely, and the first-time actors give performances that grow warmer as the film progresses, and their characters release, relax and find a groove, if only for this moment in time," wrote critic Katie Walsh.
Finally, the 2:30pm screening on Friday, April 21st, of Rita Coburn's documentary, "Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands," about the titular African-American singer and civil rights pioneer, will culminate with a live performance from opera singer, Soprano Viveca Richards. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Performance and Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign under the vocal direction of Yvonne Redman.
Below are the bios and headshots for each musical performer at Ebertfest 2023...
TERRY DONAHUE, The Anvil Orchestra
Terry Donahue grew up in Connecticut and has long been fascinated by “found sound”. This curiosity has led him to be an integral part of Boston’s percussion scene as a founding member of the Concussion Ensemble, Alloy Orchestra, Zero Zero, and Arcade Ambo. He plucks his 4-string in country music in a country setting in his country home in Bennington, VT.
“Terry Donahue’s list of accomplishments could fill a whole book, but let’s just say his musical partners have ranged from Roger Miller to Ottmar Liebert (The New Age Flamenco King).” said Jon Bonni (The Pit Report, 1993).
For more about Terry Donahue, visit TerryDonahue.bandcamp.com.
ROGER CLARK MILLER, The Anvil Orchestra
Roger Miller studied composition at California Institute of the Arts and piano at the University of Michigan. In 1979, he moved to Boston and co-formed Mission of Burma. Since 1980 he has released over 50 albums, ranging from the aggressive avant-punk of Burma to piano-based music of Maximum Electric Piano, The Binary System and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. His chamber music has been performed at the New England Conservatory, Tufts University, and other venues. He joined the Alloy Orchestra in 1998, and has managed the Anvil Orchestra since 2021.
Miller is also a conceptual/sound artist. His first art installation in this direction, “Transmuting the Prosaic”, was at the BMAC in Brattleboro, VT and 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH. He is also a visual artist utilizing Max Ernst’s Frottage technique, and has been in numerous shows.
In addition to The Anvil Orchestra, Miller is currently active in "Dream Interpretations for Solo Electric Guitar Ensemble", "The Fourth World Quartet", his current rock band Trinary System, and his chamber music.
For more information about Miller, visit his website at: www.rogerclarkmiller.com.
VIVECA RICHARDS, Soprano
Houston, Texas native Soprano Viveca Richards is currently pursuing her Master’s in Performance and Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign under the vocal direction of Yvonne Redman. Recently, Viveca made her role debut as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro at Krannert Center in Champaign, Illinois. As a previous student in attendance at Stephen F. Austin State University, she received the role of Monica in The Medium.
An avid competitor, most recently, she was awarded the Strauss Award at the Orpheus Vocal Competition and the notable accomplishment of receiving the Congressional Black Caucus Performing Arts Scholarship. While at Stephen F. Αustin, Viveca obtained her Bachelor’s in Vocal Performance. Viveca loves to engage in activities to gain experience in developing her artistry, such as attending vocal workshops and pushing her students to succeed in their musical endeavors.
AMBER RUBARTH, actor/singer
In her unassuming yet beguiling way, Amber Rubarth draws you into a world where wonder and high-minded concepts weave into a poetic tapestry, a world where space and time can come screeching to a halt with “songs so strong they sound like classics from another era,” (Acoustic Guitar).
Rubarth has toured throughout the world from South Africa to Japan, numerous times across Europe and North America including CarnegieHall, opening shows for legendary artists including Emmylou Harris, Kenny Loggins, Richie Havens, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and Jason Mraz. Grand Prize winner for songwriting and performance in NPR Mountain Stage new song contest, Rubarth's newest album 'Wildflowers in the Graveyard' explores the cycles of life, death and renewal in nature and relationships. All songs are self-penned and recorded to 2" tape “like forgotten and rediscovered sound treasures from the past,” (Stereo) co-produced by Rubarth and Matt Andrews (Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings) in Nashville, Tennessee.
In addition to touring, Rubarth’s music has also woven deeply into the film worlds, debuting her acting starring in the feature film ‘American Folk’ alongside folk artist Joe Purdy. After winning various film festivals, it released in theaters early 2019 to great acclaim, with Rolling Stone praising the soundtrack as “two wondrous new voices steeped in the folk tradition” and was picked up by Hulu and Amazon. Rubarth has scored and composed for numerous other films as well, including Sundance Festival winner 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' (with Paul Brill) and the award-winning documentary ‘Desert Runners.'
She recently coproduced a double album for the cult classic ‘Fantastic Fungi,’ curating 24 music artists around the magical world of mycelium. She is co-founder of Brooklyn indie band The Paper Raincoat which is currently being turned into a stage musical, and UK-based harmony folk-trio Applewood Road, whose debut album was named The Telegraph's Best Albums and Rubarth’s original arrangement featured in the BBC’s Sisters in Country: Dolly, Linda and Emmylou.
For more information, visit www.AmberRubarth.com
Passes to see all films at Ebertfest 2023 with reserved seating, as well as individual movie tickets, are available to purchase online or by calling the Virginia Theatre box office at 217-356-9063.