By Katie Medred -- The Anchorage Press
December 10, 2014
Parlor in the Round provides a new avenue for the local music, storytelling experience. Musician Kevin Worrell chuckles as he explains the environment he’s wandered into. Alone at the Hilton Anchorage Hotel, the affable local personality jokes about the number of taxidermied animal heads peering at him from the hotel walls. Worrell is at the Hilton to speak at a work-related event. He’s on the phone to explain his fledgling performance series, Parlor in the Round.
“It’s a forum for songwriter types to trade music and stories and build off each other,” Worrell starts. “There’s a strong improv element and kind of a dinner theater theme.”
Parlor in the Round came about after Tap Root owner Rebecca Mohlman called Worrell with an invitation. She’d just recently hosted an event called “Women and Wine Uncorked,” an evening for ladies featuring chocolate, wine and an exclusive cast of female musicians. It had been a hit. Mohlman wanted to know if Worrell would be down to create and host something similar, but for the fellas.
“I thought, ‘well, in the music industry, there’s already a lot of fellas doing this [showcase] kind of thing,’” he says, calling attention to the fact that a male-centric music event with booze and food might be a little underwhelming, just a regular Saturday night. “I accepted because I have a bunch of singer-songwriters that I love playing with, [and] my favorite format is ‘performance in the round;’ I just feel like you get the very best of an artist, and you get really unique content, song versions and performances [from them] because it’s often reflected in the other performers onstage. I wanted to do something like that here.”
He countered Mohlman’s offer with a modified idea: create an inclusive, house concert-feeling music event that would inspire more of a “listening room audience.” They moved forward with the concept, trying out two pilot shows, which happened last year. The initial Parlors did well enough to inspire Worrell to put together a full series for the 2014-15 season.
Each Parlor in the Round features three local musicians, their instruments, their stories and their songs. Worrell acts as the host/MC, occasionally chiming in with his own music, too.
The event’s first episode, which occurred in October, featured guitarists Hannah Yoter, Sean “Spiff” Chambers and Jonathan J. Bower. The second episode, in November, saw musicians Anna Lynch, Nellie Marie Clay and Chris Lesesne (of the Girdwood band The Dirty Hands). Which brings us current to the upcoming third episode, to be held this weekend, featuring Kyle Harrington, Michael Howard and Moonicorn frontwoman Tatiana Agnew.
Most musicians that have participated thus far in The Parlor say it’s an experience that challenges, yet inspires, their creativity. They’re also deeply grateful for an attentive crowd.
“Typically, our audiences are really quality audiences, they come to listen,” Worrell says, and close listening is, strangely enough, a novelty in the Anchorage music scene.
“For as long as I’ve lived here, I’ve wished Anchorage had something more along the lines of a ‘listening room,’ for the singer-songwriter type,” Bower, featured in November’s episode, wrote in an email. “We do the rocking good bar scene and loud band thing with the best of them, but we’re lacking in the former … I’m pulling for The Parlor, I’d love to see it be a place or event for those of us who aren’t melting faces every other weekend.”
Like Arctic Entries, which now attracts hundreds of hushed and attentive locals, The Parlor, too, is about heedfulness, but also about interaction.
“We definitely wanted to build on the successful model of Arctic Entries, and we see ourselves as part of that effort,” says Worrell. “Our audience members get to participate [though], they get to write their sentiments on a piece of paper and hand it over to the musicians.” From there, Worrell says, the musicians choose some of the contributions to use as prompts for songs or stories which they relay live onstage.
“Arctic Entries is one of the best audiences for songwriters ‘cause you have a whole crowd of people who are there just to listen. But it’s a rarity,” Howard, who will be playing this coming weekend’s Parlor, said over the phone. “The Anchorage Music Co-Op has done a good job [creating a similar space], and now Kevin is building on that. There aren’t a lot of things like Arctic Entries, but Parlor in the Round is hopefully changing that, and that’s why the Co-Op is supporting Kevin. He has a vision and a great understanding of how these things work. He’s the right guy to put a project like this in motion. he’s a very capable man.”
To clarify, Parlor in the Round is separate from the Anchorage Music Co-Op, but Worrell says, “Parlor is to the Co-Op, as This American Life is to NPR.”
Parlor in the Round will continue through 2015 with shows in January, February, March and a closing show in April. December’s episode will be loosely themed.
“It’s the holidays! So we’re gonna yuck it up with the holiday music--which people either love or they hate,” Worrell jokes before wrapping up the conversation. “Holiday music haters or lovers, alike, will both enjoy this show.”
Wear your Christmas sweater.
Parlor in the Round #3 ft. Michael Howard, Tatiana Agnew and Kyle Harrington
Saturday, December 13, 7 p.m. at Tap Root Public House.
Tickets are $12.50 and available via centertix.net.