"For me singing is my peace of mind. It’s where I’m the happiest. It’s hard to describe that feeling. It’s definitely one that I can’t really get enough of. It doesn’t have to be on a stage. This is something I believe that God has given me to not only help others, but myself. To get through or to experience some joy. I feel like music is one of those things that comes directly from heaven and it’s sort of a little peace that we can get while we’re all down here."
- Vanessa Ferguson
Vanessa Ferguson is a Greensboro, N.C. based artist who gained national fame and fans as a finalist on NBC's "The Voice." Last month we released an intimate performance we recorded with her inside of Nina Simone's childhood home in Tryon N.C. She performs Nina Simone's classics in the home where Simone developed her love for the piano and which is now the subject of a major rehabilitation effort led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Watch it below!
Today we are thrilled to share the second installment of In The Water, our live session series that sheds light on the spaces and places that inspire some of North Carolina's most renowned musicians. In this episode, Vanessa Ferguson, a Greensboro artist who gained national fame and fans as a finalist on NBC's "The Voice," performs Nina Simone's classics in the home where Simone developed her love for the piano and which is now the subject of a major rehabilitation effort led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
This performance was commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a part of their larger effort to save Nina Simone's childhood home.
"It has truly been an honor to record for the In The Water series in an effort to promote the campaign to restore the home of the incomparable Nina Simone,” said Vanessa Ferguson. “The preservation of history and art have shaped me into the artist that I am today.”
The Nina Simone childhood home, which has been vacant for decades, was scheduled for demolition when four New York City based artists purchased it in 2016. In June 2018, the National Trust declared the home a National Treasure and, with support from World Monuments Fund and key state and local partners, is now working to stabilize the home, protect it, and develop future uses for the site that honor the legacy of Nina Simone. The public is invited to participate by contributing to a crowdfunding campaign now underway, which has drawn the support of John Legend and Issa Rae.
“Our collaboration with the National Trust takes our year-long music celebration to a new level,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Having a talented artist like Vanessa Ferguson performing in Nina Simone’s childhood home is a perfect way to give voice to this important restoration project.”
Come Hear North Carolina and the National Trust also recently partnered with the N.C. African American Heritage Commission and the N.C. Arts Council to host “Nina Simone Weekend,” a series of events at the North Carolina Museum of Art that included a special concert featuring Nina’s daughter, Lisa Simone, on Saturday, August 17. Proceeds from the concert benefit the campaign to rehabilitate her childhood home.
Come Hear North Carolina premiered In The Water, a live session series featuring North Carolina musicians performing in unique, meaningful locations in the state, today as part of the Year of Music celebration.
In The Water kicks off with an episode featuring the renowned avant-garde harpist Mary Lattimore, who grew up between Asheville and Shelby before launching an impressive solo career that has included collaborations with indie rock luminaries like Arcade Fire, Kurt Vile, and Mac McCaughan. This debut episode sees Mary perform at the Chapel of Rest in Historic Happy Valley, near Lenoir, N.C. (located halfway between Asheville and Shelby) while discussing the impact of North Carolina on her music.
“North Carolina is always a place that I’ve come to,” says Lattimore who currently lives in Los Angeles. “No matter where I am, I always come home. I love living in big cities, but there’s also part of me that likes to be very quiet, and I think that comes from being around those kinds of environments growing up.”
Billboard has shared an excerpt from the first episode of In The Water, which features Mary performing “It Feels Like Floating” from her 2018 album Hundreds of Days mixed in with reflections on childhood summers at Atlantic Beach, N.C. that helped inform the song. This extended version also includes performances of her original compositions, “Otis Walks Into The Woods” and “For Scott Kelly, Returned To Earth.”
Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the North Carolina Arts Council, was on site for Lattimore’s performance.
“Happy Valley in western North Carolina is where the Yadkin River tumbles off of the Blue Ridge escarpment into the foothills of the western piedmont. The beauty of the valley is matched by the richness of local culture; in particular, residents express themselves through their music traditions, which range from fiddle tunes to chamber music, from folk ballads to church hymns and from piedmont blues to swing and jazz standards,” Martin said. “It seems fitting that Mary Lattimore, who first learned to play the harp in the North Carolina mountains and weaves diverse musical genres into her compositions, should perform an In the Water concert at the historic Chapel of Rest.”
The original Chapel of Rest was built in 1887 at the request of Samuel Patterson. The chapel was used by attendees of the Patterson School, a boarding school adjacent to the church. A fire destroyed the original building in 1916, but the church was rebuilt in 1917. In 1984 a group of passionate community members formed the Chapel of Rest Preservation Society and obtained the lease and later the rights to restore the church. In 2005 the Chapel of Rest was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and it is used today for arts programming and weddings. Learn more here.
Upcoming episodes of In The Water will feature performances from The Mountain Goats in Hamlet (John Coltrane’s hometown), Rhiannon Giddens in Wilmington (where she is currently writing a musical about the city’s insurrection of 1898), Snowhill, N.C. native Rapsody, and a special performance from Vanessa Ferguson (The Voice) at Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon. Each episode of In The Water will feature a three- to four-song performance, as well as environmental footage and narration from the artist. The goal is for these elements to collectively paint a picture of the spaces - both literal and metaphorical - that shape the sounds and souls of each musician.
In The Water is the latest addition to this year’s Come Hear North Carolina festivities, a statewide celebration of the state’s rich musical history from the North Carolina Arts Council and North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Come Hear North Carolina’s Nina Simone Weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh is scheduled for August 16 to 18 in partnership with the National Trust and the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. Funds raised from the weekend’s programming, which will include a performance by Nina Simone’s daughter Lisa Simone, will be used to restore the childhood home of Nina Simone.
This year the First Lady of North Carolina Kristin Cooper and Come Hear North Carolina also launched Music at the Mansion, an unprecedented concert series filmed at the North Carolina Executive Mansion. Throughout 2019 Come Hear North Carolina is also sponsoring various creative endeavors from local artists (most recently The Listening documentary on Durham hip-hop group Little Brother) and has formed partnerships with the Americana Music Association, Yep Roc Records, Merge Records, MerleFest, Hopscotch Music Festival, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival and more.
For more information visit www.ComeHearNC.com.