The consummate soul man musician Chris Pierce and veteran writer/director Mark Malone (“Bullet-proof Heart,” “Hoods,” “The Last Ship,” “Dead Heat,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”) have combined their many talents) to create an original work for the stage, ”Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera.” This tale is told in 21 songs, following the journey of a fictional street preacher, many years ago in the American Deep South. A story of love, sorrow, earthy humor, and finally, redemption, we accompany Reverend Tall Tree as he plies his trade (leading street revival meetings) in the dusty small towns of the lower Mississippi valley. And then one moonlit night on the road, his life changes -when the Rev-erend finds himself falling in love… with a fallen woman.
“Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera” is a high-energy evening of song played by an all-star quartet com-prised of electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica, upright bass, and drums. In homage to tent revival healing crusades of the early-mid twentieth century, the audience is transformed into a singing, stomp-ing, clapping and sometimes crying “congregation.”
Chris Pierce in “Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera.” Photo by L. Paul Mann.
Chris, you have been performing in Southern California for decades. What is your favorite memory of a performance in NoHo?
CHRIS PIERCE: There are so many memories over the years. For a while, a couple decades ago, I lived in Toluca Lake and remember really digging into the NOHO scene, frequenting shows, jam sessions and supporting fellow artists. My favorite memory perhaps happened in 2017 when I had the chance to perform a song that I co-wrote for the TV show “This is Us” called “We Can Always Come Back to This” at the Television Academy with the Emmy Orchestra for an audience of my peers. That was such a rush and we had the whole crowd on their feet at the end of the per-formance.
Why did you guys write ““Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera?”
MARK MALONE: We both have been lifelong Blues fans and wanted to work to-gether. I saw Chris performing as Reverend Tall Tree in a club in Hollywood and I thought he was the first performer I’d seen in years who was both completely com-pelling and completely authentic singing this kind of music. So often this music is so revered it’s treated like an object in a museum. When I saw Chris perform, I saw an opportunity for the two of us to create music and a story in this idiom that was new. And have it interpreted in a way that would move an audience. (And the audience certainly does move—it’s not unusual to see the audience members jump out of the their seats and start dancing around the theatre.)
CHRIS PIERCE: And so we’ve decided to write something together that would in-vite the audience into an immersive experience of this kind of music as one might experience in a theater, or… a tent revival. Twenty-one songs. A story in two acts. A high-energy singing, stomping, clapping and sometimes crying journey through life and death. With a few laughs along the way.
You’ve performed this several places, including at our local Vitello’s. Why did you choose Molly Malone’s in Hollywood as a venue for your performance of “Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera?”
CHRIS PIERCE: The back room of Molly Malones has a wonderful combination of a small theatre room and a live music venue. The space has so much vibe and we plan to turn it into a full on “Revival” for the show. We really want the audience to feel like the Congregation and are putting a lot of work into turning the room into just that. Also, I have a personal history with the venue dating back to the early 1990s. It’s one of the first venues that hired me as a songwriter on a regular basis. I’ve probably done close to 200 shows there over the years and immediately thought of the Molly Malone’s for “Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera.”
The “art scene” in L.A. is experiencing a renaissance do you think you could have presented a show like this before now?
A: Probably not. The arts/music scene in Los Angeles is really wonderful at the moment, but one of the things that makes it so wonderful is that it’s about the “now.” Little theaters are popping open doing new plays, music venues are doing an enormous amount of original music, galleries are showing local artists— this is not the way it’s always been. This vibrant art scene is something that’s come along rela-tively recently. We’re thrilled to be part of it.
Do you have to be a diehard Blues, Roots, Gospel fan to “get” this show?
MARK MALONE: Absolutely not. In some respects this show is an introduction to the genesis of Blues music as we appreciate it now. Beginning a century ago, Blues absorbed all the music of the time, everything from Gospel to work songs, to Victo-rian parlor songs. Blues absorbed it all and created a new language, terse, laconic and powerfully musical. That musical language is just as powerful and riveting as it’s ever been when.
CHRIS PIERCE: We love this music and humbly offer “Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera” as another tile in the great mosaic of American song.
Sunday, November 3, 2019
575 South Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
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