By Tshepo Mokeoena
If you thought you were unlikely to see pop star Kelis billed alongside a group of high schoolers in 2015, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has plans to change that.
The musician and composer is due to combine teenage colour guard troupes with musical performances from the likes of Kelis, Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes, Nelly Furtado and his former collaborator St Vincent, at events in Toronto and Brooklyn in June.
For those unfamiliar with colour guard, it’s a flag-twirling performance routine usually set to marching band music, with origins in the military. Byrne was introduced to the activity by an Ohio colour guard team who had asked to license his music for an upcoming competition.
“I’d never seen anything like it,” Mr. Byrne said, of the video he was sent. “Because it was in an arena, I could tell that this was a hugely popular thing, but completely unknown to 98 per cent of New Yorkers.”
Byrne will stage Contemporary Color as a series of performances featuring 10 colour guard teams, first in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on 22 and 23 June, then the following week in New York’s Barclays Centre. The show is co-commissioned by the Luminato festival in Toronto and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Experimental pop act Tune-Yards and electronic producer How to Dress Well are also confirmed for the project. Composer Nico Muhly will partner with radio show/podcast This American Life’s Ira Glass for one of the performances.
No stranger to theatrical commissions, Byrne recently staged the musical Here Lies Love, based on the life of Imelda Marcos, at London’s National Theatre. Tickets for Contemporary Color go on general sale on 26 January for the Toronto performances, and on 28 January for the New York shows.