Celebrate Women's History Month with LOVING JANIS

Article Contributed by Tanya Pinkerton | Published on Saturday, February 17, 2018

Vocalist Kyra Gordon with Pianist and arranger Larry Steelman bring hypnotic and far-out arrangements of two iconic singers: Janis Ian and Janis Joplin. In “Loving Janis” the stylistic interpretations of both Janis Joplin and Janis Ian will encompass jazz, rock and folk arrangements of the iconic performers. Epic song classics including “At Seventeen”; “Jesse”; “Piece of My Heart”; “Bobby McGee” and others will be joyfully sung in a heartfelt tribute by singer-songwriter Kyra Gordon.

The idea of creating the "Loving Janis” tribute show evolved from an inspirational event Kyra experienced at age 17. While living in Los Angeles she was asked to audition for the role of Janis Joplin in a film project titled “Piece of My Heart” for Paramount Pictures. The project was scrapped and Kyra did not get the part, but carried the script around wondering “what if I were to do something based on Janis?” Kyra did indeed do a more “jazz tinged” tribute to Janis Joplin titled “Turtle Blues” in April 2017. Later in the year Kyra wanted to create the Janis tribute with a more “yin and yang” approach and contrast the work of Joplin with that of folk singer-songwriter Janis Ian.

When asked what she admired and found important about each Janis, Kyra replied; “For me, Janis Joplin was all about her charisma as a performer and the trance [of the performance]. Janis Ian tells stories about life and the human experience.”

Kyra elaborated on the connection she felt to both Janis’. “I felt a real connection and kinship to Janis Joplin as a young woman. She wasn’t the norm but Joplin’s attitude became ‘I don’t fit and I’m going all the way with it.’ Kyra expressed similar feelings, having lived on her own at a young age, and feeling like she “never fit anyone’s vision of what was beautiful or appropriate”. 

Kyra reflected that she felt drawn to Janis Ian because she “chose to dedicate her life to being a songwriter and a master of her craft.” “Her lyrics are poetry. They conjure such vivid imagery.” Kyra observed that although many of Ian’s better-known songs were crafted in the 1960s and 1970s, “Her songs are definitely of their time, but are timeless and feel as relevant today as ever.” A few years ago Kyra sent a video clip of her performance of Ian’s song “Ruby” to Janis Ian through her website, who responded back with a note of encouragement commenting, “That is a hard song to sing and you sang it bravely.”

A large Mandala tapestry on the back wall, a shrine to Joplin, and an authentic liquid-projection light-show by the pioneering Kitty Crowe of “Fantasy World Lights” will help to set the ambiance of the “Loving Janis” stage.

Audience members from the “Boomers” to the “Millennial” generations alike will relate to “Loving Janis”. Songs from a time before that are just as relevant today celebrating two strong, quintessential female musicians!

Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center

1317 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley CA 94702  (510) 525-5054

Friday, March 23, 2018,  8:00 p.m. (Doors @ 7:30pm)($17-20)

Website: http://www.ashkenaz.com