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'Women & Parsons' has local female singers paying musical tribute

The concerts feature local female vocalists performing songs by male artists, such as Radiohead and David Bowie. Musician Hazel Ketchum helped found the series in 2015 with her friend and fellow performer Lindsay Holler. “The first one had a great feel to the concert, and everyone had so much fun that we decided to tackle the next artist,” Ketchum said. The group’s first performance was Women & Waits, a Tom Waits tribute concert. While Ketchum and Holler initially intended for the show to be a one-off, the response was so positive that it expanded into a multi-show series. Each vocalist is assigned songs from the chosen artist’s arsenal, and that’s where the fun comes in, Ketchum said. “We have to ask what’s a challenge for a female voice to sing?” she said. “There are all sorts of things that come up with women covering these songs — what keys they have to be, things like that. The songs are around certain guitar keys, and finding songs that fit your voice is really fun.” Charles Carmody, manager of the Charleston Music Hall, helped Holler and Ketchum conceptualize the series. He said the ideas of playing with gender through song is an important aspect of the "Women &" enterprise. “It's been really cool to see each female singer take on different songs and interpret them and make them more feminine or even more masculine,” he said. “Gender is more fluid than we think, of course, and this showcases that.” Tackling an artist like Parsons is a first for the group — the singer died of a drug overdose in 1973 when he was 26, and the songs they are performing are almost all from his early 20s. “My kids are almost his age now,” Ketchum said. “It’s so heartbreaking and at the same time also amazing that he could do that. We didn’t only do Bowie’s music from age 20-25. For no other artist did we have that constraint.” Carmody said Parsons’ early death might transform the concert into an event honoring his life. “I would hope that it would make for stronger performances and more interesting and intense as a celebration of him as a young artist,” he said. said even those who are not familiar with Parsons could benefit from seeing local artists perform his music. “Someone might have preconceived notions of the artist and be surprised when we perform them,” she said. “And that’s kind of the point. It’s really different to hear these songs by someone you know and in your community. It makes them much more up close and personal.” Beth Lindly is a Goldring Arts Journalist at Syracuse University.

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