Larger-than-life singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright has a lot of historical connections to the Hudson Valley. He was born at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck 1973, when his parents, folkie superstars Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle, were living in Mount Tremper. He discovered his love for opera and theater – and also came to terms with the fact that he was gay – while a prep school student at the Millbrook School in the 1980s. But mostly he grew up in his mother’s native city of Montreal, after his parents’ divorce. He still retains dual Canadian/American citizenship.
One of the friends of Rufus Wainwright’s youth and early music-club career in Montreal was rocker Melissa Auf der Maur, who is now firmly anchored in our region as co-founder and director of Basilica Hudson. Her old pal will be the second guest in Basilica’s biennial Pioneering People Series, a combination of concert and conversation scheduled for Saturday, October 22 in the huge converted industrial space in Hudson. It’s also a fundraising event, marking the milestone that Basilica has just been conferred formal 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization status.
The unifying topic of Auf der Maur’s onstage interview of Wainwright will be “Artistic Freedom and Creative Paths.” The two indie artists share a strong connection to their home city and to the national values that make the arts an integral part of the social fabric of Canada, well-supported by the government and the general public. Two weeks out from the US presidential election, they will ponder the existential question of what role the arts can and should play in these turbulent times.
Wainwright’s performance on grand piano at Basilica promises take the crowd back to his roots of raw, intimate performances in Montreal’s dark piano bars decades ago: a monumental period of creative freedom when he and Auf der Maur both found themselves and their voices in music. The show will provide the audience with a stark juxtaposition to Wainwright’s extravagant performances reenacting a historic Judy Garland concert at Carnegie Hall with full orchestra, touring with his first opera, Prima Donna, and his most recent album Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets. He’s currently working on a new opera commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company on the subject of the Emperor Hadrian: a guy who built a yooooge wall intended to keep unwanted immigrants out of Roman Britain. Expect some topical parallels to be drawn.
Even if all you know of Rufus Wainwright’s work is the fact that he sang the version of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah” that was used in the movie Shrek, this should be a fascinating evening’s worth of powerful, heartfelt music and smart, probing talk about creativity and culture, politics and self-expression. The show starts at 8 p.m., and ticket prices range from $45 to $250. They can be ordered at https://bit.ly/2dUgmqP. Visit https://basilicahudson.org for additional information. Basilica Hudson is located at 110 South Front Street, near the waterfront in the City of Hudson.