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Thalia Hall

WXRT welcomes The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir

Wednesday, Apr 19, 2017 8:00 PM CDT (7:00 PM Doors)
Thalia Hall, Chicago, IL

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Please note: Each performance will be a separate program, so that the whole album will be performed over two nights: Night One: Songs 1-25, Night Two: Songs 26-50

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50 Song Memoir is the new album from songwriter Stephin Merritt’s beloved recording project, the Magnetic Fields. This personal album, containing fifty songs, one for each year of the artist’s life, is projected for a late 2016/early 2017 release on Nonesuch Records. The album commenced recording on Stephin Merritt’s fiftieth birthday, February 9, 2015.  

To date, Merritt has written and recorded ten Magnetic Fields albums, including the popular and critically acclaimed album, 69 Love Songs. A song from that record, "The Book of Love," has been covered by Peter Gabriel, and has appeared in numerous TV shows and films; notably, the Nairobi Chamber Orchestra performed it at an official state dinner in Kenya, before Presidents Barack Obama and Uhuru Kenyatta delivered their toasts. Merritt has also composed original music and lyrics for several music theater pieces, including an off-Broadway stage musical of Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline, for which he received an Obie Award. In 2014, Merritt composed songs and background music for the first musical episode of public radio’s This American Life. Stephin Merritt also releases albums under the band names the 6ths, the Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes. 

Unlike Merritt’s previous work, the lyrics on 50 Song Memoir are nonfiction, a mix of autobiography (bedbugs, Buddhism, buggery) and documentary (hippies, Hollywood, hyperacusis). There is one song per year for the fifty years since the songwriter’s birth in 1965. Musically, the sound ranges as widely and adventurously as possible, within the context of lyrics-driven music.  

In concert, the music will be played and sung by seven performers in a stage set featuring fifty years of artifacts both musical, and decorative. The seven performers each play seven different instruments, traditional (cello, charango, clavichord) or invented in the last fifty years (Slinky guitar, Swarmatron, synthesizer). 

In describing his approach to writing 50 Song Memoir, Merritt states: “The first song, ‘Wonder Where I'm From,’ explains that I was conceived by barefoot beatniks on a houseboat in St Thomas, Virgin Islands; born in Yonkers, NY, but never lived there; learned to talk in Baden-Baden, in the former West Germany (then called the BRD, for Bundesrepublik Deutschland), and moved around constantly throughout my childhood, so that when someone asks me where I'm from, I have no short answer handy. The musical treatment shifts to reflect each locale, as exemplified by Alvin and the Chipmunks' album Around the World with the Chipmunks.“ 

The stage extravaganza will be directed by the award-winning Jose Zayas (Love in the Time of Cholera, Aunt Juliaand the Scriptwriter).

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