PoetryMusic

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

Library concerts, once startling, have become commonplace. But PoetryMusic—which fuses literary classics with wide-ranging music—is truly at home among the stacks. The Port-Angeles-based chamber-jazz duo, performing Where Words and Music Meet at the Olympia Timberland Library this Thursday, has played libraries from California to Massachusetts. “They’re the main venues for this,” said Chris Lee, who plays vibraphone and percussion.

Colleen O’Brien, his musical and life partner, plays cello and sings. Their repertoire—stretching from Jack Kerouac to Shakespeare, from Emily Dickinson to Li Po—is reader-approved, but the duo also aims to appeal to those who may not otherwise appreciate the poetic. “People who are not into poetry so much but are into music say things like, ‘That lifted the piece off the page, so I really get it,’” O’Brien said.

Lee and O’Brien, who also play in the non-literary duo Primal Mates, weren’t particularly interested in poetry till they heard one of bassist Steve Swallow’s settings of poetry by Robert Creeley. “It was a jazz setting,” O’Brien said. “It was the first time either of us had heard that done, and it inspired us.”

In concert, PoetryMusic plays both of those settings as well as arrangements by Swallow and Rufus Wainwright. The performance also includes projections of the text of each poem along with images that set the scene. The result is more than the sum of its parts. “It’s an intersection of words and music that sparks and goes to a whole different level of experience,” O’Brien said. “It surprises us how much it resonates with people.”

What: Where Words and Music Meet

Where: Olympia Timberland Library,
313 Eighth Ave. E, Olympia

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1

How much: free

Learn more: 360-352-0595 | Timberland Regional Library