Ebony & Irony: A History (1998 and ongoing)
Joyce J. Scott and Lorraine L. Whittlesey began collaborating in 1997 after a mutual friend,George Ciscle, suggested they would complement each other's talents. The timing was right; composer, producer, and performer Whittlesey had just finished a series of concerts and a stint at the Peabody Conservatory's Computer Music department and was in negotiations with the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) for a residency that would commence the following year. Visual artist and performer Scott was busy preparing for her one woman retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) and hadn't performed in quite a while.
Ebony & Irony l was presented 12 March, 1999, at the (then) Lodge on Highland Avenue in Baltimore, the home of the Creative Alliance. The mission of Scott and Whittlesey was to address, through original music and topical humour, the issues of race, politics, sexual mores, and assorted stereotypes. The program included the additional talents of Donna DiStefano, Jimmy Wilson, David Crandall, and Joe Wall. The program included original songs by Whittlesey such as Baby Baby, and Try Me. Acoustic and electronic instruments were used.
Ebony & Irony II: Martini Madness took place at the Lava Lounge, the summer headquarters of Maryland Art Place (MAP) on 22 August, 1999. In addition to many performers from the previous lineup, composer/pianist Lafayette Gilchrist accompanied Ms Scott on their arrangement of Season of the Witch. In addition to their original material, Scott and Whittlesey performed a medley tribute to the musical Hair. The title Martini Madness seemed to be a perfect fit for that time since so many variations of the classic Martini were springing up around town and everywhere else.
On 16 June, 2000, the critically acclaimed duo brought Ebony & Irony III: The Naked Truth to the Ground Floor on Thames Street in Fells Point which was then the current residence of the Creative Alliance. The lineup consisted of Joe Wall, Donna DiStefano, David Crandall, Charles Funn, Linda Nelson, and guest artist from The Sun, M. Dion Thompson. In addition to some of their own (by then) standards, Joe Wall, who had always been somewhat in the background with tech work, performed a memorable and unique version of "Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz." Using some of the more recent technology the emsemble presented a nearly dead-on version of the theme song from The Sopranos, Woke Up This Morning which was well received. of course there were a number of references to being connected delivered by an inimitable Scott.
By this time the E&I team were SRO wherever they performed and it was decided to have 2 performances at the brand new venue, The Swirnow Theatre, the new state-of-the-art black box theatre at the Mattin Center at the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus. Aside from a few student productions, this was the first professional ensemble to perform in this space. The performance dates were May 18th and 19th, 2001 and Ebony & Irony IV: Clinton Comes to Harlem, was considered a success by all who participated. With it's stadium seating, the theatre gave the performers an improved way of interacting with the audience. By this time, the tech support was more sophisticated and extended, and the facilities supported most of what was required, technically. Some new original works by Whittlesey were introduced to the audience including The Gallery and I Suppose. A few improvisational works were presented featuring a Theremin solo by Whittlesey. Scott performed an extended riff on the title, Clinton Comes to Harlem which was a send-off of the classic Blaxsploitation film Cotton Comes to Harlem.
Ebony & Irony V: Unleashed (title suggested by Leslie King-Hammond) was performed, again at the Mattin_Center, June 14 and 15, 2002. As per usual a modified version of Ebony & Ivory opened the show with the ensemble segueing into Try Me. Since one of Whittleseyâ??s songs had been covered by Naughty By Nature, some of that piece was also incorporated into the program. On Ms. Scott's suggestion, a medley of James Bond theme songs was on the program; each as a send-off of some contemporary issue. Anther work of Whittlesey's, Through the Eyes of a Child was performed and segued into You'll Never Walk Alone. Another classic that became part of the program was Nature Boy.
The newly renovated Patterson Theater had become the permanent home of the Creative Alliance and Scott and Whittlesey performed Ebony & Irony Vl: No Visible Party Line April 16 and 17, 2004. Also on the bill was the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation, featuring Michel Baytop, Rick Franklin, and M. Dion Thompson.The band's style was the Piedmont Blues, and they performed a set before the other musicians took stage. There was a terrific lineup of guest artists including the political cartoonist, KAL, photographer and singer John Dean, actress and visual artist Sue Lowe, and up and coming saxophonist, Benjamin Bor. Visual artist Nicole Fall designed and executed special placards that represented famous Baltimoreans and Baltimore landmarks. There was a send-off of TV show Sex and the City and a clothing malfunction a la Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed to Nasty. The performance ended with a rendition of Money with counterfeit money tossed at the audience.
In 2008 two performances occurred: the first was part of the Art 2 Dine 4 series which is an annual fund raiser for the Creative Alliance. Actress and columnist Mink Stole joined the performance team and Art Under Glass was performed as a fund raiser for the Conservatory at the Maryland Zoo.