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Holcombe Waller

Nov 7–9, 2014

Copresented with Chicago Humanities Festival

Like Rufus Wainwright and Antony before him, Holcombe Waller has a gorgeously androgynous voice, both as a singer and songwriter—one that cuts through ordinary and extraordinary situations with delicacy and emotional precision.
—National Public Radio

Now, more than ever, we’re deluged with data telling us where we are and what’s around us. In his highly imaginative song cycle Wayfinders, Portland-based performance artist Holcombe Waller asks—both literally and figuratively—where we are and how we find our way in the world and to one another. Integrating video, light, and movement, this is inner poetry come alive.

Wayfinders creatively travels through themes of navigation and orientation, riffing on ancient ocean journeys, geolocation devices, mundane errands, and more tales of travel. It borrows its title from a book by the award-winning anthropologist Wade Davis. Subtitled Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Davis’s text connects a contemporary sense of meaning and purpose to endangered and extinct cultures.

Musically, Wayfinders draws on a wide range of traditions—opera, music theater, and sung epic storytelling. A six-piece chamber ensemble integrates with Waller’s arresting vocal performance of a libretto that both looks at how we journey and is a beautiful journey of its own, evolving with each performance. A formidable music project, Wayfinders is an MCA commission and was developed in residency at the MCA earlier this year.

Sun, Nov 9, 7:30 pm
This performance of Wayfinders includes an American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation service.


About the Artist

Singer, composer, and performance artist Holcombe Waller composes for concerts, film, and dance—as well as his own interdisciplinary shows that integrate his music with his video and theater design. His works explore themes of nostalgia, intimacy, and the search for spiritual meaning. Waller has released five albums on his own label and scored the Emmy-nominated documentary We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco, which premiered at Sundance in 2011. He has performed in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Paris, among many others, and he has been awarded grants from the MAP Fund, Creative Capital, and the United States Artists. The latter noted his mournful, folk-inflected style as well as his approach to music “as total theater.” Born and raised in the San Francisco area, Waller studied art at Yale University and now lives in Portland.

Learn more about Holcombe Waller here.


Holcombe Waller, Wayfinders, is generously supported by Elizabeth A. Liebman.

Wayfinders is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project cocommissioned by MCA Chicago in partnership with Legion Arts, Miami Light Project, On the Boards, and NPN. Additional support comes from the NPN Forth Fund and Performance Residency Program.

Major contributors of NPN include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.