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McLean Project for the Arts gets musical with 2021 festival lineup

Steelpan musician Josanne Francis will close out the 2021 MPAartfest on Oct. 3 (courtesy McLean Project for the Arts)

After shifting to a virtual format last year, the McLean Project for the Arts will be back in person at McLean Central Park for its 15th annual MPAartfest, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 3

In addition to showcasing the for-sale work of visual artists with mini galleries and a juried contest, the free festival will feature food from local restaurants, a children’s art walk, and a full day of live music.

Announced on Wednesday (Sept. 1), the musical program curated by Veronneau guitarist Ken Avis will kick off at 10 a.m. with the Blues Alley Youth Jazz Orchestra and close with Caribbean steelpan musician Josanne Francis, whose set will start at 3 p.m.

The full lineup from MPA’s press release is below:

Blues Alley Youth Jazz Orchestra will kick off MPAartfest at 10:00 am*. Comprised of accomplished student musicians and directed by legendary jazz bassist Michael Bowie, this award-winning, 15-piece youth swing big band seeks to preserve and promote the big band jazz art form. Now in its third decade, the Orchestra has performed at DC’s leading venues.

Vocalist, pianist and guitarist Sheyda Do’a will perform with her band at 11:00 am. Blending sounds from across the globe into what she calls “melodies for the soul,” Do’a draws on her multicultural heritage and her upbringing in Albania to create music that inspires across cultures and generations. Do’a was selected in 2020 to the prestigious Strathmore Artist in Residence program.

Nataly Merezhuk’s Hot Band takes the stage at 12:00 noon. Originally from Russia, Nataly has made her way from the Moscow Conservatory all the way to the United States’ Peabody Conservatory. Influenced by the sounds of Stéphane Grappelliand Svend Asmussen, Merezhuk brings her beautiful, classical tone to the world of hot jazz and swing.

At 1:00 pm, Project Locrea brings international harmonies to the MPAartfest Music Stage. Project Locrea is an all-star international collective featuring musicians from China, Argentina, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Peru… and even the USA. With vocals and traditional instruments, the band weaves an intriguing, multicultural tapestry of music with impact and appeal to all and a joyous onstage presence. Led by Bulgarian flute player Yana Nikol, the music reflects not only the band’s ethnic diversity but their backgrounds in multiple music genres. Locrea is a word invented to reflect their ethos of Love and Creation.

Italian vocalist and loop artist Irene Jalenti kicks off the 2:00 pm hour. A dynamic, soulful and passionate performer and composer, Jalenti delves deeply into the meaning of each song and brings drama and conviction to her performance with her naturally deep tone and an impressive wide range. Adept at scat singing and able to sing in five different languages, Jalenti connects with and delights a range of audiences.

Steelpan musician Josanne Francis will close out the MPAartfest Music Stage at 3:00 pm. Born and raised in the twin-island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, Francis’s music blends together and draws influence from traditional Calypso music, jazz, Indian, funk, rock and classical music.

MPA says on its website that it is working with state and local officials to ensure the festival follows all COVID-19 health guidelines.

“The health and safety of our community, artists, and staff is our highest priority as we plan for the return to McLean Central Park for our 15th annual MPAartfest,” the nonprofit says. “We are working with state and local authorities, as well as following CDC guidelines, to ensure that we are in compliance with official policies as we develop COVID-19 protocols and procedures.”

MPA, which operates out of the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue), uses the funds raised by MPAartfest through sponsorships and donations to support the exhibitions, classes, and other programming it provides throughout the rest of the year.

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