Two of the Island’s most acclaimed women artists are the focus of an upcoming concert: singer/songwriter Kate Taylor is performing her sole summer concert on Thursday, July 18, at Edgartown’s Old Whaling Church to raise awareness of the impressive archival mural executed by Ms. Taylor’s long time friend, artist Margot Datz.
“We’ve found inspiration in each other over the years,” says Ms. Datz. While Ms. Taylor provides the music, the defining wall, Ms. Datz’s extensive mural, will provide the backdrop for an evening of country, gospel, rhythm and blues, rockabilly, pop, and more.
The two women have a lot in common besides talent. Both settled on the Vineyard decades ago and have made themselves integral parts of the community, are consummate professionals who have established themselves well beyond their home turf, have unique and striking personal styles, and share an indefinable charismatic quality and generosity that can more than fill the immense Old Whaling Church.
Ms. Taylor — the only female member of the musical Taylor family whose members include James, Livingston, Hugh, and the late Alex Taylor — spent childhood summers on the Vineyard and, like all of her brothers, gravitated back to the Island as an adult.
She talked recently about the formative years of her career, explaining that both she and James launched their recording careers with Peter Asher, the highly successful music producer and one half of the top 10 ’60s pop duo Peter and Gordon.
Ms. Taylor was introduced to Mr. Asher during a trip to London where James was recording his first album. “I came over to London to visit James in the summer of ’68. I went to Apple Records and met Peter. We went out to the countryside where he had a home. There was an ancient empty swimming pool in the backyard. James and I went down into the pool and started singing songs. I didn’t think much about it but I came back home to the Vineyard and got a call from Peter saying ‘I’m moving to Los Angeles. Would you like to make a record?'”
Ms. Taylor recorded “Sister Kate” in 1971 and went on to tour and record two more albums during the 1970s before taking a break to raise a family. In 2003, Ms. Taylor released “Beautiful Road” with a lineup of some of the most respected names in the music business and has kept a busy touring schedule ever since, backing up that and two subsequent albums.
At Thursday’s show, Ms. Taylor will perform originals, some favorite cover tunes, and what she refers to as “family songs.” She will be backed by her touring and recording band and will bring the exuberance and intimate, personal feel to the show that she is known for. And, as with any show featuring a member of the extended Taylor family, you never know who might pop in for a guest appearance.
Ms. Taylor has played a number of times at the Old Whaling Church. Last year she teamed up with Mr. Asher for a multimedia concert that was a nostalgic look back at his impressive career.
“I love singing in the Whaling Church,” says Ms. Taylor. “There’s just something about the feel of the sound when it’s resonating in that room that is very satisfying and appealing. It’s a beautiful space. It’s a destination in and of itself and it just has this majesty about it. ”
She is particularly excited to help kick off the fundraising and awareness-raising initiative for the mural. “I want people to see it,” she says. “It pays real homage to the space. It was designed at the same time that the building was designed. It just adds dimension to the room. If we can get the rest of it done, it will bring the whole space together back to what it was planned for when it was first built.”
The project is the recreation of a complete trompe l’oeil treatment that once, before the room-wrapping murals were painted over, transformed the spacious church into a classical Greek assembly house. The series of murals were undertaken at the same time as construction of the historic church and were part of the original plans for the Greek Revival building, modeled after the Parthenon.
Last winter, Ms. Datz completed the first phase of the project — bringing back to life the whaling days look of the most prominent north-facing wall. The architectural mural takes up the back wall of the church and serves as a three-dimensional backdrop for the stage. It features Greek columns, a marble checkerboard floor, arched portals, and a peek into a distant antechamber.
Eventually, the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns and maintains the building, hopes to complete the restoration by adding murals based on the originals to the other walls, ceiling, choir, and vestibule.
Ms. Taylor’s concert will serve as a fundraiser for the second phase of the project. The back wall is the most ornamental so Ms. Datz estimates that she can complete the rest of the project in about the same amount of time as the first phase — about eight weeks.
The Preservation Trust maintains 18 historic Island properties, including The Union Chapel and The Flying Horses in Oak Bluffs, and the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. “These buildings are living history thanks to the Preservation Trust,” says Ms. Taylor. “Life is going on in these spaces because of them.”
Ms. Taylor plays one concert on the Vineyard each summer, always in support of a local cause. This year she chose to help both a favorite nonprofit and an old friend. “I felt it was a great opportunity for the Preservation Trust to work with an Island artist,” she says. “If there was anyone who deserved and was capable it was Margot. She is an extraordinary asset to the community of glowing artists.”
As is Ms. Taylor herself.
The Kate Taylor Show, Thursday, July 18, Old Whaling Church, Edgartown. To celebrate mural by Margot Datz. Portion of proceeds go to phase 2 of mural completion project. $25; $50 premium seating. firstname.lastname@example.org.