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  • Writer's pictureMary Ann



Curated by Portara Ensemble artistic director Jason Shelton, this one-night only event brings together saxophonist Jeff Coffin and poet Ciona Rouse alongside more than 40 Nashville-based artists, musicians, dancers and dramatists OZ Arts Nashville is hosting a unique multicultural and multidisciplinary celebration of the Winter Solstice on December 19, 2018. The Longest Night will take place on the actual longest night of the year, bringing together a variety of Nashville-area artists for this celebration. The Longest Night is part of OZ Arts’ popular TNT | Local Artist Spotlight series. Jason Shelton, who has helped guide Portara Ensemble from the start—first as assistant director and then artistic director—has long been recognized for his unique collaborative endeavors. The Longest Night is the latest in an enduring journey. This original celebration of the Winter Solstice brings together a more than 40 Nashville-based artists, musicians, dancers and dramatists. Anchoring the creation of the project are the 32-voice Portara Ensemble, famed saxophonist Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band, Bela Fleck & the Fleckstones), acclaimed poet Ciona Rouse (VANTABLACK), and local movement company Epiphany Dance, incorporating spoken word, choral music, congregational vocals and modern dance to explore the ways we renew hope in the midst of darkness. “OZ Arts could not be more excited to host what can only be described as a rockstar collaboration between these local artists – each leading the way in their various fields,” says OZ Arts President & CEO Tim Ozgener. “We know this event will showcase amazing local talent and leave audiences inspired.” Shelton echoes these remarks, saying, “We're so grateful to OZ Arts for giving us the opportunity to bring so many of Nashville's most creative people together to create this unique, powerful event. In word, song, dance, and music we're exploring the deeper meaning in the darkness of the season, and the ways we can bring the light back together.” Portara Ensemble forms the musical core of the show, with the narrative of The Longest Night carried throughout. Shelton, formerly a Franciscan brother, received a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2003 and was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry in 2004. In addition to his work with Portara, he served as associate minister for music at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville from 1998-2017. Shelton is currently a freelance minister of music, working with choirs and congregations throughout North America to grow their capacity to sing the faith they proclaim. Three-time Grammy Award-winner Coffin performed as a member of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones from 1997 until 2010. He also began touring with Dave Matthews Band, officially joining the group in 2009, and fronts his own group, Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet. Rouse, who took part in the 2017 Nashville International Women’s Day event at OZ Arts, released VANTABLACK, a collection of poems, with Third Man Books and was a featured spoken word artist in the Frist presentation of Nick Cave: FEAT presented at Schermerhorn Symphony Center earlier this year. Epiphany Dance Partners was founded in 1994 to express a message of faith through dance. Currently led by Artistic Director Lisa Spradley, the company aims to offer meaningful and inspiring experiences for their audience by enhancing movement pieces with a message and partnering with creative minds to create community. TNT Local Artists Spotlight | The Longest Night curated by Jason Shelton December 19, 2018 Doors 6:30 PM Performance 7:00 PM Run time: 2 hours 15 minutes (intermission) $25 per adult; $12.50 for children 12 and under (Appropriate for all ages) Tickets available at About OZ Arts Nashville Since opening in 2014, OZ Arts Nashville, a 501(c)(3) contemporary arts center, has changed the cultural landscape of the city. Housed in the former C.A.O. cigar warehouse owned by Nashville’s Ozgener family, OZ Arts brings world-class performances and art installations to the city, and gives ambitious local artists opportunities to work on a grand scale. The flexible 10,000 square-foot, column-free venue, nestled amidst five acres of artfully landscaped grounds, is continually reconfigured to serve artists’ imaginations, and to challenge and inspire a diverse range of curious audiences. OZ Arts is supported in part by Metro Arts – Nashville Office of Arts + Culture. For more information, please visit


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