Ben Sollee is making his way back to Central Kentucky to reopen Winchester’s Leeds Center for the Arts on Saturday.
The cellist’s performance will be the first at the Leeds since it closed in December for renovation. Tracey Miller, president of the Winchester Council for the Arts, a nonprofit organization formed in 1986 to save the theater after it temporarily closed because of lack of attendance and cost of upkeep, said she has been overwhelmed by the amount of effort from several people to restore the historic theater.
“So many people have come out to volunteer,” she said. “To help us do everything, from taking up carpet, to painting, to lining floors.”
Sollee, a Lexington native who now lives in Louisville, said he will be playing older pieces as well as newer tunes. His Winchester performance will include collaborations with other groups, such as the Kentucky Refugee Ministries children’s choir.
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Sollee will also be in Winchester on Friday doing several activities with the Clark County locals, including meeting with historians and teaching a workshop with gifted and talented George Rogers Clark High School students.
Miller said Sollee’s performance at the Leeds Center is a good match.
“He totally is in alignment with our mission, in terms of his commitment to the communities that he comes to play in,” she said.
“All together, it’s going to be a beautiful weekend to reopen a 91-year-old theater.”
Upcoming Sollee projects
In October, Sollee and longtime collaborator Jordan Ellis released “Infowars,” Sollee’s first full-length studio album in four years. But Sollee fans won’t have to wait as long for his next musical undertaking.
Another project, set to be released in August under the name Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native, was recorded at Clermont’s Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in January. The string-based record includes the works of people who Sollee has met during his career, including New York-based banjo player Bennett Sullivan and Ellis, a Frankfort-based percussionist.
Sollee said the record was inspired by Bluegrass music, calling it an iconic piece of American culture.
“It’s a mash-up between the music of Scotland, and Africa, and Gypsy jazz and rock ’n’ roll. Gospel music and different fiddling traditions,” he said.
Sollee will also be continuing the Hal and Ben’s Bike-In series with his friend, bicycle enthusiast Hal Riedling. The concert series, which will take place across Louisville during the summer, features live music, food vendors and a family-friendly movie. The series began last fall after Sollee and Riedling did a similar event with their families.
“It’s like a drive-in,” he said, “but with bicycles.”