Last Friday for the Schenectady County SummerNight festivities, State Street in Schenectady was hot, crowded and loud. Inside, on the main stage of Proctors Theatre, it was someplace very different – Xmalia, a
graveyard haunted with the spirits of extinct animals.
This very strange terrain was brought into existence with a multi-media stage show including music, video, taxidermy and trapeze. The music by C. Ryder Cooley was as haunted as the graveyard – a mixture of Americana, world music and Laurie Anderson. Cooley sang and played a bowed saw and ukulele, backed by Lady Moon on autoharp and vocals, Pete Toigo (upright bass), Corey Aldrich (electric guitar), Axel Bishop (drums), Nkoula Badila (hand drums) and Carl Hackert (on Goldie, Proctors’ magnificent organ).
The story, comprised of an animated film and a series of songs, told of a traveling musician who departed a mystery train in Xmalia, a rural stop not on the regular route, which was near a cemetery filled with the graves of extinct animals. The musicians performed a series of songs titled for some of these animals, such as Xerces Butterfly, Tasmanian Tiger, Deer Gigantus, Raiatea Parakeet, Pyrenean Ibex and the Dodo.
Cooley and Moon brought these creatures to life by donning costumes and using mounted deer, antelope and tiger heads. A trapeze allowed Cooley to fly like the birds, and the projected images behind the performers enhanced the feeling of being in this sad, phantom place.
“Xmalia” is part of a larger series of performances called “Animalia,” and selections from “Xmalia” will be performed by C. Ryder Cooley at 8pm on Thursdays July 28, August 25 and September 28 at the Xmalia Gallery at 18 Holden Street in downtown North Adams.
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
Additional photographs by Timothy Reidy