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Precession of a Day: The World of Mary Nohl

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Milwaukee-based songwriter and performer Marielle Allschwang, whose work has been called “aurally-enthralling and emotionally-arresting,” enlists The Visitations to present Precession of a Day: The World of Mary Nohl—a song cycle and multimedia performance exploring the unconventional life and artist-built environment of Mary Nohl (1914-2001). Utilizing a variety of musical styles and approaches—informed by the pastoral symphonies and mountain folk music of Allschwang's Germanic and Filipino roots, commingled with Handel’s arias, highlife, metal, and new wave—alongside a film composed from intimate footage in and around Nohl’s home on the shore of Lake Michigan—Allschwang mines her early childhood encounters with and subsequent return to Nohl’s environment to explore the biographical, visual, and social aspects of Nohl’s multifaceted life, work, and legacy.

“Allschwang’s voice seems familiar: it’s a timeless instrument, full of sadness, beauty, and independence, rooted in the fertile ground of Americana but twisted into the wilding sky of the avant-garde” -Matt Wild, Milwaukee Record

For half a century, Mary Nohl tirelessly transformed her home, inside and out, into an artist-built environment on the shores of Lake Michigan. Her radical rootedness to place, her distinct visual language, staggering range of media and self-autonomy became infamous. Locals often called her the “Witch of Fox Point”— to which she responded with poignant humor, addressing her friends with “Greetings & Salutations & Boo” in mimeographed newsletters. Despite holding a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and owning her own pottery shop in Milwaukee, Nohl remains pegged as an “outsider.” Nohl’s marginalization and its implications are as relevant today as it was in the 1940s, when she dared to travel the world, mix cement in her bathtub, create graphic novels, and run a business, all on her own. Allschwang and her band take a deep dive into a little-known and astoundingly prolific, complicated artist deserving much more renown.

Precession of a Day is produced by David Ravel, former Artistic Director of Alverno Presents in Milwaukee, WI and producer of such critically acclaimed works as Bellowing Sun (Mind Over Mirrors) and American Klassiks (Klassik).

Precession of a Day: The World of Mary Nohl has been commissioned by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Milwaukee Film, Wisconsin Union Theater/UW Madison, and the Cedar Cultural Center.  Additional funding has been provided by the Mary L. Nohl Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

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