A one-woman Cotton Club revue

Performer: Parris Lane returns home for a concert at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to benefit Chrysalis House.

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Arundel Live

April 22, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Versatile singer and actress Parris Lane returns to her hometown on May 10 with her one-woman show, Parris in Springtime, at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Lane will return from Las Vegas to stage this concert benefiting Chrysalis House, a residential treatment program for chemically dependent women in recovery and their children.

Featured on Maryland Public Television's Bob the Vid Tech as Brianna, Lane divides her time between Annapolis and Las Vegas, where she pursues her singing career and works with her recording company - Raven Productions, named for her daughter. Her one-woman show is an Annapolis version of the Cotton Club revue, reminiscent of entertainers such as Billie Holliday and Pearl Bailey, who performed in Annapolis in the 1940s and '50s.

A singer since childhood, Lane performs gospel, jazz, pop, R&B and classic show tunes in her four-octave range. She may be best known for Springtime, in which she tells how she rose above an abusive marriage while retaining a deep spirituality and strong religious faith.

A fifth-generation Annapolitan, Lane has roots to a maternal great-great-great-grandmother who was a slave; a freckled, red-haired half-Irish/half-black great-grandfather; and a Cherokee ancestor who left a red rock that held special meaning with her mother, Elizabeth Lloyd.

Recalling her first visit to Nevada, Lane said, "A lot of people want to be close to water, but I felt at home in Nevada's red rock canyons that took me 12 years to get to."

Lane reached Las Vegas after going through a bitter divorce while nurturing her only daughter, Raven, and providing care for her terminally ill mother and critically ill sister. Once her responsibilities were behind her, she became Parris Lane, resuming a singing career that led to appearances at Maryland Inn's King of France Tavern, Middleton's Tavern and the governor's mansion.

Having been helped by the YWCA Domestic Violence Program, Lane developed a one-woman show that chronicled her experiences. Lane spoke out against domestic violence, giving benefits for the YWCA program and for Chrysalis House for chemically dependent mothers.

Acknowledging that her CD Songs from My Heart, released in 1998, brought her a new group of listeners, Lane reflects on how far she has come from the 5-year-old who harmonized with her two older sisters.

"I woke up every morning to the sound of St. Anne's bells, and I'd sing in my back yard pretending the clouds were my audience. I started with spirituals, singing with my two older sisters, and learned gospel music by hearing our next-door neighbor, Miss Annie Henry, the minister of music at the Asbury United Methodist Church on West Street practicing hymns on the piano. I'd hear the music through the walls, and when we'd go to church on Sunday I'd know all the hymns."

By age 15 - three years before her mother allowed her to date - she sang in local bars with such groups as Kosmic Kreation. Although she never formally studied music, her high school music teacher, Valerie Mills-Cooper, suggested that she try out for the high school production of Godspell, which led to her getting the role of Mary Magdalene in the Colonial Players' 1976 Godspell production.

Lane also has worked with the Banneker-Douglass Museum on Franklin Street, putting shows together to teach African-American history to young people. She received a governor's proclamation for talking about domestic violence, narrating a show based on her life.

Parris in Springtime will feature guest Bill Pinkney of the original Drifters and other singers and dancers to benefit Chrysalis House. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Children 12 and younger are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. 410-263-5544 or www.marylandhall.org.

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