Friday’s Charleston Fanfare event in Cannon Park did more than just serve as the official start to this year’s Piccolo Spoleto. It also delivered on highlighting some of Charleston’s musical traditions. For sister duo Gracie and Lacy, who have been performing together since they were 8 and 10, it’s a high honor. This is their first time as part of the actual kickoff day for Piccolo, and it has been a long time coming.
“We’d just been talking with the Office of Cultural Affairs about the changes with the festival due to COVID,” said Lacy. “They reached out to us and asked if we’d like to be a part of it and so we’ve been working on building a Charleston-themed mini show for the fanfare.”
Gracie and Lacy have been working with Piccolo for years. They have normally been involved in the mayor’s receptions, but with that not happening this year, they were added to the open-air fanfare event. They are still keeping fingers crossed that they get to perform with the mayor again this year.
As with every other live act, Gracie and Lacy have had to work within the confines of COVID restrictions. But planning for Piccolo Spoleto was not a major issue. “Because of just having repertoire that’s ready to go, I think that’s one of the reasons that Cultural Affairs will reach out to organizations like ours and the CSO,” explains Lacy. “We’re always ready for a show! So if they reach out to us last minute, we can certainly always put something together,” she said.
The show that the sisters bring to Charleston audiences, as well as audiences around the country, is their signature combination of tight harmonies, retro fashion, and renditions of some of the most beloved pieces of music of Americana. The sisters perform cuts from the Great American Songbook, with choreography by Gracie and costumes designed by Lacy. It’s the kind of vaudeville-style sister act that would have dominated the early days of Broadway. Comparisons to the iconic Betty and Judy Haynes from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas are apt, as evidenced by the dead-ringer photo on the ladies’ own website.
The realities of 2020 have kept Gracie and Lacy’s show off the road and limited to their computers. Their planned show during the Piccolo 2020 was canceled, others were postponed multiple times. They shifted their focus to several virtual performances a week for a variety of audiences.
But it wasn’t all bad. They have seen an uptick in engagement with schools, after being invited to come in and work with students. It’s something both sisters are proud of.
“They’ve had a rough year,” said Lacy. “So we’ve gone in person and virtually into the schools. We’ll do anything from teaching them the Charleston virtually to dressing up like a tap-dancing pony! Everything we can to keep the morale high.”
Lacy admires the poetry of their newfound educational outreach. “When we started performing together as sisters, we were 8 and 10 and used to put on shows in our driveway. So we really felt like we were coming full circle: from the driveway to the living room!”
Excitement about a return to audiences is a common theme among performers right now, and Gracie and Lacy are no exception. While away, Lacy has taken up songwriting in a big way, becoming quite prolific and working on over a hundred songs. One of the songs, “Morris Island Lighthouse”, was performed Friday night, and more will be worked into the rotation as the duo returns to live performances.
The sisters perform at Forte Jazz Lounge every second Saturday with a different themed show, and the June 12 performance will be The Charleston Show, which will feature more of Lacy’s new original material. The songs are all about Charleston, odes to the home the ladies have considered their base since 2014.
Gracie views it as the perfect chance for them to leave an impact on their neighbors.
“We’re excited,” she said. “We haven’t had a monthly residency in Charleston, we’re usually at private corporate events when we’re in Charleston, so it’s exciting to have the second Saturday shows so we can connect with the local audiences.”