Dunsavage and Williams

Guitarist Ed Dunsavage stays busy with his work as education director for the Siskiyou Institute, an Ashland nonprofit arts and education organization, but every so often he gets to take the stage himself.

"Whenever we play we generally get sold out, because we don't play a lot," Dunsavage said of his performances with singer and actress Chris Williams. "Also when we do a public performance we want it to be an event; we don't really do it in bars."

Dunsavage also has been helping schedule musicians for Weisinger's of Ashland winery, where he and Williams will play tonight. The performance starts at 6 p.m. at 3150 Siskiyou Blvd. Cost is $10 for general admission, $8 for wine club members.

For the Tidings Cafe, Dunsavage and Williams performed an old English folk song called "The Water is Wide" in Dunsavage's backyard in Ashland.

Dunsavage and Williams have been performing as a duo for the past 10 years.

"We came together to play at a friend's father's memorial service. We were mutual friends and that was the first time we had ever played together," Dunsavage said.

Once the two musicians realized they had a common interest in the Great American Songbook composers, they were excited to collaborate on those pieces for their live performances. The Great American Songbook is a collection of classic songs by various composers from the 1920s through the 1960s.

"We both knew the songs from different context," Williams said. "He knew it from the jazz context and me from the theater world, and that's how we kind of got into working together."

Together the two perform mellow, atmospheric jazz-influenced tunes perfect for a listening audience that enjoys sipping on a glass of wine while taking in the show.

"We're so privileged living in Southern Oregon with all these beautiful spots. Whether it's Paschal or Weisinger's, it doesn't have to be loud, in-your-face rock 'n' roll. What we're offering is an alternative to that," Dunsavage said.

"And an alternative to the theater experience," said Williams.

This will be the first time Dunsavage and Williams have performed at Weisinger's, but since both of them are well-known in the music and theater communities, they expect a good turnout at their show.

"People will have a great time. It's the first time in 10 months that we've done a public performance," said Dunsavage.

Two years ago, the duo recorded a CD titled "Lazy Afternoon," composed of songs such as Stephen Foster's "Hard Times," which was written around the time of the Civil War.

"He's (Foster) the guy who wrote 'Oh! Susanna' and 'Camptown Races,' songs that were popular folk music," said Dunsavage. "But he wrote some very touching, heartfelt songs, too, so anything is fair game. We were looking at doing something by the Police or Sting that we can both relate to. The duo is such an intimate setting, it allows a lot of freedom."

Now the two are focusing on more contemporary songs from the '60s to the present.

"We've been working on our own interpretations, kind of reinventing certain songs," said Dunsavage. "We were just working on a tune by Randy Newman, and a tune by Harry Nilsson."

Copies of Dunsavage and Williams' CD will be available at the event, and the duo said they may begin working on a new recording this winter. For now, this is the only performance the two have scheduled together.

"Both of us have busy schedules trying to make a living in the creative arts, so when we get work, we work," said Dunsavage. Williams just finished a theater piece of her own that played at the Rogue Performance Hall in the new Rogue Community College space in Medford. Williams also does audiobook work for Blackstone Audio and Bee Audio when she's not working on theater projects, such as directing a high school performance or collaborating with Rogue Opera.

For special events such as their performance tonight at Weisinger's, both Dunsavage and Williams take particular delight in bringing their talents together.

"I love creating that connection with the audience, and that's why these concerts have been so special because we really put a lot of care into choosing the material that we're going to do," said Williams.

"And it has to connect with both of us because we really want to create a real experience."

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