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Morgan Orion video ‘Genevieve’ premieres at Sipyard in Urbana

By Taylor Wegner, Staff writer

Local musician Morgan Orion Reisman, more commonly known by his stage name “Morgan Orion,” created a music video for his song “Genevieve.” The video premieres at Sipyard in downtown Urbana September 7 from 7-9 p.m., and admission is free.

The video’s creation was funded by an Urbana Public Arts Grant. This year the grant was partially supported by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University, as well as other private donors.

The Urbana Public Arts Grants provided a number of local artists with thousands of dollars in funding. Morgan Orion Reisman was just one of many recipients.

“Our Urbana Arts Grants program supports local art projects that take place in Urbana and benefit the public,” Rachel Storm, Urbana public arts coordinator, said. “We solicit applications beginning in November and the application typically closes mid-January or early February. Applications are received online and notifications typically happen by March. Projects should be completed before April the following year.”

A jury reviews all grant submissions and selects the recipients from there.

Since 2009, the Urbana Arts Grants Program has offered grants to support any form of local art that is accessible to the public. These grants allow local artists to showcase the community culture while integrating art into public spaces and enriching the urban environment.

The music video for “Genevieve” encompasses the grant’s goal.

Reisman grew up in Urbana and has lived in the CU area for about 20 years. He has spent a large portion of his musical career touring, both nationally and internationally — leading his friends to jokingly refer to him as an international superstar. He also lived in New Orleans within the 20-year timeframe, even still, Reisman has always returned to Urbana, which he considers home.

“I never officially left Urbana, I kept coming back because I really like this place a lot,” he said.

The Urbana native has been a musician for a little over ten years. He plays either solo or with his band, known as “Morgan Orion and the Afterburners,” which features a rotating cast depending on his location and musician availability. He refers to his music as “Cosmic Americana, or Antifolk” and draws influence from groups and musicians such as The Velvet Underground and Leonard Cohen.

Reisman’s song, “Genevieve,” is off his most recent album, “The Tunnel of Love and the Hell of Hot Licks,” which was released in March 2016. Before its release, Reisman worked on it for about three years.

Lyrically, “Genevieve” is about the human condition, Reisman said.

“It’s a love song,” he said. “It’s probably the purest love song I’ve written because it has no pretenses.”

The candor of this song somewhat diverges from the cynical, slyly ironic tone that Reisman generally puts on in his music.

Content-wise, the song is less about actual events that have occurred in Reisman’s life. Though there are autobiographical elements, its more about a feeling. He said he wanted to convey a universal and timeless concept that defies and transcends this very moment.

In part, the song is about enduring love. The video’s main actors, Ernie Springer and Tonie Sandler, were chosen since they are not only close friends of Reisman, but at the time of the video’s shooting were approaching their wedding day.

This couple also acted as inspiration for the video’s storyline. Reisman’s sister, Gabrielle Reisman wrote the video’s storyline.

“In listening to Morgan’s gorgeous song, I wanted to make a video that looked at the way love matures and endures, the lightness we can find in the daily grind and the enduring flame we can find in each other,” she said.

The artist used the music video to intimately highlight meaningful aspects of the local community. The video’s scenes take place in Carle Park, Flying Machine Coffee, Sipyard and the general Downtown Urbana area.

“Carle Park was the epicenter of my school days in Urbana, and I think many other peoples’ as well, and still is,” Reisman said. “It’s right across the street from the Urbana High School, which I went to. There’s been a lot of good memories there. If you’re from Urbana, you know Carle Park.”

He said he actually threw shows in Carle Park’s pavilion while he was in high school.

“Flying Machine is a pretty good cultural hub of Urbana, and the Sipyard too, with its many facets of the local community, like the art,” Reisman said.

In addition, the video features the local contra dance community, something that Reisman is a former member of. He said he continues to appreciate this form of dance and feels it accords with his music.

The video is replete with shots of motorcycles because Reisman said motorcycles are cool.

Gabrielle Reisman introduced the idea of including contra dancing in the video. She said the dancing was such an interesting thing that was happening in this community because it was a multicultural, open scene.

“It’s always been really accepting, and very Urbana,” Reisman said. “The way they do things there is very much about dancing but also about the community.”

Ultimately, he said he wanted to pay tribute to the Urbana Public Arts Program for allowing him to realize this form of artistic expression.

“It would have been really unrealistic for us to have put the video into existence without them,” he said. “You have professional video equipment being used, and time and space and all these things. Besides the fact that we’re all working artists.”

Reisman said the grants ensure that their time is accounted for and valued. He also said it allows them to have the space to create without feeling extremely pressured and constrained.

Reisman acknowledged Sam Ambler, a lifelong resident of Urbana and owner of Ambler Video. He was responsible for directing, shooting, and editing the music video.

Storm said the video has enriched the local art culture.

“Morgan Orion’s music is truly beautiful,” Storm said. “The music video concept of highlighting individual acts of love that see us through hard times is certainly one that resonates with all of us. Our Urbana arts scene is steadily growing and its projects like those initiated by local artists like Morgan and supported through our Arts Grants Program that continues to position Urbana as a phenomenal site for growing creative projects.”

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