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Author: Mary Colurso,

Graying gracefully: Natalie Merchant to play with CU-Boulder Symphony April 2

Natalie Merchant is used to it by now—the startled gasp from the audience when she emerges on stage.

The reaction says more about our celebrity-crazed culture than it does about Merchant, embraced by fans in the 1980s as the hip vocalist and literate lyricist/songwriter for the alt-folk-rock band 10,000 Maniacs.

Now 51, she’s doing everything she can to celebrate her maturity. Case in point: She stopped coloring her hair, and started rocking the salt-and-pepper look.

“It’s part of my campaign to age gracefully,” Merchant says. “I think, as a culture, we’re obsessed with youth culture. … But I’ve completely changed my mindset. Now, when I see women with gray hair, it’s beautiful.”

In that same spirit, she has been performing with symphony orchestras across the country, freshly arranging songs from both her multi-platinum solo and Maniacs albums to accord with strings and woodwinds, brass and percussion. She will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 2 with the CU Symphony Orchestra at Macky Auditorium as part of the Artist Series.

“The palette is so rich and broad with an orchestra. The emotional, dynamic range is so huge. It goes from a whisper to a sunburst,” Merchant says. “It seems natural to try to evolve as a more mature performer. … This is a way for me to stay active and vital, and I feel that it’s a way that I can stay true to myself.”

Read the full interview

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