Musicians, comedians, speakers, philanthropists and fans gathered Thursday at the Somerville Theatre to raise money, raise spirits and raise the roof.
The Somerville Sings For Haiti benefit concert, sponsored by the City, the Somerville Chamber of Commerce,and Tufts University, collected a total of $5,548 for the Red Cross's earthquake relief efforts. Proceeds came from ticket "sales" (a minimum $30 donation was recommended for admission), a silent auction and several raffles. Somerville's Green and Yellow Cab Company made the largest single donation of $1,000.
The City planned the fundraiser after a magnitude seven quake devastated Haiti's capital, Port-Au-Prince, on January 12. The Chamber of Commerce mobilized local businesses, including the event's host, the Somerville Theatre, to support the event. Member restaurants donated gift certificates, which sold at the concert for $20 each, and also provided food for the performers, according to Chamber President Stephen Mackey. Tufts University "provided a lot of volunteers, we had three student groups perform last night, and we did some publicity for the concert," according to Director of Community Relations Barbara Rubel.
The concert lasted from 6:30 to 10:30 pm and featured five music groups, two stand-up comics, a step team and several speakers. The MC, Alderman-At-Large Jack Connolly, urged audience members to come and go as they pleased.
The opening band, the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, transported the audience to "Mardi Gras In New Orleans," regaled it with "I'll Fly Away," and marched out to "When The Saints Go Marching In." The Cambridge-based New Orleans big band honored Haiti by evoking another meaning of the term Creole.
Completing the musical lineup were Tufts sQ!, a student a cappella group, Booty Vortex, a disco-funk band, B.E.A.T.S., a Tufts percussion group and Ray Greene, a singer, accompanied by guitarist Rob Martin. BlackOut, the Tufts step team, performed synchronized stomping, clapping, and shouting, which lay somewhere between music and dance.
The concert also featured poets and speakers who described Haiti's tragedy and hoped for its future.
Young people from Prospect Hill Academy, Books of Hope, and Teen Empowerment Somerville read original poetry and prose, delivering thoughtful lines with confidence.
When Franklin Dalembert, Director of the Haitian Coalition of Somerville, took the stage, he began by thanking Somerville for supporting the Haitian community thus far. "The one thing that keeps us alive, it's your smile, your understanding, your thought." He announced that a group from the Haitian Coalition will go to Haiti in April bearing medical supplies, which the organization is collecting at Stop & Shop.
Stand-up comics Jimmy Tingle and Tony V lightened the mood, poking fun at everything from Wall Street crooks with their bonuses (Tingle: "If you order a steak dinner from a waitress and she loses it, are you supposed to tip her?") to the Olympics (Tony V: Too bad about the guy who died in the luge, but "technically, he could still compete."). The one topic they didn't touch was Haiti.
At intermission, sipping a cup of beer, Somerville resident Allison Poirot said that she and her date "were enjoying it" and that her favorite group was BlackOut, the Tufts step team. They heard about the concert from an e-mail from the Somerville Arts Council.
The performers, too, had a good time. Tara Vaughn, of Tufts sQ!, said in an e-mail that "Singing at the benefit was a great experience, and we were very glad to be part of it. The audience members were receptive and enthusiastic about the songs we sang. Some of them were really into it, dancing in their seats and singing along!" Julia Cruz, a.k.a., Honeychild, of Booty Vortex, said that "We did have a great time doing it, and everyone in the audience seemed to have a good time, and we're really glad that we took part."
Jackie Rossetti, Director of Communications for the City, commented "I am very pleased with the turnout. There are a large number, and variety, of fundraisers in the community by different organizations and groups who would like to benefit this cause. We raised nearly $6,000 to help with relief efforts, and that is extremely admirable."