Fundraiser

Victoria Lavington Fundraiser at Christopher Street Coffeehouse

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Almost two years ago, I discovered a duo named Sweet Bitters. Since then, we’ve seen them perform a number of times and have become friendly with both Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir (also known as Nina Soka).

For many years (at least nine I believe), Sharon has been a member of a female songwriters group affectionately known as Chicks with Dip, more formally known as Maggie’s Music Salon. One of the members of that group is Victoria Lavington.

Victoria is currently undergoing a battle with breast cancer. The Chicks decided to put on a benefit concert for her, and when Sharon announced it on Facebook and Twitter, Lois and I decided to support Victoria and attend.

Sharon Goldman was MC for the night (she also performed a solo) and was marvelous throughout the evening.

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There were two featured performers announced in advance, Red Molly and Natalia Zukerman. One of the members of Red Molly, Carolann Solebello, is also a member of Chicks with Dip. We are huge Red Molly fans (Sharon told me I would love their music the first night I met her, and she was spot on!).

I had heard Natalia’s name a few times, but took particular note earlier this month when she headlined the same bill with The Paper Raincoat (one of our favorites!) up in Massachusetts.

The Christopher Street Coffeehouse is located in St. John’s Lutheran Church at 81 Christopher Street. They highlight singer songwriters on a regular basis, so it was the perfect choice (in so many ways) for this gathering.

Instruments

Attendees were encouraged to purchase tickets in advance on Victoria’s site. While there was a suggested donation per ticket, we chose to pay more. I don’t say that to aggrandize ourselves but rather to encourage those of you who can help others to do so in whatever amount you can, not just the minimum that is socially acceptable.

There were excellent refreshments and lots of merchandise (notably many CDs, all of Red Molly’s, Natalia’s new one, Maggie’s Music Salon and Victoria’s). Everything purchased at the show was donated, so 100% of the proceeds went to Victoria’s cancer fighting effort!

Let’s repeat that, because it’s awesome! Not only did Red Molly and Natalia Zukerman donate their time and talent, causing attendance to be larger than it otherwise might have been, but they donated their merch (lots of it!). Further, they didn’t put a price on the merch. Donate what you want/can, and take what you want!

We bought the two Red Molly CDs that we didn’t own already (one was brand new). We bought Natalia’s new CD and Victoria’s as well. Red Molly and Natalia were kind enough to sign our CDs. 🙂

Natalia Zukerman totally captivated us. We’ve added her to the list of people that we will go out of our way to see perform. Simply wonderful. Her voice, music, musicianship, extraordinary spirit and her command of the audience.

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Red Molly are nearly indescribable. In the cab on the way home I was thinking that the three of them control their voices perfectly, individually and blended together. The subtlety of their volume shifts and the tightness of their stops and starts are amazing. Just as I’m thinking this, Lois turns to me and says “Can you believe the discipline that Red Molly has in everything they do, in particular their voices?” 🙂

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All of the Chicks were wonderful too. They performed Victoria Lavington songs. Victoria writes extremely complex songs, so my hat is off to the Chicks both for attempting these compositions and for pulling them off lovingly and beautifully!

Apologies for the quality of a number of these photos. The lighting was just strange enough that the shots were mostly too dark or too washed out. At least you’ll get a sense of the evening…

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Here are scans of the front and back of the program so you can see what was performed and by whom. Click on any photo in this post to see a larger version:

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Susan Lavington (Victoria’s sister) flew up from Washington for the event. She was scheduled to be the opening speaker, but her flight was canceled. Thankfully, she caught another and was only a little late. She gave her wonderful speech right after intermission.

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When the performance was over, Sharon introduced Victoria. Victoria gave one of the more moving speeches I’ve heard. Knowing that she was surrounded by friends and loved ones, and knowing that everyone was there to rally around her, with her and for her, she didn’t hold back anything in telling her story.

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When she was done, she performed one of her songs for us. Apparently she hasn’t performed in public since roughly 2004. She had a chemotherapy session that day and apologized in advance that it would likely affect her vocal chords (it affects all the cells in your body!).

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No apologies necessary! Sharon and others had described Victoria’s voice as angelic. Even on the day of a chemotherapy session, that was still true. She also picks the guitar well, making for a very moving performance. When she was done, she got a very long and well-deserved standing ovation.

To top the night off, all of the Chicks, plus Red Molly and Natalia, joined Victoria for an a capella version of another of Victoria’s numbers.

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The entire evening was filmed and a DVD will be produced. They were available for pre-order last night for $10. I assume that when they’re ready, they will be available for purchase on Victoria’s site. Please visit there regularly and do yourself a favor and buy a copy of the DVD. Not only will you experience some amazing music, but you will capture Victoria’s speech for yourself, forever. Whenever you need a bit of inspiration, watch it again!

Some of you might avoid these kinds of events for fear that they are downers with a lot of milling about averting your eyes. This is our second such event (the last one was a Livestrong fundraiser for Shannon Black) that I covered in this post.

If you have a chance to attend/participate in the future, go! It’s a celebration. It’s a room full of love. It’s people showing their humanity, the fragility of it embodied in the person needing the help and the wonder of compassion and love in those who rally around them.

That this event happened to be held in a church made it all the more reverent, though the Livestrong fundraiser was in a bar, and I can tell you that it was a spectacular evening for all of the same reasons!

If you have some extra money laying around, and these days, who doesn’t?, 😉 please visit Victoria’s site and donate, even though you missed last night’s wonderful show!

Livestrong Cancer Fundraiser

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Music can uplift, connect, and at times, even heal. Last night, we got to experience all three facets, working in unison, and it was a beautiful thing!

While we have attended a large number of shows over the past six years, it was only recently (April 2009 to be exact) that we noticed (and were happily pulled into) the incredibly vibrant indie music scene in NYC.

It all began with The Paper Raincoat. Through them, we’ve heard about a number of other local artists, and visited venues we hadn’t been to before. Through ambeR Rubarth (one of the members of The Paper Raincoat) we met Alex Berger (at first, virtually, then in person, at a Paper Raincoat show at Rockwood Music Hall).

We missed getting to see Alex in two consecutive shows. He told me he was playing at a Livestrong Fundraiser for a friend of his, Shannon Black, who is a cancer survivor, raising money for Livestrong, preparing to run in the NYC Marathon. It was such a great cause that we had no hesitation in committing to attend.

First, before telling you about last night, click on Shannon’s name above, and find the link to donate to her fundraiser. You’ll feel a lot better about reading the rest of this post, and enjoying the show you missed, vicariously!

OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

There were 11 performers last night. Nine of them are listed on the page linked to Shannon’s name above (I’ll repeat them all here, but still, click on that page to donate!). With the exception of Alex doing a one-song encore, all but one of the other performers played two songs.

I’m trying to get the order of the performers correct, but since I didn’t write anything down, apologies if I accidentally swap any of them.

Alex Berger opened the show. He sang and played the electric keyboards. Wow! I’d be happy to just listen to Alex play the keyboards, he’s excellent! But, he also writes wonderful songs, and has a really good voice, so he’s the complete package, end to end. Shannon shamed him into adding one last song to close the show. Thanks Shannon, and thanks Alex, for that!

Alex Berger

Alex Berger

Libbie Schrader sang and played electric keyboards. She plays the keyboards very well, and has a very powerful voice. As Libbie described her style to us before the show started, she’s more of a Pop person (Rock/Pop really), so soloing in a small space with just keyboards, probably isn’t the best spot for her. She has a ton of talent, but probably better suited to a larger venue with more pieces in the band (which she usually has).

Lois didn’t get a good shot of Libbie on the stage, but she got a great one of Libbie and Alex before the show started!

Libbie Schrader and Alex Berger

Libbie Schrader and Alex Berger

Deena Goodman and Dov Rosenblatt were on together. Deena sang and Dov played guitar and sang. Both have exceptional voices, blending beautifully, and Dov is an excellent guitarist. The first song was co-written by them. The second song was recently written by Dov (stunningly beautiful!), and he taught the harmony to Deena right before the show started. Folks, while Deena stumbled once or twice (understandably), she really knocked the ball out of the park in terms of enhancing an already gorgeous song. Bravo!

Deena Goodman

Deena Goodman

Dov Rosenblatt

Dov Rosenblatt

Will Knox sang and played guitar. Will’s guitar picking was superb. His voice and songs matched. Absolutely wonderful performance. He has quite a humble persona for someone with this much talent.

Will Knox

Will Knox

Martin Rivas sang and played guitar. Alex introduced him as his personal favorite. I was impressed by Martin (Lois more so than me), but I’d need to listen to him a lot more to understand why Alex feels the way he does, even compared to a number of the other performers last night. Martin has a very strong voice, and perhaps I was distracted that the only time the sound guy (who donated the equipment and his time for the event!) didn’t get it perfect was on Martin’s voice, which was a little too loud.

Martin Rivas

Martin Rivas

Amy Rivard sang, accompanied by Alex Berger on the keyboards. Before I begin, let me take a deep breath, and say Oh My God! Seriously, Amy has such an extraordinary voice. Alex was worried that Amy might be late, because she was singing the National Anthem at the NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden last night. Holy cow, I can only imagine how awesome that must have been!

Amy Rivard

Amy Rivard

Amy has a Broadway style and quality voice. In fact, I would love to see her in Wicked! (We’re going again tomorrow night, 8th time, so if she could arrange to get into the cast by then, I’d appreciate it!) 😉 Kristin Chenoweth is one of our all-time favorite performers (song, stage, TV, comedy, everything!).

Kristin is one of many who covered a song called Taylor the Latte Boy (here’s the YouTube video, watch it!). That’s the song Amy did last night. Amy nailed the song in every way. Not just the voice, but the mannerisms, etc. (though she’s not quite as accomplished in that regard as Kristin is). Of course, Alex accompanied her to perfection (even though he needed Shannon’s husband, Jason, to hold the sheet music for him, and turn the pages). 🙂

Alex Berger, Amy Rivard and Jason Black

Alex Berger, Amy Rivard and Jason Black

The only disappointment was that Amy played only one song, though at least she played it to perfection! We have to start stalking Amy for future performances!

Kyle Patrick sang and played guitar. Kyle wasn’t listed on the Facebook page. He is the lead singer for a group called The Click Five. Aside from making the girls swoon with his looks, Kyle is an incredible singer, and plays the guitar well too. After his first number, he said he was going to play a brand new one. It turns out that he played the new song from The Click Five, called I QUIT! I QUIT! I QUIT!

Kyle Patrick

Kyle Patrick

Great song (both when he did it solo, and by the full group). In the middle of the song, Kyle popped a guitar string. He was a trooper, and just kept playing (he really didn’t miss a beat!). However, Martin Rivas was even faster. He dashed to the side of the stage, got his guitar out of his bag, and handed it to Kyle in a smooth motion (looping the strap over Kyle’s head as he handed him the guitar and took away Kyle’s!). It was great, and showed a lot of class on Martin’s part!

The shot below looks blurry. It’s not, it is truly capturing the speed with which Martin was moving. 😉

Kyle Patrick and Martin Rivas

Kyle Patrick and Martin Rivas

Shira Goldberg sang and played the electric guitar (all others were acoustic). Shira semi-joked that she was asked (as was everyone else) to play uplifting or happy songs, but that she hadn’t yet written any. 🙂 She sings beautifully, and plays the guitar quite well, but she really wasn’t kidding, her songs are deep bluesy numbers, slow, sad tales. Very talented, but perhaps not perfectly suited to last nights venue or cause.

Shira Goldberg

Shira Goldberg

Lynette Belardo sang. Yes, sang, with zero accompaniment. That’s a very hard, and brave thing to do. Of course, if you have a voice like Lynette, you can pull it off, and she certainly did. Lovely. The first song was a spiritual (very appropriate for the evening). Obviously, a very talented woman, given that most of the credits I spotted on the Net were dancing related!

Lynette Belardo

Lynette Belardo

Michelle Citrin sang and played guitar. She was the other person who wasn’t listed on the Facebook page. Another amazing voice, accompanied by excellent guitar skills. The surprising thing is that she’s tiny, and yet, such a big powerful voice. She had the entire crowd (OK, not including me) belting out some Bob Marley verses with her on one of her numbers. Superb!

Michelle Citrin

Michelle Citrin

I already mentioned that Alex closed the show. We immediately said goodnight and headed home (it was late for us old fogies). We had a wonderful night, discovered another slew of amazing local musicians, and supported a good cause, and some very inspirational people. Very grateful to have had the opportunity to be a small part of last night!