Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lots to be thankful for...

What a treat to wake up this morning to find our Thanksgiving Eve benefit concert on the front page of the Berkshire Eagle.  (NOTE:  please know that an audio of our practicing "O Happy Day" is part of this clip. Rebecca is incredible!)

Musicians to heat up Thanksgiving Eve night

Tuesday November 22, 2011
PITTSFIELD -- Folk, jazz, blues, gospel, and show tunes. Even a smattering of Tom Waits.
It's a musical potpourri that takes place on Wednesday night when Congregational United Church of Christ hosts its fourth annual Thanksgiving Eve Festival of American Music and Poetry. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in the church sanctuary on East Street. The event is open to the public and free of charge, but patrons will be asked to contribute donations.
"It's going to be very eclectic," said the church's pastor, the Rev. James Lumsden. "It's all over the map."

The church expanded this year's event in order to raise additional funds for the Pittsfield Area Council of Congregations Emergency Fuel Assistance Fund, which serves as the last resource for people who need heating oil in the winter. The Council of Congregations, Berkshire County's oldest ecumenical organization, is an interfaith community committed to service and compassion.

At the first Festival of American Music and Poetry, the church held a small in-house musical event that raised $300 to $400 for the fuel assistance fund. Last year's event raised about
$800, and Lumsden said he's hoping to raise $1,000 or more this time. "I want to raise at least a grand," he said. "We should be able to do that. This fund helps about a hundred families a year. Some people just run out of reserves."

Lumsden said more than 20 musicians have signed up to play. Around 10 musicians took part in last year's event. Word of mouth and the presence of locally well-known jazz musician Carlton Maaia II as the church's musicial director led to the increase. "This year we took a gargantuan leap with more musicians," Lumsden said. "People heard we were doing it and said can we be a part of this."

The tentative playlist also includes group songs, poems and readings. All of the musicians are expected to sing and play on the chorus to the lone Tom Waits' number, "Come On Up to the House." The song contains the lines, "come down off the cross, we could use the wood." "A very acoustic raucous sort of barroom expression of theology, if you will," Lumsden said.
A version of the Buffalo Springfield classic song "For What It's Worth" will also be performed. "I've been watching all the occupy stuff," Lumsden said, referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement. "It's so timely."
Among the musicians scheduled to participate, are local jazz artists Andy Kelly and Charlie Tokarz, Pittsfield-based gospel and rhythm and blues singer Rebecca Leigh, and local folk musicians Graham Sturz of Lee, Linda Worster and Bert Marshall. Singer/songwriter Hal Lefferts of Salisbury, Conn., who played in the same high school band as Lumsden, is also scheduled to be in attendance. "I found him on Facebook," Lumsden said.

Also you might want to check out the lengthy article The Christian Century did in which First Church was featured @ http://christiancentury.org/article/2011-11/new-harmonies

I have been blessed to do ministry with this crew - musicians, laity, staff and friends - and this year there is a LOT to be thankful for.  Come on up to the house if you are in town Wednesday and help us out!

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