The power of music to inspire, to uplift, to heal is not lost on a group of young performers in Fairfield, who are pooling their talents to create a special evening of music and song Saturday, Jan. 5, in tribute to the lives lost in Newtown three weeks ago -- as well as to raise money to help their grief-stricken neighbors only 20 or so miles away.
Concert for Newtown was the brainchild of Cameron Luther, 13, a Fairfield Woods Middle School eighth-grader. His brother, Niles, 16, a student at Fairfield Warde High School, helped bring Cameron's concept for a memorial concert and fundraiser to fruition.
The two-performance event at StageOne at the Fairfield Theatre Company on Sanford Street will feature about 50 young performers and benefit the families of Newtown, whose community was devastated on Dec. 14 when a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Niles Luther said adults are in a position to donate money, but young people want to feel like they are doing their part to aid the people of Newtown.
"Putting together a concert of this scale and performing our hearts out for the community is our way of giving back," said the accomplished cellist, who attends the Manhattan School of Music pre-college program in New York City. "The concert's intent is to be uplifting and inspiring. ... I believe that when music is played, it brings us closer to each other: human to human, mind to mind, heart to heart."
"There are few better ways to bring people together after something like this than through art," said Fairfield pianist Alex Beyer, 18, a 2012 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts who has performed as a featured guest soloist with the New Haven, Hartford, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Thayer, Waterbury and Greater Bridgeport symphony orchestras. "Art, for me, is the ultimate medium of human expression, and I think the beauty of something like this is we're giving ourselves in a concert setting."
"Music is a way to express emotions and feelings that sometimes words can't do," she said. "I think that by our sharing music with the people of Newtown, it's trying to say in the best way that we know how sorry we are, even though no words can ever fully express that."
All of the musicians and singers chose the instrumental compositions and songs that they will perform.
Baer, a member of the college glee club and the a cappella group Sweet Harmony, said she selected the Adele song because, "It talks about comfort and doing whatever you can to make a person feel your love for them. Although sometimes I think the song might be used in a more romantic sense, I took it as we want the people who have suffered this tragedy to feel our love for them and know how much we want to be with them. It's a comforting song."
Baer knows someone who works for the Newtown school system, "so it makes it very personal for me," but she added, "Everyone was affected by this tragedy."
"It made me realize how quickly a life can be lost," Niles Luther said.
"I suggested it and the organizers liked it," said Waugh, a freshman at Joel Barlow High School in Redding and a member and soloist with Fairfield County Children's Choir. "I think it's very uplifting and it fits the situation. It gives people hope and makes them realize people are there for them and will help them through troubled times."
Taylor Felt, a 12-year-old singer, songwriter, pianist, actress and dancer from Darien, said she is honored to be part of the Concert for Newtown and to be able to perform with such a talented group to try to bring some happiness to the community for a brief moment of time. Felt will perform her original song "Believe," which she wrote to inspire people to believe in themselves and to never give up.
"We need to believe in all the love and goodness in this world and, most of all, in ourselves," she said.
"Taylor Felt is all about giving to other people," said the girl's voice teacher and former Broadway performer, Beverly Lambert, of Fairfield, who has a number of students involved in the Concert for Newtown. "She is such a sensitive little girl."
Another of Lambert's students, Langley Crisp, 15, of Fairfield, said, "This means the world to me. Giving back this way will help me move on in my grieving."
Other performers include Girls on Bikes, a five-piece blues-rock band; Bobby Paltauf, a 13-year-old musician from Redding; and Smokebomb Mondays, a rock band from Newtown, comprising seniors from Newtown High School.
Sponsors include Bigelow Tea, Encon (parent to Encon Solar), host Fairfield Theatre Company, Creative Concepts, Westfair TV and Audio and the Mitri family.
Bill Valus, principal at Encon, said, "Our hearts go out to those affected by this tragedy, including one of our own employees, Steve Kowalski and his wife Rebecca, who lost their son Chase. We are eager to support our local young musicians as they present Concert for Newtown, where donations will be given to the CT PTSA Sandy Hook Fund."
Concert for Newtown will be presented in two shows Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, and all ticket proceeds and related sales will benefit the CT PTSA Sandy Hook Fund dedicated to providing ongoing assistance to the Newtown community. The 7 p.m. performance has sold out.
To buy tickets for the concert, visit http://concertfornewtown.eventbrite.com. To donate, visit http://www.gofundme.com/concertfornewtown. To purchase purchase Concert for Newtown memoralbilia, go to http://www.cafepress.com/concertfornewtown.