Musicians show support for Japan quake relief
Updated 4:53 pm, Thursday, March 24, 2011
With high school students from Japan joining in, local musicians rocked out Monday night in support of relief efforts for the earthquake-devastated Asian nation at the Fairfield Theatre Company's StageOne.
During the "Jam for Japan" intermission, after taking in rousing renditions of "Some Kind of Wonderful" and Lenny Kravitz' "Let Love Rule," 78-year-old Fairfield resident Joanie Kleinknecht declared the fundraiser to be, "Outstanding! ... It's more live than a normal show because it's for a fantastic cause. This is truly, truly soul music."
Norwalk's Carol Piro, who wowed the crowd with "Way Over Yonder," said after the concert that she probably gave more on this night than she might at a typical gig. "It's singing with a purpose," she said.
Eight Japanese girls, wearing school uniforms, at the start of the event introduced themselves in both English and Japanese, before performing an instrumental number. "The music we're going to play is disco party," one of the girls explained. That, followed by another up tempo number, prompted one attendee to describe the visitors as "too cute."
Beth Iovinelli, who helped organize "Jam for Japan" days after the earthquake wreaked havoc north of Tokyo, was also the night's master of ceremonies. After the Japanese high schoolers did their thing, she said, "I think we should have saved them for the finale."
Iovinelli is hosting one of the students while she and the others participate in an exchange program with the Center for Global Studies at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, the same school her daughter attends. The girls' scheduled trip to America saw them leave their homeland a few hours before the earthquake struck.
Rebecca Richeme, mother of a McMahon student, is hosting two Japanese students. The girls don't know much English yet, so conversing is sometimes difficult.
"It is kind of tough if you don't know Japanese, but when you use your hands it's universal," she said. Richeme said that the girls seem not to have entirely grasped the upheaval caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, though they have seen the news reports.
"I think they're more in shock," she said. "They're in disbelief, because they wouldn't be as perky, lively and sociable as they are now. I think it's going to hit really once they get on the plane to go home."
Money raised from Monday's event (including ticket sales, T-shirts, bracelets) will be donated to the Japan Society of Fairfield County, which will in turn get the funds to the Japanese Red Cross. The Japanese students here in Connecticut first arrived in Washington, D.C., then made their way over to Boston and this past weekend checked out New York City.
Sixteen-year-old Natsu Sagawa, who played the oboe Monday night, said she loved seeing the Statue of Liberty, while classmate and bandmate Kanami Yabuhara said she was impressed by Times Square.
Fairfield resident Steve Ferentzy, a singer-guitarist who performed Monday and was backed on Cajun drum by Todd Forcellina, said he did not hesitate when asked to hit the stage for the fundraiser. He's done benefits for everything from Safe Rides to a new school in Guatemala, he said.
"You feel kind of empty if you don't give back," he said.
Betsy Benham, who performed with a group of musicians calling themselves the Warren Project just for Monday night's event, said many performers on the bill don't make a ton of money, "but we love to give what we can."
Miles Marek, FTC's producing director, said events like "Jam for Japan" are "the kind of thing we like to take part in."
"It's nice to be in a position to be able to help out," he added, estimating that FTC probably hosts at least a dozen benefits a year for various causes.
Following the intermission Monday night, the Warren Project performed "Let It Be" after a moment of silence for those still suffering in the aftermath of the quake.
However, New York-based John Mulkerin Band picked things up with a set of funk-based tunes. The last musical collective was called "Jam for Japan Friends," with soul singer Jay Stollman handling lead most of the time.
The pace slowed down for the night's closer, "Lean on Me," with everyone in the audience invited on stage for a finale.
Iovinelli, who organized the event, said it "exceeded my expectations. I'm just overwhelmed by the generosity and the spirit of the people that are here."
"There's nothing like music to bring people together," added Piro.
Those that didn't make the concert can still help the cause, as well as check out some footage from the show --which was streamed live -- by logging onto fairfieldtheatre.org/japan.