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Newtown Groups Will Be Among Those To Benefit From Concert Across America Awareness Events



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Artists and activists are banding together across the country to call attention to gun violence on the day designated by Congress to remember victims of murder. Events being planned as part of a national Concert Across America To End Gun Violence will coincide with the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

At least 14 Concert Across America events are being planned in Connecticut on Sunday, September 25. Among the in-state events is one taking place in Newtown, and two others that will raise funds for Newtown-based groups formed in the aftermath of 12/14.

According to Concert Across America's website, "While two out of every three victims are killed with a firearm, the day of 'remembrance' is the only thing Congress has done to acknowledge this loss. And while we need to be respectful of what this day stands for, we must also demand that Congress mandates a background check for every gun sale, too."

The event, however, is not meant to be a political event. While attendees are encouraged to invite their elected officials to attend a concert local to them, the mission of the events is to "remember the tremendous loss of life that gun violence has cost our communities."

Some shows will be taking place at traditional music venues, while others are scheduled at churches, school gymnasiums, craft breweries, coffee houses, and even hotel rooftops. More than 350 shows had been announced as of September 21.

Trinity Episcopal Church, 36 Main Street in Newtown, is among the host locations in Connecticut.

Newtown residents Jim Allyn, Francine and David Wheeler, Darryl Gregory, and The Old Town Hall Band are all scheduled to perform, as well as the Trinity Choristers, the church's youth choir. The free concert will begin at 3 pm.

Darryl Gregory admitted this week he did not initially realize what he had signed up for when first approached about the concert.

"When Pastor Kathie [Adams-Shepherd, Trinity's rector] asked me to be involved, I thought it was just going to be something at Trinity," he said September 21. "But then I started looking into it and saw that it's much bigger than that.

"It's really cool to be involved in this," he added. " I feel powerful. I feel like I have a voice with my music."

Mr Gregory plans to perform two of his original songs, "The 23rd Psalm" and "Prayer and Hallelujah."

"They're both about love and how love lifts us up," he said.

Jim Allyn was inspired to write "Hear The People" for Concert Across America.

"For one day one day," the song begins. "May our voices all be heard / and harmony hold sway / to quell the noise, to end a curse," the song opens.

"Those we have loved and lost / Near as the heart are here beside us," it later continues.

A video on YouTube features the lyrics of the song superimposed over images of peaceful scenes, protests, and Concert Across America artwork. Mr Allyn sings the song on the video, and is hoping that it will be part of Sunday's performance in Newtown.

"I intend to sing it, but it's really a song to draw attention to the concerts," Mr Allyn said.

Speaking with The Newtown Bee on September 21, Mr Allyn said that he and the others who are planning to perform at Trinity Church had not yet done a rehearsal, or fully created their set list for Sunday's performance as of Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Allyn was able to offer an outline of Sunday's program, however. The 60-minute event will open and conclude with remarks by the Reverend Kathie Adams-Shepherd, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church; and the Reverend Matthew Crebbin, senior pastor of Newtown Congregational Church.

The Trinity Choristers will perform a few songs, followed by a few songs by Mr Gregory.

Francine and David Wheeler perform next. The Wheelers will then be joined by The Old Town Hall Band - featuring Mr Allyn, Rick Brodsky, Howard Bujese, and Richard Neal - for a few more musical selections.

Julliard Grads For Sandy Hook Promise

Danbury native, Julliard graduate, and award-winning composer Paul Frucht is coordinating a concert to take place at Danbury Music Centre (DMC).

Mr Frucht, who is also the director of Danbury Chamber Music Intensive and Artist Concert Series at the DMC, will be joined by other Julliard School graduates for a performance that will benefit Sandy Hook Promise (SHP). Musical selections "will reflect the values of Sandy Hook Promise's mission through their musical character, history of community engagement, and unique ties to the local community," according to a press release for the event issued by Mr Frucht.

SHP is a national nonprofit organization based in Newtown, led by several family members whose loved ones were killed on 12/14. The organization is focused on preventing all violence before it happens, by educating and mobilizing parents, schools, and communities on mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene, and help at-risk individuals.

"Dawn," a recent work of Mr Frucht written in memory of SHES Principal Dawn Hochsprung and the other 25 victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has been performed across the United States and Connecticut by Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Asian American New Music Institute, Chelsea Symphony, musicians of Ridgefield Symphony, and Sherman Chamber Ensemble.

The concert is free with a suggested donation of $15. Proceeds will go to SHP.

The performance will be within the Marian Anderson Music Hall at Danbury Music Centre, 256 Main Street in Danbury.

Black Rock Event Sold Out

In Bridgeport, The Acoustic Cafe will host what their organizers are calling "a special solo(ish) set" by Steven Kellogg. Sponsored by Newtown Action Alliance and The Newtown Foundation, the show is already sold out.

Portions of that show will be streamed, according to the cafe's website.

Additional shows in Connecticut are being worked on in Collinsville, Danbury (three locations), Fairfield, Guilford, North Branford, Old Lyme, Ridgefield, Southbury, and Vernon.

Concert Across America shows in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles are being headlined by performances that range in style and genres, including Jackson Browne, Ryan Cabrera, Christopher Cross, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Kate Pierson (The B-52s), Eddie Vedder, and Carnie Wilson.

Spearheaded by the Boston-based Stop Handgun Violence, the concert has partnered with more than 100 organizations including Faiths United to End Gun Violence, The Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Rabbis Against Gun Violence, The American Confederate of Cantors, and Texas Musicians Against Gun Violence.

The concerts have staggered starts, and most will be streamed online, to allow Americans to view multiple shows during the day. The earliest concert scheduled will begin at 12:01 am in Hawaii (6:01 am EST). At that hour, The Prince Dance Theatre will perform a sunrise Hawaiian Aloha chant at Kahilu Theatre.

Jim Allyn, one of this weekend's performers at Trinity, thinks the nationwide movement is brilliant.

"I think this is such an exciting, and moving, concert," he said. "To bring together both remembrance and activism, to provide a way through social media, across the country, for people to connect and share their commitment to common sense solutions for all aspects of gun violence, is a stroke of genius."

For an updated listing of locations and performers, visit ConcertAcrossAmerica.org.

Trinity Episcopal Church will host one of more than 350 Concert Across America events on Sunday, September 25. The free concert at the Main Street church will begin at 3 pm. Danbury Music Centre will also be hosting a CAA event, with proceeds to benefit Sandy Hook Promise.
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