Thursday February 21, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- Two things made big impressions on Mike Mrowicki when he visited the Our Place Drop-in Center to begin planning a benefit concert.

One was how important the concert, which will be held this Saturday at 7 p.m., at Bellows Falls’ Immanuel Episcopal Church, and will raise funds for the Greater Falls Warming Shelter, is.

"Being homeless is tough any time of year, but particularly in the winter," said Mrowicki. "I believe we do have a responsibility to each other. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers."

The other thing that made a big impression was just how important Julie Waters had been to making the concert happen in previous years.

Waters, a local musician and activist, died in 2012, and the organizers of this benefit concert are among so many who miss her.

"She started doing this concert maybe four years ago. She literally did all the work," said Mrowicki, a Vermont State Representative and one-half the duo of Vermont Timbre, which will be performing in the concert.

Joining Vermont Timbre are guitarist, composer and singer Jesse Peters, and the 10-member Westminster West Congregational Church choir.

The concert will raise much-needed funds for the Greater Falls Warming Shelter, which has provided a temporary spot for an overnight stay for more than 35 guests since it opened in November at its location at 23 Church St. in North Walpole, N.H.


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It will remain open until April and is staffed seven nights a week by volunteers who serve in two shifts from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.

The concert also honors and celebrates the memory of Julie Waters, who organized and performed in previous benefits for the shelter and believed that part of the mission of the arts is to support and give back to the community that allows it to thrive.

"She was just an awesome musician. She was somebody who built bridges between musical genres," said Mrowicki, whose fond memories of Waters include her penchant for playing Bach on the banjo.

Beyond that, Waters had a gift for building bridges between people, for organizing and activism and for helping in many ways, Mrowicki said. "It was just a tragic loss."

Mrowicki on guitar will be joined by vocalist Amelia Struthers in Vermont Timbre, a duo founded in 2004 who will share songs from "Songs to Light the Way," a work-in-progress celebrating the soothing spirit in music.

"We call it musical quiet water, away from the whitewater of daily lives. It’s a place that people can come to for rest and relaxation," said Mrowicki.

With gentle guitar rhythms, soaring harmonies and lyrics, the duo’s music, which takes inspiration from James Taylor and Carol King, attempts to round out the rough edges in life.

Peters’ musical approach fuses many different styles. He is flexible enough to play instrumental dinner music one day and jazz-rock with his trio the next. His writing style is similarly broad, with modern groove numbers interspersed with more traditional finger-picked tunes and a few rockers thrown in.

According to Charlotte Gifford, a member of the Westminster group, the choir will sing songs in the shape note, folk, swing and church traditions. Each of its singers has experience as a member of another musical group such as House Blend, the Blanche Moyse Chorale or the Brattleboro Concert Choir.

More than 60 volunteers provide some kind of support to the shelter. New volunteers are urged to contact the shelter on Facebook, at gfwarmingshelter@gmail.com or leave a message at 802-463-2567 to learn about the shelter and the ongoing training provided. Members of the shelter steering committee will also be at the concert to provide information.

Monetary donations to the shelter may be sent to Southeastern Vermont Community Action, 91 Buck Drive, Westminster, VT 05158, with Greater Falls Warming Shelter in the memo line.