Haiti Benefit Concert

There was no U2, Bono, or Sir Paul, no Clooney or other big stars answering phone lines, just our own local musicians from Western Canada pitching in to raise funds for earthquake-stricken Haiti. While the Olympic torch had just passed by our city and moved on to cheering crowds in Banff, the flame of compassion burned bright here at the amazing concert last night in Calgary’s Centre Street Church.

Partnered with the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, the benefit concert was organized on short notice.  With just a few days to prepare, some of Canada’s top Christian musicians and recording artists gathered, together with the Centre Street Church orchestra and choir, to deliver a moving, high-calibred performance.  All funds raised will be sent to Haiti for urgently needed relief work.

I’ve long wanted to hear Juno Award winner, singer songwriter Steve Bell in person, and I had the chance last night.  But I was much more gratified to discover other singers that I would never have known if not for an occasion like this.  For I’m a sporadic listener of Christian music, have not been a fan of the genre, I admit.  But last night I had an altered view and gained a new appreciation for Christian artists and their music.

Steve Bell and Carolyn Arends opened the concert.  Bell had that amazing voice and musicianship.  From his guitar, I could hear chords that seemed to be created new and yet so natural in their progression. From Surrey, B.C., award-winning singer and songwriter Carolyn Arends wrote on her blog about this concert. And there I discovered some inspiring posts.  I was captured by her voice, her lyrics, piano and guitar playing, and now from her blog, her writing.

The spoken words written for the occasion were delivered rap-style, backed by the rhythms of a djembe drum, riveting and forceful. Other musicians came up one after another, among them were Jason Zerbin, Dan Nel, recording artists Raylene Scarrott, John Bauer, the humorous ‘hip hop artist for the night’, Corey Doak, and the group ‘Junkyard Poets’, just love that name.  Brad McGillvrey, with the choir harmonizing, gave a touching rendition of Lenard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.

They came up one after the other, quietly, low-key and unpretentious.  That in itself was moving, for this was not a show for the musicians themselves.  There was no limelight; their performance had only one purpose, to draw our attention to the devastated victims in Haiti.

It wasn’t just music, of course.  A group from Compassion Canada shared their harrowing experience as they arrived Haiti one hour before the earthquake hit.  Their lives were spared as they were tied up with some VIP protocols and were delayed reaching their hotel.  Hotel Montana was crumbled by the quake an hour later.  Spared for what?  Brent Trask of the group shared his insight from the ordeal using Psalm 116.  Spared to fulfill one’s vows to the Lifegiver, to make one’s life count, to serve, to praise.

The finale is a moving sight with all performers coming on stage to wrap up with Carolyn Arends’ ‘Seize The Day’.

We were excited to hear that the effort of the night was well rewarded as we raised $115,000.  With the Canadian government matching the amount, a total of $230,000 will be sent to relieve the urgently waiting victims in devastated Haiti.  No big Hollywood stars, no international phenom’s, just plain local musicians with a heart, and a community of united spirit.  Steve Bell added an apt reminder. Don’t say ‘pray for Haiti’, he urged us, but ‘pray with Haiti’.  We are all in it together, our shared humanity, one communal spirit.  Something worthwhile to ponder as we drove back to our warm and secure homes.

Update Jan. 24, 2010:  Since the concert, more donations have been pouring in.  As of today, the amount is at $134,000. With the government’s matching funds, $268,000… so far.

*****

** All photos taken by Arti, seated in the eighth row from the stage, using a pocket-sized digital camera.  The actual scene was much more impressive than these blurry photos show. **

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Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

7 thoughts on “Haiti Benefit Concert”

  1. This is so wonderful – thank you for sharing the recap and the photos. I am thrilled that people came together like that to help Haiti. Awesome post!

    Anonomous,

    Yes, there certainly are a lot of grassroot responses to the need in Haiti, every single contribution counts. Thanks for your comment!

    Arti

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  2. Arti, another beautifully written post, I particulary like the Brent Task’s insight from Psalm 116, and Steve Bell’s message of praying for and with Haiti.
    Thanks for sharing. We need to hear more coverage of events like this in mainstream media.

    yinling,

    Thanks. Every day we have is a day spared… it’s good to be reminded by real life survivors. Thanks for reading and sharing your response.

    Arti

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  3. I’m always moved by events like this, and can’t help but contrast this one with the huge event held on American television last night. I do NOT mean to criticize the telethon at all, nor the commitment of the people involved or the importance of what was accomplished.

    But smaller efforts by lesser-known artists sometimes are able to touch hearts and change lives in a more significant way. Everyone is willing to give in the beginning. Encouraging people to take a larger view and commit to be engaged to the end is critical if full recovery is to happen.

    Just an aside – there are been some wonderful examples on the internet of these “smaller efforts”. Many shops on Etsy are contributing, and several artists have auctioned paintings, etc. It’s astonishing what can be done.

    Linda,

    For the present urgency in relief and future reconstruction of Haiti, they’re going to need a constant flow of funds, not just a one-time donation. The big stars sure have their influence and are most effective in drawing people’s attention. And I’m glad they bothered to give their time for this cause. That’s only the beginning. It’s organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, for example, that will eventually do all the actual relief and follow-up work. I think the concert I went to had achieved not only in raising funds, but also raising spirits. And I was most appreciative of their effort in organizing and performing.

    Yes, I’m aware there are many grassroot responses to the enormous needs in Haiti. Thanks for mentioning some of those. In Canada, it’s as simple as just punching in a number on your phone. Overall, I’m moved to see the rescue operation as an international effort… the global village spirit indeed.

    Arti

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  4. hey, you did a great job on the pictures, despite it being a camera phone!

    Like you, I admit to being a non-listener of Christian music. Have always thought it was too…too “niched.”

    But your blog entry has swayed me. I can surely give it a listen.

    Bravo to all efforts to work with Haiti. We are all so connected. Thankfully.

    oh,

    A couple of clarifications: I didn’t take those pictures from my iPhone. I had a pocket-size digital Panasonic with me. And second, I used to follow a bit of Christian music years ago, but not for a long while. So let’s just say ‘contemporary Christian music’ that I’m not so familiar with. I particularly enjoyed the music in this benefit concert because they’re more acoustic and folk-styled which I like. I was impressed by the lyrics and the originality of the songs too, as well as the quality of the performance overall.

    And, aren’t we all out reaching for connections all the time, in the real world and in the blogosphere. Thanks for connecting through blogging!

    Arti

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  5. Hi, Arti, Thanks for clarifications – good pictures, though, cuz it’s difficult to get them at concerts (and it seems I’m trying to be subtle whenever I try it and end up blurring everything as I hurry!)

    I don’t know much at all about Christian music, in fact, despite the fact we’re a “musical” family in that everyone plays an instrument, I am woefully uninformed in many niches. HM tries to get me to open up, our son gives me CDs to introduce all kinds of stuff and my daughter is far more hip than I. Yes, you might say I get in a musical rut, listening to stuff I know and love and that is safe. So, I need to give it a whirl. And love the folk acoustic music that harkens back to the ’60s in some ways. This is the year for making some leaps, so thanks for “leaping” the way.

    PS so tell me, what do you think of country music? just curious. I’m trying, oh, I’m trying to embrace it…

    oh,

    I’m afraid country is one genre that I’m not much into, despite living in Cowtown for decades. Like yours, my son introduces me to contemporary indie (alternative?) music, himself proficient in guitar and piano. And I try to share with him my interests, indie films e.g. So now I’m curious, what instrument do you play? Ever get together as a family band?

    Arti

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  6. Arti, Arti, ARTI !!!!

    I almost missed it. I came back, re-read the post and thought, “I don’t know Carolyn Arends. Let me just go see what her Seize the Day video is all about….”

    Well. I found it pretty danged inspirational, as you might imagine 😉

    Now. Time to go do a bit more of my own day-seizing. Thanks for an introduction to someone I never would have found on my own.

    Linda,

    I’m discovering more about CA too, after I came back from the concert. She’s a columnist with Christianity Today, blog writer of Wrestling With Angels , a graduate of Trinity Western U. in Langley B.C, had been named ‘songwriter of the year’, Dove Award winner, Juno nominee, plus much more info on her site… and from YouTube, her song ‘Seize The Day’.
    Here’s the link

    Or maybe you’ve been there already… Thanks to readers like you, it feels great to be blogging!

    Arti

    Like

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