2014-06-05 / News

Accidental Sisters in concert Saturday

By Ken Shane

The Accidental Sisters will present their annual concert on Saturday night at the Jamestown Arts Center, and proceeds from this year’s fundraiser will benefit Providence’s Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence.

The Jamestown-based singing group was started by Julie Andrews five years ago during a difficult time in her life. Both Andrews’ father and brother were suffering from terminal diseases, so the former opera singer, who has been teaching at the university level for 20 years, felt the need to sing again. Andrews reached out to a group of 16 friends by email and got an immediate positive response.

The group has grown over the years and now has 26 members. They rehearse once a week during the school year and take the summer off.

The Accidental Sisters have performed at least one concert a year since being established. Each of the concerts has raised money for charitable organizations, and past recipients include the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, the Women’s Resource Center in Newport and an orphanage in the Congo.

According to Andrews, the goal of the sisters is to bring healing and joy to the world. At the same time, the group knows that it must support organizations that work daily to mend lives and foster hope. In donating this year’s proceeds to the nonviolence institute, the group is recognizing that violence corrodes all of our lives, she says.

“That’s what we’re about,” Andrews said. “When we give a concert, lives are made better. We’ve given thousands of dollars to worthy causes over the years.”

The program for this week’s concert includes songs from all over the world. According to Andrews, the group often sings about women and children of different cultures, and about nurturing the environment. There are songs from Africa, France, Appalachia, Great Britain and Canada. Nearly all of the music is a cappella, but during Saturday’s concert, the women will be accompanied by guitarist Matt Bolles on the song “Fields of Gold,” which was originally recorded by Sting.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything in our music,” Andrews said. “We’ve got one song that’s kind of a mash-up of African music and Latin American street music. It’s really cool the way it all comes together. It’s a very exciting group. It should be really fun.”

In addition to the music, the concert will include brief remarks from Teny Gross, executive director of the institute. Gross said that his organization is looking for ways to reduce gang and youth violence. Members of the institute’s board include Jamestowners Heidi Keller Moon, retired Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan and Town Councilor Gene Mihaly.

“On the whole, we’re just trying to build a different climate, with a belief in nonviolence, and in treating each other in a better way,” he said. “Conflicts are normal, but we want to use them to solve problems in a nonviolent manner, as opposed to what we rely on now, which is violence.”

The institute, which was founded in 2000, is currently overseeing a number of programs. The training department teaches everyone from elementary-school students to maximum-security prisoners. The street-workers program is active in Providence and Pawtucket, and focuses on people who are experiencing violence on the streets, including gangs. The activists try to mediate disputes and guide gang members to a more positive path. The institute also has a department for victim services, which deals with homicides throughout the state by offering support to griev- ing families at no cost.

“We have people who lost their loved ones 28 years ago, and people who lost their loved ones 28 days ago,” Gross said. “We support them and they support each other through a support group and counseling. We also help with funeral expenses.”

The institute also supports living victims of violence, including people who have been shot or stabbed. In the United States, says Gross, the chance of recurrence within five years for someone who had a penetrating wound is 45 percent, with a 20 percent chance of being killed in a subsequent attack. Another program works with young adults who are in prison as a result of guns and gangs. A counselor helps the young offenders so that they don’t become part of the recidivism statistic.

Finally, the institute helps employ and educate young gang members who have been involved in violence by offering GED classes and employment training.

“All of it is infused with the ideas of nonviolence,” Gross said.

The concert begins Saturday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. There will be a suggested donation of $10 at the door.

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