Concert to aid fight against homelessness

Ed McGuirl, far left, performs at the 2019 Singing for Shelter concert at Channing Memorial Church to raise money for charities that work to combat homelessness. He also is on the bill for the 2022 show that is scheduled for Dec. 8. PHOTO BY ROSE ESCOBAR

Ed McGuirl, far left, performs at the 2019 Singing for Shelter concert at Channing Memorial Church to raise money for charities that work to combat homelessness. He also is on the bill for the 2022 show that is scheduled for Dec. 8. PHOTO BY ROSE ESCOBAR

Inspired by the aim to end homelessness in Newport County, a local folk musician will be on the bill during a Christmas benefit that returns to a familiar stage after two years of virtual performances.

Jamestown resident Ed McGuirl will perform two songs with the South Road Ramblers during the Singing for Shelter concert at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at Channing Memorial Church, 135 Pelham St., Newport. The event will include an American Sign Language interpreter for audience members with impaired hearing.

Singing for Shelter has sponsored its acoustic Christmas concerts featuring Newport County musicians since 2006, but this will be the first live audience since 2019 due to COVID-19. McGuirl said he is looking forward to the return of the camaraderie shared by the musicians on stage.

“We really have kind of lost contact with one another,” he said. “This is the first chance in three years that we’ll be able to hang out together and just have a good time. Everyone gets to play a couple tunes and contribute to a really worthy cause.”

In addition to McGuirl and the Ramblers, the concert also will include performances by Jimmy Winters, John Monllos with Joanne Rodino and Julie Bisbano. The Fastnet Irish Session

Crew will perform during the half-hour period between the doors opening and the concert beginning. Admission is $27 to benefit Lucy’s Hearth in Middletown and the McKinney Cooperative Shelter in Newport. Despite not having a live show for two consecutive years, McGuirl said there was no decrease in donations to shelters. Unlike the single-day live show, viewers had the opportunity to see multiple performances streaming across several weeks.

“Both years were very good,” McGuirl said. “I think because of the amount of time. There were an X amount of days in which people were able to see the concert.”

McGuirl, who doubles as the stage manager, said producer Mark Gorman, the co-founder of Singing for Shelter, decided on the in-person format during the summer.

“You have to make the decision ahead of time,” McGuirl said.

Not including the 2020 and ’21 Facebook performances, Singing for Shelter has sponsored its concert at the Unitarian Universalist parish annually to raise money for the two charities. During the course of 15 years, the concerts have raised $150,000 for the two shelters, and the goal for 2022 is $10,000.

Each artist on the bill will perform two songs. McGuirl usually performs with the Slackwater String Band, but his musical partner, Mike Fischman, moved to the West Coast, so he formed the South Road Ramblers. The group includes guitarist Jim Chapin, percussionist Joe Lambiase and Jack Moore on washtub bass. Lambiase also is from Jamestown.

Their set will include “Ho Ho Mojo,” a song McGuirl wrote in memory of his friend, mandolinist David Haller, who died of COVID-19 in 2020. Chapin also was a bandmate of Haller in the jug band K.C. Moaners.

“It’s a very upbeat, audience participation song,” McGuirl said. “Essentially, I consider it a tribute to him.”

The other number McGuirl and the South Road Ramblers will perform is “Good Tidings and Good Cheer,” which Mc- Guirl also wrote. Tom Perotti, McGuirl’s bandmate in the Slackwater String Band, will sit in with the new band on guitar for that song.

McGuirl said “Good Tidings” is a multi-denominational holiday number incorporating Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and it has become a standard at the Singing for Shelter event. Like “Ho Ho Mojo,” “Good Tidings” encourages audience participation.

Apart from the music, the concert will feature raffles for audience members. One raffle will be for an acoustic guitar donated by Rick’s Music World in Raynham, Mass., and another will be for a keyboard donated by Larry Brown of Luca Music in Middletown.

So far, McGuirl said ticket sales have been “brisk,” and he is anticipating a sellout audience. McGuirl also said it will be “fantastic” to be performing at Channing Memorial Church after the two-year hiatus.

“It’s just a nice environment,” he said. “The acoustics are fantastic.”

McGuirl hopes those who attend the concert feel good about returning to a live musical holiday.

Tickets for the Singing for Shelter Concert can be purchased at Lucy’s Hearth at 19 Valley Road in Middletown or by emailing Limited tickets will be available at the door. People who are unable to attend, but want to support the area’s shelters, can donate at their websites.

At Lucy’s Hearth, the agency says its team “is passionate about helping children and their families who are experiencing homelessness due to economic hardship, family crisis, divorce, eviction, and severe shortage of safe, affordable housing.” The shelter’s primary goal is to foster independence that will help residents gain the life skills necessary to find stable housing.

At the McKinney shelter, which has been open since 1988, their team serves a diverse population including people suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, war veterans and victims of domestic violence.