In response to the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the School of Music and the University Musical Society will present a benefit concert at the Power Center this Sunday. No tickets will be required for the concert, which features University students, instructors and alumni performing 18 classical and jazz pieces, some of which are inspired by the music of the stricken region. Donations will be accepted and given to the American Red Cross, the National Humane Society and America’s Second Harvest to aid hurricane victims.
While everyone performing in Sunday’s concert can sympathize with those displaced by the disaster, soloist and University alum Dorian Hall has a special connection to New Orleans: He was born and raised there, and the hurricane came frighteningly close to taking his grandmother’s life.
“This benefit concert is near and dear to my heart,” Hall said. “I have an obligation to be a public servant. When I sing, I am doing that — singing is not for myself but for the greater good,” Hall said.
Hall said that this deep sense of public responsibility comes from the gratitude that he feels from having his family survive the tragedy intact. “My aunt and mom had to take care of my bed-ridden grandmother. Her health is dependant on electricity. She is fed through a tube,” Hall said.
“They had to get my grandmother out. She couldn’t breathe — my aunt somehow held on to her car, and had it on high land.” Hall’s aunt was able to drive to Houston, where his grandmother could receive emergency medical attention. “I was so relieved. (Before), I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was very concerned; then I began to hear from other family members,” Hall said.
Hall recognizes that the old New Orleans is in some ways only a thing of the past, but he’s optimistic about the rebuilding process. “I know it’s going to come back bigger than ever,” he said.
This is the message of hope that Hall believes is central to the spiritual Give Me Jesus, which he will perform with the accompaniment of Music Prof. Louis Nagel. The piece, arranged by Moses Hogan, a New Orleans jazz musician, is one that Hall feels will resonate in the souls’ of the audience.
“It’s beautiful music, it’s complete in and of itself. The music speaks for itself,” Hall said.
Sunday’s event will be Music Prof. Caroline Helton’s first benefit concert. As a singer, she was able to choose texts that had themes most closely associated with the tragedy.
“The music (for “I Too”) is by Margaret Barnes and the poet is Langston Hughes,” Helton explained. “The issue that struck me was how disproportionately it affected the African American part of the population, and how much work there is left to be done in the country on (the issue of) racial equality.”
The other text is “Kaddisch” — a kaddish is a Jewish prayer — from Maurice Ravel’s Deux Mélodies Hébraïques. Helton chose it because she is Jewish, and it is something close to her that she can use to reach out to those affected by the hurricane. “Since I’m Jewish, it is something I want to offer to those killed by the disaster,” Helton said.
Music graduate student Daniel Piccolo, who will be playing in both the Jazz Ensemble and the Creative Arts Orchestra on Sunday, emphasized the good that musicians can do to generate aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
“One of my roommates is a contractor. He left to go to Mississippi to build roofs,” Piccolo said. It is important that everyone do what they can. I can’t build roofs, but I’m doing what I can to raise money.”