Students generate financial support for AIDS hospice with Benefit Concert

Scheduled up against the rising sophomore housing draw and a variety of other Spring Fling activities, the AIDS Benefit Concert on April 26 in Goodrich still managed to draw a crowd. The student assembly was modestly sized but receptive as the all-women a cappella group Ephoria kicked things off at 7:30, but as the show drew to a close around 10:00 the ground floor was packed and students hung over the iron handrails of the upstairs mezzanine.

Collection baskets placed strategically around Payne Hall filled steadily with piles of green and silver as those in the crowd opened their wallets and showed their support for the Chrysalis Community, an AIDS hospice in southern Vermont struggling under the weight of construction costs.

Due to shifts in the lineup, Chrysalis’ representative, Andrew, did not get the opportunity to explain his group’s mission until nearly halfway through the show. This proved to be fortunate, as more students were present to listen to his vision of something of far graver importance than a bad housing pick.

Chrysalis Community seeks to create an environment in the rural woods of Vermont where between five and seven terminal AIDS patients can live out their last weeks in comfort and safety, without the stigma that still affords them poor treatment in traditional hospices. High construction costs have ground the development process to a halt, hence the need for both volunteer manual labor and outside financial support.

In addition to the collection baskets, the Lehman Service Council sold t-shirts and announced that all proceeds from the coffee bar would benefit Chrysalis. In a very visible way, the Lehman Service Council showed how the Community will benefit directly from student contributions, which is a very real effect of compassion and a nice conclusion to Service Week.

The student performances did a great job of providing a mix of humor and pure entertainment while still allowing for occasional reflection on the cause at hand. Acts like the Indian Folk Dance featuring Sadaf Ahmad ’01, Heather Brutz ’02, Saroj Bhattarai ’05, Nura Kinge ’05 and Hamaad Ravda ’05 were fun and unexpected. Combo Za offered a longer performance, including several of the group’s most popular skits.

When the B-boys and B-girls of break-dancing troupe Sol Ka Fe took the stage, their set started with what looked like a dance battle between rival crews. The competition slowly escalated to the crowd-pleasing finale of “Smooth Criminal,” where it was proved that Josh Frankel ’02 has doper moves than the guy from Alien Ant Farm any day of the week.

Although “extenuating circumstances” (or was that “technical difficulties”?) ruled out Kevin Hsueh’s yo-yo tricks, the audience was treated to a reading of a one-act play by Matt Haldeman ’02 and Jacob Eisler ’04, in addition to an encore performance of Haldeman’s original “Bathroom Humor,” also featuring Rich Dunn ’02 and Cyndi Wong ’04.

While the comedy and a cappella acts provided light-hearted fun, as the evening drew to a close a host of singer-songwriters set a mellow and reflective mood. A Dan Bern cover, entitled “The Day They Found a Cure for AIDS” and performed by Ethan Rutherford ’02, reminded the audience why they came out to Goodrich that night, albeit the reminder was not without a hint of irony.

A duet with Caitlin Canty ’04 and Pete Endres ’04 brought a tear to the crowd’s eyes as their amazing voices intertwined in harmony and floated up into Payne Hall’s arched rafters.

After excellent performances from soloists Elliot Baer ’04 and Jeremy Oldfield ’05, veteran crowd-pleaser Bernice Lewis took the stage for what rapidly became a mother-daughter act; toddler Mariah Lewis’ rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle” stole the show as the highlight of the evening.

The Benefit Concert proved highly successful, and hopefully sent students off into the Spring Fling whirlwind with a moment of reflection. The AIDS epidemic is certainly a bitter pill to swallow, and while the Benefit Concert did not sugarcoat, good music and humor in the name of service allowed things to go down a little easier.