Wednesday, April 18, 2012


On April 2, I attended a charity concert in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center benefiting Paul Newman's Association of Hole in the Wall Camps. Renamed the SeriousFun Children's Network, it now provides 28 summer camps around the world for seriously ill children, giving them and their parents a break from hospitals and doctor appointments. Free of charge, these camps let the kids be kids.

I've read about these concerts--which offer music, celebrity appearances, and participation by the campers themselves--but this was my first time attending. While I was excited to see some of the celebrity guests, I was most eager to see how the kids would be involved. I'd seen photos and video clips of Paul Newman on stage in costume playing and singing songs with the campers--Everything was accompanied by smiles and laughter.

Billed as "A Celebration of Paul Newman's Dream," this year's concert was a bittersweet reminder of why we were all there--the children with their unflappable spirit and the great man who gave them this gift of freedom, normalcy, and fun. Fourteen campers represented their camps that night. Some of them traveled from foreign countries, such as Italy and Hungary. I was moved and entertained at the same time: One moment, a teenager told us about his best friend, someone he met at his summer camp who never failed to make him laugh but eventually lost his battle with cancer. The next, a younger boy told us the best thing about his camp: two trees that together have grown to form the letter 'H.' "I was told to write an essay about what I love about the camp," he said, "But that would just ruin it."

This year's celebrity guests included Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Paul Simon, Trisha Yearwood, Josh Groban, and Jake Gyllenhaal. One of my favorite moments came during Elvis Costello's three-song set. The concert was backed by a 14-piece house band, but Elvis only enlisted four members of the string section. He commented on the beautiful theater's fantastic acoustics. Then, during his second song, "A Slow Drag with Josephine," he proved it. Playing alone on his acoustic guitar, he stepped away from the microphone but kept singing while roaming the stage. Avery Fisher Hall is elegantly simple in shades of beige, but Elvis was right: The acoustics rock!

Here, Comet volunteered to take center-stage because he loves Elvis Costello! While Gordon, B.J., Lily, and Ashes are in the band, the other kitties wouldn't dare miss this event. They've snagged front-row seats.

Vocal (April 6, 2012)
(Illustration Friday: April 6, 2012)

At the benefit, Elvis Costello introduced "A Slow Drag for Josephine," saying that he was about to play some rock 'n' roll. Our cheers transformed to giggles when he clarified, "At least, it's rock 'n' roll as I imagine it in 1921." You may not know this song, so I thought I'd include it here for your listening pleasure. While not quite as cool as the version I heard, here he is singing it on Jools Holland's show, "Later Live," in 2010. Enjoy!

Video © BBC

No comments: