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Ukrainian benefit, *Songs of Hope*: Apr 23, 2022

Richard and I went to a benefit to raise funds for the people of Ukraine. It was called *Songs of Hope* and it was produced, directed, and hosted by our friend Tom Toce. I've seen probably twenty cabaret shows over the years produced by Tom. The most memorable are the Harvard/Yale Cantatas, I've been to every one of those. His shows are always thoughtfully programmed and loaded with talent.


The show opened with Erica Weiss singing the Ukrainian national anthem, accompanied by Kateryna Aiman on domra, a mandolin-like instrument. Then Weiss was joined by two friends she had sung with in an Eastern European folk choir at Yale, Sonia Senkiwsky Giandomenico and Amy Bressler Nee. They sang a Ukrainian song, "Oy chorna ya sy chorna." They were sweet and sounded really good together. In Weiss's intro to the song, she said, "Hope is not only lovely, it is also powerful."


Sidney Myer sang "The Second Time Around." The pianist throughout the show (and musical director) was Jon Delfin, a real pro who knows what he's doing, plays with splash, and can do a wide variety of styles.


Myer's voice sounds a little wooly these days but he knows how to deliver a song. Here he is singing "It's So Nice To Have a Man Around the House." I didn't have the patience for the chit chat before this song - - he starts singing at 3:15.



I first heard Myer at the Cabaret Convention at Town Hall many years ago and he was a SCREAM. At that gig he did a song called "I Love You, Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky." Here's an earlier incarnation of the song, before the Fortensky addition:



Kateryna Aiman came back and played what she described as "the anthem of the Ukrainian soul" on the domra. Extraordinary. Sue Matsuki sang "You Must Believe in Spring," a lovely song by Michel Legrand, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, and Jacques Demy. Matsuki sang it well but I couldn't help thinking what a stunning job Andrea Marcovicci would do with it.


Kateryna Aiman played another solo on the domra, "Poem" by Hrytsaienko. Haunting. Judy Gold sang and accompanied herself on the piano, performing her best-known song, "From a Distance." She said she wrote it as a love song when she was 30 and unfortunately has spent the last 35 years singing it as an anti-war song. She played it with force and tenderness.


Madalynn Mathews, a first year student at Rutgers (I guess we're not calling them "freshmen" anymore) sang "Street of Dreams." Here's an interview with her which starts with a clip of her singing "Cry Me a River."



Clearly the girl has talent and I hope she has a big career but I have a few concerns. First, she's a little too intense. Not every song is a mad scene. And she has a darling catch in her voice - - it's cute at 19 but if she's still got it at 40 it will be a sign of serious vocal damage.


Erica Weiss sang a song she had written for the show, "Do Something." It was a direct song written in a folky style about how when we're in troubling times like this it's hard to know what to do. She accompanied herself on the guitar.


Kateryna Aiman made her final and most stunning appearance, playing Prelude #10 from Calace, a piece written for mandolin and adapted for domra. Holy crap, it was amazing, for me the highlight of the program. Here's a performance on mandolin:



Madalynn Mathews came back and sang "A Cockeyed Optimist" from *South Pacific.* Sweet. The trio of singers from the start of the show came back and did another Ukrainian folk song, "Zirvalasya Khurtovyna." Beautiful harmonies, and each of the women had a little solo.


Tom Toce sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", accompanying himself on the guitar. I've never heard him sing so well, it was poignant and touching. He introduced the song saying, "I wish I never had to sing this song."


Jon Delfin played a piano solo he wrote, a jaunty jazzy piece called "Dream On." I was going all Johnny Mercer on his ass and writing words to it as he played it. Because why not?


Ann Kittredge sang "The White Cliffs of Dover," that hit song from a previous war. She's a gifted singer, she was magical and gave me chills. There was a strange element of unintentional ventriloquism in her performance, a few moments where her mouth was open, I heard her voice, but it didn't appear that the voice was coming out of her mouth. It was fascinating and a little distrurbing.


Tom ended the program with a song he had written for the show, "The Strollers of Poland." The song was inspired by a story he had seen on the news, about how people in Poland were leaving thousands of baby strollers at the train stations, to be used by incoming Ukrainian refugees. It was the perfect way to end the show.


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