Talents come together in support


Last week, when I wrote about how the suppressed economy has affected local culture by using theatrical spaces as my examples, I did not reflect on how it also hurts dozens of employees and owners who are still mired without dependable incomes. Of the thousands more in Illinois and millions across the United States facing extended shortfalls like these individuals, consider that a large percentage had already been struggling before March. We also have no accurate timetable as to when joblessness in our state will significantly shrink or how nominal unemployment benefits can honestly help our citizens.

Sure, getting one’s finances stabilized is a chore during a pandemic. Maintaining one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being at the same time is a much more precarious issue. We’re all hammered by the repercussions of COVID-19, but strife is exponential for those in our cities and towns with perennially low incomes and little other resource who struggle in affording basic needs, including key medical services, while racism, classism, and violence take a huge toll. Fortunately, creativeness and leadership can offer a well-timed response in down moments like the present that both lifts us up and inspires us to take action for the good of our neighbors. Video is the vehicle allowing voices to be heard in this instance.

On Friday, June 26, a fundraising incentive called “C-U Sings” debuted with a collaborative cover of The Beatles’ “Let it Be” performed by more than 50 vocalists and instrumentalists. Visit YouTube to watch the performance, discover who contributed to this rendition, and learn how the project came to be through the core efforts of businessman James Barnham and studio engineers James Treichler, Ryan Groff, and Mark Rubel. More importantly, all proceeds donated through the “C-U Sings” page at the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois website will go towards the operating costs of Promise Healthcare, a network of professional services and facilities in Champaign-Urbana that provides for the underserved, and Champaign County Health Care Consumers, an office that educates and advocates for just practices in our unwieldy medical system. Barnham wants the drive to bank more than $10,000 for them both, according to a News-Gazette feature, and hedges that further “volumes” might not be far off.



Rubel and Barnham stress in their interviews with Bob Asmussen the safe conditions under which the artists recorded their parts, whether at home or entering Groff’s or Treichler’s studio. Other than being a teachable moment in this pandemic, it is a fresh reminder of how musicians in the C-U regularly go out of their way to show solidarity in a cause. This should be dramatically apparent right now; performers have not played their paying gigs for months and may also be out wages from the proverbial day job, yet they uphold a legacy of performative compassion that stretches back decades and has taken many forms.

“C-U Sings” is not the only recent example. To spread a message of positivity and resilience that speaks to all ages. Dr. Howard Elementary School instructor Brandon T. Washington led a virtual sing-along of the SESAME STREET chestnut “Sing” on Friday, April 24, for children and parents sheltering in place. Afterwards, the UIUC Krannert Center for the Performing Arts posted a music video to YouTube with home recordings of the kids joining in with Washington. Before the state restrictions went into effect, organizers Ward Gollings and Mike Ingram pulled off the 29th Great Cover Up at the City Center of Champaign in February. An annual marathon of local groups performing as national acts to raise funds for necessary services in the community, GCUP lent its support this year to CU One-to-One Mentoring Program, Girls Rock C-U, and Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County. The list goes on if you care to Google search with one of those extra moments you might have.

Enjoy the efforts of these individuals, duos, bands, and super-groups, no matter how you encounter their musicianship, and listen well when they have something to say in their moment of delivery. Then, use another of those extra moments and donate to the organizations I’ve linked to in the article, dearest givers, for we can spread human kindness even while restricting our movement in the short term.

~ Jason Pankoke

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