Story last updated at 4:57 p.m. Thursday, October 24, 2002

Concert with a cause
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: entertainment

  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
The musicians who performed "Chansons De La Nuit" Saturday night at the Bunnell Street Gallery raised more than $1,500 for the Homer Skateboarding Association. They are from left: Heidi Senungetuk, Julieann Smith, Marta Todd, Jerami Youngblood, Carolyn Norton, Peter Norton, Hannah Rennell and Caressa Fennell.  
Homer's strong arts tradition has long benefited the people of Kachemak Bay when it comes to a diverse menu of cultural events.

One recent event --*Chansons De La Nuit, a concert featuring classical renditions of an eclectic mix of songs -- benefited more than just the ears of its audience. The musicians and a broad group of sponsors raised funds for the Homer Skateboarding Association's efforts to complete work on the new skate park.

To the delight of both the skateboarders and the performers, the one-night show sold out the Bunnell Street Gallery on Saturday.

With a crowd of around 80 people crammed into the intimate space -- roughly 20 more were turned away -- Chansons De La Nuit pulled in more than $1,500 for the skaters.

That money will go toward a drive to raise the $6,000 in locally donated money necessary for obtaining matching funds from the Rasmuson Foundation. Rasmuson funds and other grants won by the skateboarding association have helped pave the way for the park that now occupies a small lot adjacent to the Homer Boys and Girls Club. Now the group is hoping to raise enough cash for the purchase and installation of the equipment that differentiates a skate park from a parking lot.

After hearing about the association's need for locally raised funds, Jerami Youngblood decided that a benefit concert was in order.

Carolyn Norton said Youngblood, a tenor who spent time with the Utah Opera, had been looking for a singing outlet and hoped he could bring together a group of musicians to benefit the community.

"He wanted to use his talent to help out a good cause," Norton said, adding that the cause of skateboarding got Youngblood's attention because it offered Homer's youth an outlet of their own. "It fits because it's a group of people who are passionate about what they do helping out another group that is passionate about what they do."

So, Youngblood and Norton rallied Caressa Fennell and her daughter Hannah, both sopranos, and baritone Peter Norton, Carolyn's father. To this group of voices they added violinist Heidi Senungetuk, cellist Marta Todd and pianist JulieAnn Smith.

The ensemble put together an unusually diverse program of songs, running the spectrum from the folk standard "Danny Boy" to a song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera to the classical Italian piece "Con Te Partiro."

The end result was a delighted audience, which came out to support two groups of dedicated individuals.

The enthusiasm of the crowd made the evening a success above and beyond the show's success as a benefit, Youngblood said.

"It was amazing," he said of the audience's response to the music. "I was so impressed that so many people turned out. I felt like we saw so many different areas of Homer showing up."

Sixteen-year-old Adrian Raymond was one particular member of the audience that represented an unlikely demographic for a concert with a operatic bent. But in addition to being a skateboarder and one of the organizers of the movement that has led to the establishment of a free-skate zone in Homer, Raymond is a musician. He plays saxophone and clarinet.

While Raymond admitted that he wasn't exactly sure how well he would like the opera parts of show, he said in the end "Con Te Partiro" was his favorite piece.

"It was really cool, and I appreciated it even more because it was for us."

The array of sponsors was almost as varied as the music, with help coming from:

KBBI AM-890, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, Soldotna and newly created Homer chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Skyline Bed and Breakfast, Lotus Blossom Design, Family Solutions, Bunnell Street Gallery, the Homer Boys and Girls Club, John's Corner Market, Two Sisters Bakery, Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Fritz Creek General Store.

Chain Reaction Sports donated a new skateboard for a drawing and, as if to complete the cycle, Homer attorney and theater devotee Dan Westerburg won the prize.

He said afterward that he'd never set foot on a skateboard in his life, but he was pretty sure his young son would eventually take up the sport.

Sepp Jannotta can be reached at sjannotta@homer