By: Ray Lamont
GLOUCESTER – The nonprofit Stop Handgun Violence will present a “Concert Across America” event at more than 300 different venues Sunday, with Jackson Browne, Kenny Loggins and Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder among those performing and promoting tighter gun laws and the need to vote.
But one of the most unique concerts that’s part of the project will be in Gloucester, where two Rockport Middle School students are pulling together an “open mic” program for teen performers who also want to boost the fight against handgun violence. All the concerts support the Boston-based national organization whose co-founder is a Gloucester man.
Iona Murray-Brown, 13, of Gloucester, said she and her friend Phoebe Twombly, 12, of Rockport, came up with the idea when Murray-Brown’s neighbor — Stop Handgun Violence co-founder John Rosenthal — was talking about the organization, the concerts and how they might get involved.
“We know it’s important,” Murray-Brown said in a phone interview. “We’re trying to do what we can to get the word out — to let people know this is a big topic and it needs to be expressed and discussed more.”
“I’ve been watching the news, and I know it’s become such a huge problem,” said Twombly, a seventh-grader, “so when this (concert idea) came up, we just went into action. I’m wicked excited.”
“I love to sing and play instruments, and Phoebe plays the cello and the ukelele, so we thought we could perform,” said Murray-Brown, who is in eighth grade and plays the ukelele, guitar and piano. “Then, we got talking about getting other kids to perform, and we thought an open mic might be better and more flexible for a lot of us.”
The teen open mic event is set to run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, at 6 Wonson St. on the Neck, and it is being sponsored by the Rocky Neck Art Colony. The girls have planned 15 performance time slots, and 11 performers have already signed up. But Murray-Brown said there is room for more, and they hope to have time for some walk-ins as well.
“We want to try to keep it flexible,” she said, adding that while the show will focus solely on teen performers, older folks are welcome and encouraged to come. The concert is free, but there will be a bake sale and donations accepted, with all proceeds to go to Stop Handgun Violence.
The Rocky Neck open mic night is one of two Gloucester events being presented as part of the Concert Across America program. The other will run from 2 to 7 p.m. on Sunday at Mile Marker One on the Cape Ann’s Marina Resort off Essex Avenue.
Performers there will include Marina Evans, Fly Amero, Allen Estes, John Raymond Jerome, and Fozzie Hill with Wolf Ginandes, according to organizer Susan Coviello, who heads the North Shore Health Project. The Mile Marker event is also free, and will include a brief speaking program that’s expected to include U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken.
Donations raised at the Mile Marker concert will go to the North Shore Health Project, which has been involved in the campaign to end handgun violence.
Rosenthal, who is also a co-founder of the Friends of Boston’s Homeless and the Gloucester-based Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, or PAARI, conceded he won’t be able to make either of the Gloucester concerts. He’ll be speaking out for the need to curb handgun violence at the Beacon Theatre concert in New York featuring Vedder, Browne and company.
“But I can’t tell you how excited I am and how proud I am about the Gloucester shows,” he said, adding that the Sunday concerts from coast to coast will raise the issue of fighting handgun violence — and the need to make handgun violence a campaign issue in elections across the nation this fall.
To that end, he said he’s especially proud of the effort by Murray-Brown and Twombly to bring the issue to the forefront for Cape Ann’s young people.
“Of all the concerts,” he said, “I’m not aware of anyone doing a teen concert, or anyone doing anything like what these kids are doing. I think it’s just great, and I give them all the credit in the world.”
Concert Across America
What: Concert Across America to end handgun violence, sponsored nationally and locally by Stop Handgun Violence.
Mile Marker One At Cape Ann’s Resort Marina, 75 Essex St. in Gloucester, from 2 to 7 p.m. Features Marina Evans, Fly Amero, Allen Estes, John Raymond Jerome, and Fozzie Hill with Wolf Ginandes. Free, with donations collected to benefit North Shore Health Project.
Teen Open Mic concert at Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson St. in Gloucester, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Performances limited to teenagers, but all ages welcome. Free, with benefit bake sale and donations collected for Stop Handgun Violence.