Main image: Dan Watson (right), executive director of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, presents a cheque to Heather Cassie at The Table Soup Kitchen Foundation. The Black Whole Quarantine Reunion Concert co-organizer Marcia Kuehnen is in the background. (supplied)
This quarantine may have taken a lot of social norms away, but one thing it hasn’t taken is the enjoyment of music.
People have been coming together through virtual concerts to raise funds for different organizations in the community.
Earlier this month, Huntsville High School alumni and the Huntsville Festival of the Arts (HfA) recreated the Black Whole Cabaret using Zoom.
The Black Whole Cabaret was a variety show held once a month at the high school throughout the 1990s.
“Like so many people, it was a big reason why I first dipped my toes into being on stage and being in the arts,” said Dan Watson, executive director of the Huntsville Festival of the Arts and a Huntsville High School alumnus. “For anybody who was at the concert, I was really struck by how much that program affected people and how many great memories people have of it. We had about 300 people tune it. It was kind of like a high school reunion.”
Watson said fellow organizers Andreana Hudson and Marcia Kuehnen and had been talking about doing a Black Whole Cabaret reunion but the challenge was figuring out how to bring everyone together.
“They went to HHS too and were part of the Black Whole Cabaret,: said Watson. “When this [COVID-19] hit and we saw so many people use Zoom or other online video conferencing, we thought what if we did that. It worked really well. They were instrumental in organizing it, getting people together and raising funds.”
The virtual concert raised $3,000 for the Table Soup Kitchen Foundation.
“Everyone’s been affected by COVID-19 and looking around there’s a lot of organizations in need and the work The Table Soup Kitchen Foundation is doing is very important to the community and very needed at this point in time. It’s needed at the best of times, let alone right now,” said Watson. “Heather Cassie, the executive director of the foundation, is also a Huntsville High School alumni and her family was very involved in the Black Whole Cabaret so we thought it was a good fit.”
As a non-profit organization, Watson said it felt great having the HfA be able to donate to another non-profit.
“To be able to use what we do to help our community is something we always try to do and in this case it was a great thing to be able to help in this way and support our community during these times,” said Watson. “They treat everybody with kindness and compassion and have been working so hard for many years to support their guests and we want to support them and all the work they do.”
Watson said at the end of the virtual concert he left the video conference open so people could continue to chat and share memories of the Black Whole Cabaret and how the arts taught them so much, even if they went a different way in their career.
“It’s learning to working with a team,” he said. “You can learn knowledge, but the hands-on skills of learning how to communicate, work with people and work to a deadline are essential to anyone in any kind of work environment.”
Watson said there has been talk of people wanting another virtual Black Whole Cabaret, but there are no immediate plans at this time.
Watch the Black Whole Quarantine Reunion Concert on YouTube here.
Back in late April, local hiphop artist, Taktikz, raised funds at an online Quarantunes concert, presented by Lake of Bays Brewing and Hunters Bay Radio, for Fairvern Nursing Home.
“The reason I chose to raise funds for Fairvern is because my mother, Cindy Lee, has given the better part of her life working there, so I’ve heard first hand about the struggles and sacrifices the staff have been going through due to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep residents safe. Once I got offered the opportunity to perform I naturally felt the need to help out our community the best way I know how,” he said. “The thing I like most about the work they do at Fairvern is how connected they are with their residents. Those ladies and gentlemen that work there are real heroes. A lot of the time I feel the nurses there should be treated with more respect as they truly are the backbone of our community.”
Taktikz recently presented the cheque for $1,000 to staff.
“I felt really accomplished once I presented the cheque to Fairvern, all the ladies seemed to be very grateful,” he said. “The most satisfying feeling of all was how proud my mother was of me. I mean what son doesn’t want to make their mom proud, right?”
Born and raised in Huntsville, Taktikz is a proud Muskokan best known for his hip hop.
“I really just wanted to give back to my community and help out any way I could,” he said. “If I could encourage any other artists to step forward and raise funds for a local business during these tough times that’s a bonus. I also believe there is a lot of negative stigma attached to hip hop music so I’m trying to break that stereotype by helping out others and gain the respect of people outside of the hip hop culture.”
He and his friends Brickz and Hawkrawk produced over an hour of original music to perform during the virtual concert.
“I want to add a special thanks to Hunters Bay Radio, Lake of Bays Brewery, Scott Pelling at Explosive Device Records, Dylan Teakle at Broken Revolver Studio, my partners Brickz and Hawkrawk, and especially all the donors for making the fundraiser such a success.”
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