HOPE launching concert, talk series to build community, celebrate summer

By: Julie Baxter

The Summer Sundown Music Series, which kicks off Thursday and will continue every other week through Sept. 2, will highlight a variety of musical genres and a number of community issues. It will do so virtually, with all the shows and talks livestreamed as the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit the size of gatherings and events.

Longmont nonprofit Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, better known as HOPE, this week is launching a new concert and after-talk series aimed at creating a community-building experience in the digital realm.

The Summer Sundown Music Series, which kicks off Thursday and will continue every other week through Sept. 2, will highlight a variety of musical genres and a number of community issues. It will do so virtually, with all the shows and talks livestreamed as the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit the size of gatherings and events.

The series sprung from the imagination of HOPE Development Director Kimberly Braun, who said she was seeking ways to dive deeper into the community and create new avenues for collaboration and partnerships after joining the nonprofit in March just as the pandemic was taking hold. She sees the series, particularly the after talks, as a stepping stone to HOPE being “a conduit for deeper dialogue” and to be part of community solutions.

A partnership with Unity of Boulder Church helped the series move from Braun’s imagination to reality. The church is providing its auditorium as a performance space and its tech expertise to stream the shows.

It is the church’s first collaboration with a Longmont nonprofit organization, said Minister Syntysche Groverland, but the partnership was exciting to her because of HOPE’s mission of helping homeless people get back on their feet. She said she supported anything the church could do to help in that effort, particularly amidst the pandemic since many organizations are feeling the strain of COVID, as are churches, which are oftentimes the first place nonprofits turn for assistance but also are working to stay afloat during the pandemic.

It didn’t hurt that the church was already set up to provide concert-quality sound and lighting and streaming.

Unity is a family ministry, and Groverland’s brother and co-minister, Shad Groverland, brought his experience as a stage manager at the MGM Grand to Unity.

Those efforts to provide engaging online worship experiences were made before COVID because of the decline in the number of people actually going to church, Syntysche Groverland said. “The future of church is probably going to be online, COVID or not,” she said.

In addition to community connections, fun also was on Braun’s mind as COVID-19 continues to dramatically change the slate of summer activities.

“Summer is a time to be out for music and dancing in the streets and people can’t do that right now,” Braun said.

So, just as summer music festivals typically offer a little something for everyone’s tastes, Braun set out for the HOPE concert series to do the same. The artists performing represent a range of musical styles from bluegrass to Brazilian to Celtic to rock ’n’ roll to Swedish to symphonic.

The series launches Thursday with “Irish, Swedish and Celtic Delight,” a performance by Jon Sousa and Sandra Wong.

Sousa in his 20s discovered a love for Irish music after hearing Afro Celt Sound System’s fusion of electronic dance, West African and Celtic sounds. Then a friend gave him a CD of Celtic music and he heard the distilled sound of fiddle and guitar and he was “mesmerized.”

Wong has a similar passion for Swedish music, and Sousa said their collaborations are always a celebration of diverse sounds and humanity.

“Sandra and I, we really connect on this joy level. When we play together, it’s really joyful,” he said. “A lot of the traditional music we play from Sweden, Ireland, Norway … it’s dance music, music that’s meant to get you moving. We also play the soft, sensitive side of the spectrum and in between. It’s a journey through the spectrum and range of human emotion.”

A longtime friend of HOPE’s Braun, Sousa said he is happy to be part of the series because of the cause it supports.

“I love when music can be of service,” he said. “I make my living performing music and some teaching … it feels important to have times when (music) is just gifted.”

The suggested donation for each concert is $20, with half of the proceeds going to performers and half to HOPE, and Braun said she is hopeful donations will be enough to compensate musicians at least nominally.

Just as the music will cover a broad range of styles and genres, the after talks also will explore a broad range of subjects. Talk topics will be “Social Distancing and Equality for All” on Thursday, “Restoring True Justice” on July 16, “Mental Health: Social Stigma and Discrimination” on Aug. 6, and “Dignity of All and the Challenge of Reentering Society” on Aug. 20. Speakers will include Naomi Curland, executive director of Longmont Food Rescue on Thursday; Kathleen McGoey, executive director of Longmont Community Justice Partnership, on July 16; and Emily Kleeman, director of The Reentry Initiative on Aug. 20. The speaker for Aug. 6 will be someone from Bridge House, Braun said. The topic of the Sept. 2 talk is still being determined.

To learn more about the Summer Sundown Music Series and to register and/or donate, click here.

HOPE’s programs include overnight shelter for the homeless in partnership with local churches, navigation services through the Boulder County Coordinated Entry Program, a bicycle distribution program, and a day shelter that provides food and showers, internet access and services, such as tax preparation assistance.

HOPE last month launched a safe lot program, providing a safe space for those who sleep in their cars to park for the night. The program is new and HOPE is working out the finer points of the program, which it hopes can become a template for others, Braun said.

The nonprofit last year helped 51 people get into housing and helped another 117 out of homelessness, according to its website. In addition, it provided 6,310 nights of shelter and 364 nights of medical respite; served 17,255 hot meals; and distributed 27 bikes and 2,119 pairs of socks, according to the site.

Source: https://www.longmontleader.com/local-news/hope-longmont-launching-new-concert-after-talk-series-to-build-community-celebrate-summer-2532633

Leave a Comment