'Village Jam' Haiti benefit moves the Paramount

photo-paramountinteriorAnother big time at the Paramount.

Homegrown. Charlottesville’s loaded with it. Where else but here could one walk three blocks from one’s downtown home on the spur of the moment, and for 10 dollars obtain an inspirational, uplifting, musical show performed by local talent. And the admission fee goes to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund.

The Academical Village People, the AVP, one of U.VA’s all male a cappella groups gave their fifth annual Village Jam February 21 at the accommodating Paramount Theater.

According to group President Robbie Eckardt, the AVP have been doing a yearly benefit since 2005. Various beneficiaries have been tsunami victims, leukemia charities, and resident of the hurricane-torn Gulf Coast. Eckardt was particularly complimentary of the Paramount for its help in putting together this event with one and a half weeks notice.

To help out this year, the AVP invited two other male a cappella groups from UVA, the Hullabahoos and the Virginia Gentleman. It was clear from the makeup of the youthful, attractive, and predominantly coeducational crowd attending that these guys have a passionate following.

The AVP opened the show, chaotically tumbling up onto the stage from the audience. They sang “Good Love is on the Way” by the John Mayer Trio and quickly turned the stage over to their guests, The Virginia Gentleman.

Though traditionally dressed in bow ties, blue blazers, khakis and loafers, they were not at all formal. Eric Burdon and the Animals would have been astounded at their version of the “House of the Rising Sun,” punctuated by rap style microphone mouth percussion. Then one of them reminded us of why we were there by recalling talking to fellow student Stephanie Jean-Charles before she was killed in Haiti.

They then moved back to the music with a lively version of “Down” by Jay Sean Feat and Lil' Wayne, and a moving “On the Turning Away” by Pink Floyd. Prior to the intermission was a Beatles medley ("Gotta Get You Into My Life," "Eleanor Rigby," "Hey Jude").

The Hullabahoos were up next. They wore ties, button down shirts, Dockers, and colorful dashiki-like robes? They had a more contemporary feel, more mobile, more hip hop. Their performances of “Replay” by Iyaz, “The Wanderer,” “Always be my Baby,” and “Amazing” by Josh Kelley were occasionally punctuated by the screams of their devoted fan base. One of the members told how he was born in Haiti, and brought us a message of miracles and hope as he had had learned that good friends had survived the earthquake. They finished with a most original version of “Amazing Grace.”

Again the AVP rushed from the audience to the stage. Dressed in blue-collar-style work shirts, complete with nametag embroidery, they were very physical, broadly pantomiming to their songs, frequently burlesque in style. Starting in the dark with flickering flashlights they performed “Fireflies” by Owl City. This was followed by “Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness, and “Never Say Never” by The Fray. They finished with a wonderful copy of “Come Sail Away” by Styx, complete with a cappella faux electric guitar and synthesizer sounds.

All the participants then sang the well chosen and perfectly executed last song, “Prayer of the Children” by Kurt Bestor. He reportedly wrote it after the hospital in Serbia where he had served as a missionary was bombed, killing all the children.

“Can you hear the voice of the children, softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?”

You might as well have been chopping onions in the Paramount.

Then just in case you had forgotten that Charlottesville is a college town, the singing groups led the near-capacity crowd in a spirited version of “The Good Old Song,” with most of the crowd linking arms, swaying, and ending this wonderful show with a Wa-hoo-wah!

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Our schools sure could use this money but Cville has always been pound foolish.

Here's an idea, let's keep that money right here in the US, heck even cville, and solve some problems of our own before we ship it off and ignore the local unemployed and poor. Sure Haiti is our neighbor in the hemisphere, but what about the people right here in this "enlightened" and "progressive" city?