Cape Musicians Gather For 13th Annual Christmas Cavalcade Benefit

By: Rob Conery

Topics: Local Music , Benefits

Last year's Christmas Cavalcade. COURTESY PHOTO

The 13th annual Christmas Cavalcade for the Homeless kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Mansion Ballroom at Ocean Edge in Brewster on Sunday, Dec. 11.

After many years at the Jailhouse in Orleans, organizer/host/master of ceremonies Chandler Travis had to scramble to find a new venue when the Jailhouse turned their old function room into a brewery.

Luckily, Ocean Edge came through, says Travis, after a considerable search. He thanked the Jailhouse for being “gracious” hosts for many years, but the show must go on.

It's an all-star line up, the cream of the local music scene.

Performing that night will be The Ticks, Fred Fried, the Spampinato Brothers, the Catbirds, Tripping Lily, Toast and Jam, Christine Ernst, the Rip It Ups, Monica Rizzio, Cla Da Bossa Nova, Crab Grass, Trevor The Juggler, the Catie Flynn Band, Diana Anderson, the Daughters of the Moonlight Belly Dance Troupe, Earth Junior, Broadway Central, the Ding Donnelly and Danny Devereaux Show, and the incomparable Athol Thingerth.

Suggested donation is $25 at the door and each and every penny raised goes to the Housing Assistance Corporation of Cape Cod, who help prevent and mitigate homelessness for Cape Codders.

Travis said he's looking forward to what The Ticks come up with this year. For years now they've pulled out all the stops, with full costumes and 10-minute mini musicals. One year they did “Jesus Christ Superstar,” one year it was the “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” one year an original pocket musical written by Ticks bass player Emma Dubner.

Travis stresses that the four (and once over five) hour show is family friendly and a great community event. Most acts just play a song or two and the pace is lively, never dull.

The Chandler Travis Philharmonic big band ensemble act as house band, and coalitions and duets are the order of the day. By the end of the show, (seemingly) half the Cape is on stage for a raucous sing along.

And the Athol Singerth are simply not to be missed.

Johnny Spampinato will be there. The left-handed guitarist takes time out from his busy fly fishing schedule to play concerts from time to time, and can't wait for this year's Cavalcade. This year he's also “wondering what the Ticks will do this year...and every year!”

Spampinato says Cavalcade is really easy on him. He describes the routine as “Show every local group that exists all in one night, and raise dome dough for a great cause.” He particularly remembers an earlier Cavalcade performance by Rockwell King, saying “his last performance at the Cavalcade was great.”

Crab Grass will be performing. Banjo player and singer Les Beavan says, “We enjoy Cavalcade for the mission and the chance to get together with so many other musicians we don't see too much during the year. The biggest challenge to us is not having space to warm up. My most memorable time was seeing Sierra Hull, one of the greatest mandolin players in the country, sitting in with Tripping Lily about five years ago. An amazing talent and wonderful young woman.”

There is more than just music, too.

There are spoken word pieces, poems, comedians, even a juggler (Trevor The Juggler is back this year). Real name Trevor Pearson, The Juggler calls Cavalcade “one of the biggest gatherings of nice local performers that I've been to.” Even though he says the stage—crowded with all the mic stands and gear and equipment—can pose problems for his high flying act, he enjoys performing at Cavalcade and checking out the other performers, saying “I enjoyed the spoken word performance by Christine Ernst.”

It's a busy bordering on chaotic night.

With any less of a showman than Chandler Travis hosting, it could come apart at the seems. With any less than tactician Chris Blood on sound, it could degenerate into an acoustic shambles. With any less a stage manager than Lou McMurrer, the act changes would fall apart.

Blood says that the Philharmonic do a version XTC's “Thanks For Christmas” which he calls “a great song and they manage a pretty good version of it.” With something like four hours and more than 20 acts, many of which have guests appearing with them, Blood admits that it is a challenge, which he calls “more like air traffic control than mixing sound.” But he still enjoys himself. He said, “It is always a good year when we get P.J. O'Connell, the Howard Hughes of Eastham, to come out of hiding and sing a song. O'Connell is a hidden gem of the music scene. [And] Steve Wood generally hits it out of the park when he appears with the Greenheads.”

Travis admits that if anything, the biggest challenge is saying no to some acts. It seems improbable to pull off such an unwieldy lineup, but they've done it 12 times so far. (There is also a Boston version of the show most years, which takes place Dec. 21 in Somerville). But every year he rises to the occasion. For the homeless, and for music, and because, hey, after all, it's Christmas time again.