Singers lift voices in Toy Fund benefit

  • Members of the Amherst Regional High School Hurricane Singers perform “Storm Comin’” during “In Perfect Harmony,” a holiday benefit for the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, Friday, at Buckley Recital Hall at Amherst College. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2018 10:08:04 PM

AMHERST — What was once a traditional holiday benefit show was renewed on Friday night at Amherst College’s Buckley Recital Hall as over 200 people gathered for a “Hodie” concert supporting the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

The “In Perfect Harmony” concert contributed around $1,500 in donations toward the Toy Fund, said choral singer and concert co-producer Brit Albritton. An additional $167 in donations covered printing and advertising expenses for the show.

Albritton said that while he is involved with various areas of activism, the Toy Fund stood out as a particularly unifying cause for the community to rally behind.

“There are so many things that are grappling for our attention right now that are all worth our attention… but for me there’s a really special power to supporting something that everyone on earth kind of admits that we should be doing,” Albritton said.

“There’s no political aspect to it at all, it’s just something that we know we should be doing, and here’s a chance to bring music into it,” he continued.

The Hodie benefit concerts were first held in 2004 under the direction of Albritton and then-assistant director Deanna Joseph, and supported the Toy Fund in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Hodie (ho-dee-ay) translates to “This day” in Latin.

Co-producer Arianne Abela, who also conducted the Hodie Festival Chorus along with Noah Horn, sang in the Hodie concerts herself as a student at Smith, and also helped to co-produce the concert with Albritton.

Addressing the concert’s audience, Abela described the show as a way to find “solace and joy in making music and singing and sharing our voices in peace and harmony.”

The show featured the Hampshire Young People’s Chorus, Amherst Regional High School Hurricane Singers, Cantabile and the Hodie Festival Chorus, as well as combined performances from the three choirs.

The groups were composed of singers from the five colleges and local choruses.

Audience member Jeanette Wilburn of Shutesbury, whose daughter performed with the Amherst Regional High School Hurricane Singers, said that she has given to the Toy Fund in the past, “but it was nice to actually come and partake in the fundraiser.”

Cynthia Ware of Pelham said that she was mainly drawn to the holiday concert as an opportunity to donate to a good cause, adding that several students from her after-school program are partaking in the concert.

“I work with children, so you’re always looking for ways to support them,” Ware said.

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Berkshire Children & Families at 220 Russell St., Suite 200 in Hadley, MA 01035, verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; Faces, 175 Main St. Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The ToyBox, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com.

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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