Though many homeless people can be seen on street corners throughout the area, oftentimes people become numb to their presence. Luckily, the dedicated efforts of the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC) reminds us about the staggering problem.
“Listen Up Brunswick County” is a series of concerts that will extend through May to raise money for the BCHC. Headed by Jeannie and Ron Dufour, the series is molded after a similar one they were involved with at a public library in Connecticut.
After reaching out to Holden Beach Chapel, the venue that will facilitate Listen Up, John Allen, a member of the board of trustees for the BCHC, informed them of the dire need for help in the community. Monies will be garnered through ticket sales and donations from local business, which will be noted in the programs for each event. All monies raised go back to the homeless coalition.
Community partners include musician Tracy Grammer, who will take the stage on Saturday, February 15th, and local photographer Kelly Morris of the KD Morris Art Gallery and Wine Shop, who will host a pre-concert wine-tasting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Red and white wines will be sold, and the Main Street Grille—which will provide meals for the performers—will be open to the public after the concert. Brunkswick Land Realty has agreed to house visiting performers, while Laura Bellamy of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, Grass Roots Landscaping and Three Cheers Rental have all made contributions to counterbalance costs. Subsequent performances will feature The Kennedys (March 21st), Thomas Wesley Stern (April 12th) and Ellis Pa (May 10th).
Folk singer Tracy Grammar hails from Southern California and always had music in her blood. She fondly recalls singing as her father played the guitar.
“We would get the neighborhood kids together, sit on the big bed in my parents’ bedroom, and sing from songbooks until we were tired,” Grammer reminisces. “I would sit across from my dad, and read the music upside down and turn the pages for him while he played. That was the beginning.”
Her father quickly became her biggest supporter, and realized she had the range of notes to hone her voice. From elementary school chorus, to operettas, to learning to play the violin, Grammer fostered her talent during youth. She fell in love with the storytelling stylings of Willie Nelson, John Denver, Neil Diamond, and Tanya Tucker. As she got older, she began to appreciate Bach, Vivaldi, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Crowded House, Shawn Colvin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. She notes Carpenter a big influence in shaping her music during her formative years.
“I have a deep appreciation for the integrity of her writing and her live performance,” Grammer beams. “When she hopped onto the bar at Slims in San Francisco during a power outage and played by flashlight, she won my respect for life.”
In 1998 Grammar teamed up with fellow folk-singer David Carter. The prolific talents generated three albums, before his untimely death in 2002. “We were at the high point of our career as a duo,” Grammar laments. “I had never performed without him. I didn’t know how to go on, but I knew that I must, because I believed in the songs, and I was convinced that more people needed to hear them. I knew Dave trusted me to interpret his songs. I also figured nobody could do it better. So, I dedicated myself to keeping his legacy of music alive.”
As well, the difficult journey Carter’s death took her on allowed her to relate to fans on a much deeper level. Grammer appreciates how music from her own personal experiences connect with others who have endured such loss.
Four albums of music featuring the duo have been released since his passing. As well, Grammer released three solo recordings—some of which feature unreleased songs written
Though singing was ingrained in Grammer’s mentality by college, she earned a degree in English literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her appreciation of literature seems apparent in her music as they reveal stories—some, funny; others, continuing the tradition of some the American West; some, an expression of the artist’s more vulnerable side. She creates a seamless blend of country and folk, neither genre overpowering the other.
Songs “The Mountain” and “Gentle Arms of Eden” remain a fixture from most of her shows—the latter often prompting a sing-a-long. Both songs are inspired by Carter’s dreams.
Grammar’s artistry continues its evolution as part of an online group, RealWomenRealSongs. It requires her, along with 21 other women, to craft a new song every week and post it to YouTube. Grammer typically undertakes this challenge by deep contemplation and doodling. Once she formulates an idea, she sits down with her guitar to add he melody. Her structure remains very loose, instead relying on intuition to guide her through the process. The song gets finely tuned once she begins performing it.
Grammer will give her debut performance in Holden Beach later this week. Having volunteered for a farmer in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in a effort to harvest food for local food pantries, her philanthropic give-back also includes monthly donations to ASPCA, and holding a benefit concert/dinner/auction for a friend who was in a car accident—wherein she raised over $10,000. Naturally, Grammar’s music is suited to be the inaugural concert for Listen Up’s philanthropic series.
Tickets to the event are $22 in advance and $24 at the door and can be procured at listenupbrunswickcounty.com.
Listen Up with Tracy Grammer
Holden Beach Chapel Fellowship Hall
107 Rothschild Street
Sat., February 15th, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $22 adv. / $24 day of