By Gail McCarthy
---- — Editor's note: This concert has been postponed because of the forecast blizzard. The concert will take place April 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Charles Neville, a Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, will join Gloucester’s Henri Smith and his band for a Mardi Gras benefit concert at the historic Larcom Theatre in Beverly tomorrow evening at 7:30.
The two New Orleans natives will be joined by two other natives of the birthplace of jazz, Amadee Castenel and Charles Burchell. In the spirit of community building, Smith noted that this is a benefit event for an annual YMCA youth service trip to New Orleans, which includes students from Cape Ann.
“We want to help the children going to help people in New Orleans, so what better way to help than with a concert — that’s why it’s so special,” Smith said.
“I have to be involved, ‘cause it’s my town,” added Smith, who has lived in Gloucester since fleeing Hurricane Katrina. “We’re all doing this for the cause of New Orleans.”
Smith and his band performed this show in Gloucester last year, and now will take it to the larger venue in Beverly, produced by the Gloucester-based gimmeLIVE. Smith said concert-goers should be prepared for a New Orleans second-line parade at a festive event like this.
The Larcom Theatre was built in 1912, and served as the home to Le Grand David Magic show for 35 years. The theater has a horseshoe balcony, pressed tin ceilings and silk wall coverings.
Smith’s appearance will mark the first time in more than 30 years that the Larcom Theatre has hosted performers other than Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company. The company stopped appearing at the venue last spring, after founder Cesareo Pelaez died.
‘“It’s going to be a great night and we will have two Grammy winners on the stage,” said Smith, referring to Castenell who worked with Grammy Award-winning Dr. John. Castenell also was on the HBO hit series “Treme,” which is the name of a New Orleans neighborhood.
Burchell, a drummer, is a graduate of New England Conservatory and is involved in extended education at Harvard.
Smith said this time of year is bittersweet because it brings back memories of Hurricane Katrina, which forced him and thousands of other natives to flee their beloved city. He lived in the 13th Ward neighborhood which was badly flooded in the aftermath of Katrina.
In 2005, he was part of a caravan of 20 people heading west to Houston in the wake of Katrina, then two weeks later after Hurricane Rita, he headed north, and was drawn to this area because of friend Nat Simpkins of Manchester, with whom he has performed in the past.
As for the musical program Friday night, Smith said the audience will hear a lot of authentic New Orleans Mardi Gras music, some Fats Domino, and other New Orleans music.
“Charles Neville and I are the historians of the music because we knew the people, and I lived down the street from Dave Bartholomew who wrote many hits by Fats Domino. I remember being in the house with him and seeing all the gold records on the wall,” recalled Smith.
Among the many songs to be performed will be one that Smith wrote, “That’s When I Know it’s Mardi Gras,” as well as some that have Cajun and Creole influences.
“This will be a historic event with just all of us being together — for me coming here after Katrina and now my friends from New Orleans are with me,” said Smith.
Smith said he is grateful for the opportunities here in his new home. He’s been busy performing music as well has having cameos in 15 movies since he moved here nine years ago.
The YMCA staff is thrilled to have such support for its program, Teens Rebuild New Orleans. Now in its fourth year, the Y program collaborates with the St. Bernard Project to provide services. The teens will plant trees to help restore the bayou and have opportunities to learn more about the history and rich culture of New Orleans. There is still availability to accept teens for the trip.
“It’s important to provide teens and young adults with opportunities that take them outside of their comfort zone, teach the intrinsic rewards of serving others and help them experience the impact of working together for a stronger community,” said Rick Doucette, executive director of teen and camp services at the Cape Ann YMCA.
“We do anything from sheet rocking and gutting houses to mold remediation,” said Doucette.
The teens from Cape Ann will be among the 100 teens from 26 communities served by the North Shore YMCA who will travel to New Orleans in April.
“The trip and the fundraising efforts have grown together,” said Peter Van Ness, co-producer, with his wife, Vickie, of the Mardi Gras benefit. “Last year we sold out Minglewood Tavern in Gloucester. This year we’re taking it to a whole new level and we were thrilled when the historic Larcom Theatre offered their space. It’s a jewel right in our own backyard.”
Van Ness noted that last summer Neville joined Smith and his band as they opened for Neville’s brother’s band, the Aaron Neville Quintet, at North Shore Music Theater to rave reviews.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What and who: New Orleans Mardi Gras concert with Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Charles Neville and Gloucester's Henri Smith.
When: Friday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: Larcom Theatre at 13 Wallis St. in Beverly.
How much: $20 in advance ($15 for people older 65 or younger than 18) and $25 at the door for all ages. Tickets at Gloucester Music and the Y Teen Center in Gloucester, Casa de Moda in Beverly, most North Shore YMCA offices and on-line at http://www.gimmelive.tv/. A limited number of VIP Packages (premium reserved seating, meet and greet, pre-show party, complementary buffet and more) are available for $95 online or by calling gimmeLIVE at 978-525-9093.