Annual benefit mixes art & aid

Salvation Army concert is still a Weeping Tile tradition

Along with the downtown Santa Claus Parade and the post-exam departure of thousands of students, the annual Salvation Army benefit concert is a holiday tradition in this city.

Luther Wright, the show’s organizer, is a long-time member of the Kingston music scene—he gained fame playing lead guitar in Weeping Tile in the mid-nineties and for his alt-country cover of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, with his band Luther Wright and the Wrongs.

Wright’s mother, Beryl Kerr, was on the Salvation Army’s advisory board for a number of years and through attending annual meetings and hearing personal stories, Wright saw, the work the charity was doing.

“As my grandpa, Ernie Wright, said about them during his time overseas in World War Two, ‘The Red Cross charged for chocolate, but the Salvation Army gave it free to soldiers,’” Wright said.

The benefit began in 1995, when Weeping Tile played a show around Christmas time for the Salvation Army Winter Relief Fund.

“The money goes to a fund they dole out over the year to people who are really stuck, and it’s usually used for rent, food or basic essentials,” Wright said. “We thought it was good for the arts community to be supporting something so close to the ground as far as community work went.”

For Wright, the benefit is a way to give back, as well as to familiarize younger people who may not be directly involved with charity work with what the Salvation Army is doing for people in need.

“I think we helped raised the profile of the [Salvation Army]’s work in the community, especially amongst the younger crowd, as that is a problem in modern Canadian society—getting people involved in social work or volunteer work to help those less fortunate than themselves,” he said.

The concert itself is often a more casual and spontaneous affair than most. Musicians take turns on stage, swapping instruments and calling up friends to sit in on a number.

“[The benefit] is very rewarding for the musicians because we get to hang out and often sing or play with each other, and become more familiar with each other’s musical directions,” Wright said.

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Luthur Wright, Chris Brown, Sarah Harmer, Stephanie Earp and Music Maul play Dec. 20 at Elixir for the 12th annual Salvation Army Benefit.

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