The Benefit Concert, What an Amazing Night

After experiencing a weekend of meditation at Omega last fall, which included three talks by Bhante Wimala, my son Jamie and I were extremely moved. We were especially inspired by Bhante’s projects around the world, presented to us in an hour-long documentary. As the documentary came to a close, I turned to Jamie and told him our next concert in Westport auditorium had to benefit Bhante’s work.

I am happy to report that the concert occurred on March 21st and was everything we hoped it would be. It was an amazing night made up of my family of four, and a group of eleven other close friends (all talented professional musician/singers), performing a benefit concert for Triple Gem Society to support Bhante Wimala’s humanitarian projects.

Bhante Wimala opened the concert with guided meditation and a short talk, followed by a video (edited and prepared for by Jamie) presenting Bhante’s wonderful humanitarian projects, the very projects that had initially inspired us to host the event. For the next two hours we played two sets of joyous music, filling the concert hall with an indescribable feeling of community and love.

After such a beautiful night, it was impossible not to leave touched and inspired. Days after that special evening we are still feeling the joyful energy of the night. The experience was so valuable that I highly encourage anyone to host a similar benefit for Bhante’s projects.

Not only was the event spiritually and emotionally inspiring, but it was also financially beneficial for Bhante’s humanitarian projects. I am thrilled to report that we raised approximately $14,000 from the event, having a very generous anonymous donor double the $7,000 brought in by the concert itself. I would also like to thank all of the volunteers and musicians/singers whose energy and efforts made this event not only a great success but also a fun filled joyous evening.

Following are the singers and musicians who performed:

My husband Jeff Southworth who was Hall & Oates guitarist for two years, touring the world and recording the guitar solo on “Kiss on My List”. Jeff’s Clio winning television and radio work includes writing, arranging and producing for Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Wynonna Judd, Ray Charles, Aaron Neville, Leann Rimes and others.

My dear friend and magnificent singer Sharon Bryant, who was the lead singer in the recording group Atlantic Starr, and has multiple #1 hit songs. She has recorded and/or performed with Elton John, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Alicia Keyes, Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake and the list goes on and on.

Seth Glassman, on bass, has played and recorded with artists as diverse as James Brown, Judy Collins, Paul McCartney, Cher, Laura Nyro and many others. He is currently Darlene Love’s musical director.

Robin Batteau is a Grammy, Emmy, Clio, and Gold Record winning singer/songwriter/soloist. A true charity charioteer, he’s been on the boards of World Hunger Year, the Whale Conservation Institute, and is the trusty song and joke writer for September’s yearly Hole in the Wall Gang Camp Gala. He’s performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the street corners of Paris; he’s played Mozart quintets with YoYo Ma, rock quartets with Bruce Springsteen, blues trios with Bonnie Raitt, jazz duos with Josh White Jr., and folk song circles with Peter, Paul and Mary.

Rusty Ford, on bass, played with the Beach Boys. Rusty was a founding member of Capitol Recording artists Lothar & the Hand People. After his 5-year run with Lothar, he co-founded the Boston-based fusion band, Speedway Johnny, followed by a stint as bassist with The Beach Boys. Rusty’s music production experience segued to film production. For the past 24 years, he has been a leading producer of nationally televised TV commercials. He currently plays bass in a blues power trio, The Fabulous Discounts, and in a pro bono band, The Mad Ave Jammers, comprised of ad industry execs, whose proceeds go to benefit The Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

Simms Brothers, George and Frank, sang back up for David Bowie’s hit song “Let’s Dance.”

Chris Coogan, the pianist for the evening is a jazz and gospel musician whose credits include music director for the jazz guitarist, Sal Salvador. He has played with Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker, Lou Soloff, Jimmy Vivino, Harold Danko, Ronnie Spector, James Naughton, Larry Coryell, Phoebe Show, Jose Feliciano, Bette Midler, Donna Summer, Will Lee, Shawn Pelton, Vanees Thomas, Rob Mathes, Kristen Chenoweth, Joe Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult, and accompanied singers from Chicago and Phantom of the Night. In addition he has done jazz arranging for Teo Maceo, (producer for the late Miles Davis).

Barry Urich, a versatile drummer with over 35 years of experience, has performed both in the United States and abroad. He’s also performed with Lester Chambers of “The Chambers Brothers” and Jose Feliciano.

The concert also included teenagers Jamie and Alan Southworth, Robinson Batteau, Rosie Glassman and ten year old wonder kid, Journi Gallwey, all extremely talented each with a long resume already.

Lastly, there was myself, Fran Southworth. It was my honor to produce the concert and perform in it as a singer/songwriter. Other than when I am meditating, I am never more in the moment than when I sing. I have been singing since I was five years old, and writing and recording songs since I was fifteen. My voice became familiar to the American TV and radio audiences through my vocal performance on numerous television and radio commercials, including background vocals for Whitney Houston in the AT&T “True Voice” advertising campaign. I was fortunate to work as an actress and singer on “As The World Turns” soap opera for two years as the character “Jimmie Sue”, a country and western singer, performing over 40 original songs.

As a resident of Westport for the past twenty years, I have performed numerous times at First Night, and for “Broadway on Beachside” for The American Cancer Society. My other engagements include: The Westport Arts Center’s Third Thursday event, The Levitt Pavilion, The Faces of Achievement Dinner, The Birchwood Country Club, and The Inn at National Hall. Since 1997, I have been organizing and performing in an annual benefit concert to raise money for a handpicked, researched, and worthy charity. I feel blessed to be able to do what I love and help people at the same time.

Again, my thanks and my heart felt gratitude to volunteers, performers, and all who participated.