Seeing as how this blog has temporarily replaced my website journal, it only makes sense that I post my annual Concert for Life recap here. But you should still check out MattWesselMusic.com for other CFL updates (photos, audio, money raised, etc).
Sunday’s concert — the 12th Annual Concert for Life — was by all measures a tremendous success! The most important news to pass along is that FBLA announced a total of $30,000 raised for the American Cancer Society. Another big haul! That number puts FBLA’s 12-year CFL total at about $320,000 and the total for all CFL’s at about $350,000. And, as expected, we still have money trickling in and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this year’s total end up closer to $35,000. Every year I am blown away by the generosity of the audience. They spend freely on raffles, silent auctions and side donations to ensure that as much money as possible is raised for the ACS.
The band played about as well as I’ve ever heard us play – which was somewhat surprising given that we hadn’t played together since the previous CFL (and we hadn’t played at that point since the CFL before that). But everything seemed to click and the whole lot of us just enjoyed our time on stage.
A few highlights from this year’s show …
I played “Excelsior” for the first time ever. I wrote it for my grandpa back in 2005 and it appeared on “Carry On.” With him passing away this past Christmas Eve, I wanted to play the song as a tribute to him. It was definitely one of the hardest pieces of music I’ve ever had to perform live — not technically (it’s a rather simple song) but emotionally. I’m surprised I didn’t start crying in the middle of it. As I’ve written before, my grandpa was an amazing person. He was the smartest man I’ve ever met and, after my father passed away, became a father figure to me and my brothers and sisters, especially Ben and Mike who were only eight years old at the time.
What made the song even harder to get through was the fact that, on Sunday morning, my grandma (my mom’s mom) was taken to the hospital after suffering a grand mal seizure (which was followed by several more attacks). My mom went to the hospital to be with her and unfortunately had to miss the CFL — the first one she’s ever missed. So during the song I was thinking a lot about my grandma and my mom, in addition to my grandpa. As for the status of my grandma (the wife of the grandpa I mention above) she’s resting at the hospital and we’re still waiting to she how she responds to Sunday’s attacks. She’s 91 and in declining health. She’s lived a long, healthy, happy and prosperous life and it’s simply her time. We are simply praying for her to be comfortable and pain-free in her final days, however many she may have. I’m glad my mom was in town on Sunday and not in California. It was nice that she was able to be there with her.
Okay, back to the show …….
Beth, Amy and Emily sung what I think is a rather neat arrangement of “Your Hands.” I did this song this year because it was a big part of my praying about whether or not to go to Germany. The words of the chorus — “Lord, put your hands on my heart. Put your hands on my eyes. Help me to see.” — are a simple plea for God to tell us — both in what we feel and what we see — exactly what he wants of us. It was a big part of me putting my trust in Him and making the move to Munich. I’m working with Larry (my awesome sound guy) on mixing the live version as we speak. I’ll post that to my website once it’s done.
For perhaps the lightest part of the afternoon, I wrote a song that lists my favorite things about Germany and set it to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music. While I sang the song, a slideshow with corresponding pictures played in the background:
Marquette’s coed a cappella group — the Gold ‘n Blues — sang two original arrangements (“Brown Eyed Girl” and, one of my favorites, “Africa”) near the end of the first half and then stayed on stage to sing “Be With Me” with the band and a few members of the St. Paul the Apostle choir. The Gold ‘n Blues were fantastic and a huge hit. It was nice of them to travel the hour drive for just two songs. They seemed to enjoy the opportunity and the entire event.
We also featured one of Chad Griesel’s (my guitarist) songs. It was called “Open Up My Heart” and is from his first album that was released last year. The three ladies added vocals to that song and it was definitely one of the highlights of the show. People really enjoyed it. The message is a powerful one, too — the idea of finding balance in life — a balance between reflection and action.
During “Eileen’s Song,” we played a video that some local high school students made for an area Battle of the Bands competition. The video featured a bunch of people holding up cards that described what cancer means to them. I decided to use this video after my good friend, Twitter buddy and CFL co-founder Betsy Barnich tweeted the link to me. They used “Kate’s Song” in the original video (below) and she thought I’d want to see it. We set it to “Eileen’s Song” for timing purposes, but the effect was the same — powerful.
Speaking of Betsy, it was great to see her and some other former Warren FBLA members who were instrumental in the early years of the CFL — including Brian Schmidt and Sarah Milewski. I love that the former members still make it back to see the show every now and then.
More and more people seem to be standing every year during God’s Chosen One and they once again received yellow flowers in recognition of their fight against cancer. As I said at the show, I don’t look into the crowd during that song but for a second because if I looked too long I wouldn’t be able to finish the song without crying.
The American Cancer Society presented FBLA and myself with beautiful plaques to commemorate our service to their cause. It was a nice surprise. I said this at the concert and I’ll say it again now — I share that award with all of my musicians and all of those who help us prepare for and execute the concert. We have all made the ACS a part of our life’s work and it’s truly an honor to be able to share our talents for such a worthy cause.
I’m still on an adrenaline rush from the concert. It was such a fantastic afternoon. We had a very large and attentive crowd, things seemed to run rather smoothly and we raised a ton of money. Let me say that one more time — we raised a TON of money! I was reading through post-show journals from previous years and had to smile at how elated I would be over each show’s total … $6,000 … $8,000 … $12,000 … then we broke $20,000 and have since had years where we topped $40,000! So I want everyone to take a moment and let the $30,000 number sink in. Even though we have hit or exceeded that number for several years in a row now, that is still a number worth applauding.
Performing also made me really excited for the latter part of this year when I’ll be recording my next album (and possibly albums given how much material I have to work with).
Thank you to everyone who came out to support FBLA and the Concert for Life. And I need to personally thank all of the performers (Molly, Kelly, Amy, Beth, Emily, Chad, Chris, Mike, Rob, Aleksa, the Gold ‘n Blues and the St. Paul Choir), Larry, Al and Brian who spent a frantic two hours setting up the stage (and then tearing it down afterwards), Carolyn for organizing an army of FBLA students to set up the stage, Fr. Ray and Fr. Farrell for use of their church (and to Fr. Ray for some great photos), Jeff for taking even more photos, my sister, Kim, for running the CD table, my mom for spending hours of her own time promoting the concert, and Kathy for an awesome after-show pizza party.
But, of course, the biggest thank you goes to Chris Mason and the entire FBLA program at Warren Township High School. They put on another spectacular event. Because of their hard work, the ACS will be able to make $30,000 worth of progress in the fight against cancer. Over 100 students pitched in to put on this year’s concert and when they flooded the aisles toward the end of the show for a little bit of much-deserved recognition, the applause from all of us was loud and long. Great job, FBLA!
It was a fun afternoon. And it reminded us all that hope is never lost.