Student performers coalesce in Haiti benefit

On Feb. 18, a spattering of Geneseo's finest artists gathered to raise money for Haiti in a benefit that also functioned as an exhibition of impressive talents.

Made possible by the College Union and Activities, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Lambda Alpha Epsilon, MiNT, Residence Life and Minority Association for Pre-Health Students, "Help Haiti: Hear Poetry & The Blues" was a riveting effort, headed by juniors Mathé Kamsutchom and Deborah Bertlesman, which raised roughly $350.

The evening opened with a touching introduction by Kamsutchom, a few songs sung in Creole and a capella style by Haitian junior Phara Souffrant. The following acts, which consisted of members of Geneseo's slam poetry team and the student band known as Blue Rooster, put on a high-energy show to which the audience enthusiastically responded. That energy dissipated slowly as the night progressed for over two hours, the latter portion of which saw less attendance.

First up was Bertlesman with a revamped version of a spoken-word poem fans may have been familiar with from the slam poetry team's previous events. Bertlesman performed several more times throughout the event, each time with familiar but improved poems and the occasional new, promising performance.

Blue Rooster kicked off their set with an original song and only one microphone to share among four members. The slight lack of equipment did not hinder the group's performance, though, and Blue Rooster was a huge hit to attendees. The act got better as they gained confidence and began to own the KnightSpot.

The band, comprised of seniors Shannon Harwood (lead vocals), Nick Sullivan (bass, harmonica and guitar), Ian Brennan (guitar, vocals), Mark Sperrazza (drums), John Magee (saxophone) and Anna Mellace (violin), is a blues ensemble that plays mostly at local house parties - a quality apparent in what was a genuinely fun and enjoyable set.

Highlights of Blue Rooster's show were covers of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," both of which Brennan took over lead vocals in an impressive display. Brennan also showcased his talents on his original "Can't Make Me Cry," which allowed Harwood to show off some equally impressive vocal skill.

A distinct audience favorite, Bonnie Raitt's "Give It Up or Let Me Go," was an excellent display of all the band members' musical aptitudes. Blue Rooster left the audience with some laidback yet inspired jamming. Sperrazza concluded, "It's a pleasure to be playing for you tonight."

Up next was junior slam poet Ingamar Ramirez with a poem that was new to the stage and relevant to the event with lines like, "Stagnation is nowhere like home." Ramirez also featured prominently throughout the evening.

Juniors Donat de la Cruz, Lauren Fox and Fiona Harvey, along with Kamsutchom, also delivered pertinent and emotional poetry. Senior Jill Capewell was one of the last acts that stood out. Reading a new poem, which incorporated familial issues with a visit to the dentist, Capewell yet again vindicated herself as a new presence in the Geneseo slam scene.

Sophomore Brittney Ross closed out the event with her second a capella song of the night. Her strong, beautiful voice resonated with the feeling of the entire benefit: "Stay strong … press on, Haiti," she sang.