By Dave Hoffenberg
This Sunday, Nov. 16, head to McGrath’s Irish Pub from 4-7 p.m. for Irish Band Aid featuring Extra Stout and Gypsy Reel. All donations will go to support Doctors Without Borders work with Ebola virus patients in West Africa.
Pat Max, from Extra Stout who sings and plays guitar, whistles and bodhran, came up with the idea for the benefit. Max is a retired film professor and a former library director at Castleton College. He looked around and saw that nobody was doing anything locally for the Ebola outbreak so he called up his good friend Murray McGrath, owner of McGrath’s, who was happy to help out. Max got his friends Gypsy Reel on board too. Both bands are donating their time and skills to help out the cause. Extra Stout will play from 4-5 p.m., Gypsy Reel from 5-6 p.m. and then they will play together from 6-7 p.m.
Max started Extra Stout about 20 years ago. “The group has a lot of really good musicians, so I have to just fill in around the edges. I play a little bit of everything,” he said. “My mother grew up in Belfast and would go around the house singing Irish rebel tunes. I picked up the fascination with Irish music from her.”
Extra Stout brings all of the variety that Irish music has to offer from raucous drinking songs to ballads of home and county; from slow and haunting airs to rocking reels, jigs and polkas. They also write some of their own tunes and sprinkle those in. Six engaging vocalists lend their voices to great songs from Ireland’s rich history, while skillfully playing a variety of instruments (guitars, fiddle, whistles, drums—you just have to come out and see them!) Joining Max are Mary Barron, Jonathan Czar, Sandy Duling, Marcos Levy, and Helen Mango.
With a style that places Celtic melodies and American string band grooves in high regard, Gypsy Reel plays high energy stirring music rooted in the Celtic tradition but garnered from the whole world. Their music is an exciting synthesis of world rhythms and influences from three continents. Their newest studio album, “Red Red Rose” features music from the tradition and original material from the band. Touring the states, Canada and the UK the group has received rave reviews. The line-up includes hot banjoist Claudine Langille, formerly of ‘Touchstone,’ the sensational Irish/American fusion band that won critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, Graham Parker – eclectic fiddler extraordinaire; Camille Parker who has captivated the hearts of audiences across the globe with her mandolin and bodhran and her singing in French, Spanish and English and Mark Harding on standup bass.
“We’re hoping to pack the place,” Max says. “It’s called Irish Band Aid because it’s kind of tradition. If you look at the news and it flashes to all these places where there’s starving and desperation, almost always there’s an Irish nurse, nun or priest that they’re talking to because they’re always active and I think that translates pretty well to what’s going on here. The archetype for this is U2 but there’s a long tradition of Irish Band Aid for a variety of things so that’s why it seems appropriate.”
Max picked Doctors Without Borders because anytime there is trouble anywhere like this, that organization is on the scene. “They’re there and they do the work. There’s not a lot of other organizations that you could choose for this. They turn the money into care for these people. They’re the real heroes of this thing, the doctors and the nurses that go over there. And maybe even more so than they are, are the people that they help when they get over there. Any help they get from D.W.B. is a major contribution.”
The doctors that Max knows at Dartmouth-Hitchcock all do work like this. One does work in Haiti and another Africa. “Essentially they’re rich people who care about everybody else and are willing to do what they have to, to help out. The poor, the sick, the dying, whoever.” D.W.B. were very pleased that Max had chosen them for this benefit.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides medical care where it is needed most in nearly 70 countries. The organizataion is independent, neutral and impartial.
Max quoted the movie True Confessions, saying: The thing that matters are the poor, the sick, the dying. “This is the way we have of reaching out to people where there’s a catastrophe and hope that we get the same help if we’re ever in trouble.”