A Christmas Carol Revisited
December 23rd 2011 · 0 Comments
BY MARK ZIOBRO
COMPEER likes the Tram and you should too.
By all accounts, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, even with extras added to accommodate for the massive audience at the “The Swordfish Trombones Tramily Christmas Variety Show” a live, 70s-style event that seemed to practically channel the “Ed Sullivan Show” in its uproarious content.
However, the event, was more than just a holiday get-together for Uticans, but a way to raise money for The COMPEER Program of the Mohawk Valley, a local agency that specializes in rehabilitation and assistance of recipients of mental health services in the area. The agency had a donation table and raffle at the event, which were both set up to raise money for the agency.
COMPEER Executive Director Judith Reilly explained the needs of the agency — budget cuts of $90,000 have affected the agency, which has had to shear employees, and have turned to raising funds to support both their paid employees and volunteers.
“[The cuts] are through nobody’s fault,” Reilly stated. “It’s the state of our economy. We are having various fundraisers. Our needs continue to be great. And we are always looking for volunteers for our COMPEER Friends initiative,” she said.
That initiative consists of pairing a volunteer with those referred to COMPEER (at-risk children, veterans, and adults receiving mental health treatment) for a minimum of 4 hours per month.
“We compliment their care,” Reilly said. “These people want to be loved and needed for the gifts they have. Some ‘Friends’ spend 4 hours a month, but many spend much more than that.”
Reilly also indicated that many volunteers, who may suffer from limited mobility, can opt to be a “Phone friend” or “E-mail” friend to people receiving mental health treatment.
“Everyone has time for a phone call or an e-mail,” Reilly stated.
The Tram Variety Show was a combination of efforts by many involved: Michael Patrei of the musical group “The Swordfish Trombones,” Garrett Ingraham, Owner of the Tramontane Café, Doug Keyes, and many other community members and Tram employees who made the night a success.
“It was really well attended and everyone’s performance and contribution was exceptional,” Patrei said. “All the musicians and performers did an amazing job.”
However, music wasn’t the only fare to be served at the Variety Show. The evening was interwoven with “Muppets”-style puppet performances, as well as the retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” with Doug Keyes playing the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
The staging of “A Christmas Carol,” set in between music and comedy acts, served to entertain the full-house and bring in business to the Tram by interested persons who stopped in to see the Variety Show and share the laughs.
“The ‘Off the Cuff’ improv comedy mentality was in full effect as all actors involved were given creative freedom to express themselves, while still driving home the overall storyline,” said Justin Parker, Tram employee.
Additionally, many local and regional musical performers got the chance to showcase their skills for a good cause. Utica bands a-plenty got to headline the night, such as “The Swordfish Trombones,” “The Rusty Doves,” and a knockout performance by the Christmas band “The Fruitcakes,” comprised of Patrei and several Tram employees.
Patrei also remarked on the willingness of several musicians to travel to Utica from other cities for the show.
“It was great to see that musicians like “The Gifted Children,” who traveled from Rochester, and Fred Gillen Jr., who traveled from Peekskill, NY, came all that way to be a part of this.”
In the end, the event raised almost $250 dollars for COMPEER, through donations and raffles. And to Judith Reilly and others at the agency, the community involvement couldn’t have been more inspiring.
“It made my heart feel really good. For the entertainers to give themselves like that. It was wonderful. It’s what our community was built on.”
For more information about The COMPEER Program of the Mohawk Valley, visit www.compeermv.org. And don’t forget to check out the Tram at 1105 Lincoln Ave., Utica, if you haven’t yet. Chances are, you’ll be supporting a lot more than just your coffee habit.
By Mark Ziobro