Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said “music is the universal language of mankind,” which is why it’s a fitting theme for the Jude-Sounds of New Orleans Benefit Concert on Saturday.
The fifth annual event invites altruistic residents from all walks of life to enjoy an evening of music at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. All proceeds go to the St. Jude Community Center — an organization that provides outreach services to the homeless.
“This is what we call a gumbo of a music presentation,” said Ed Perkins, founder of the event. “It’s a variety of music that covers the spectrum of everyone’s tastes.”
He noted that past events have featured several genres of music, such as gospel, rhythm and blues, indie rock and jazz.
Herbie Hancock, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint are among the stars who have graced the stage during a Jude concert. Even the mischievous 610 Stompers have made an appearance.
This year’s robust music lineup includes Paul Sanchez & Minimum Rage, John Boutté, Shamarr Allen, Sweet Crude, the To Be Continued Brass Band, OperaCreole, Erica Falls, Jamie Vessels and Big Chief David Montana with the Washitaw Indians, among others.
The artists will perform under one roof, with the common goal of helping the St. Jude Community Center, whose outreach programs include serving meals to the homeless and offering housing to homeless women.
By hosting basic education courses for adults, the center has helped men and women earn high school diplomas and acquire jobs. St. Jude Community Center also collaborates with the Second Harvest Food Bank and Responsibility House.
“Basically, this is (about) living and giving, and what we’re doing is helping those who can’t help themselves and who need a helping hand,” said Perkins, of the Jude-Sounds of New Orleans Benefit Concert. He noted that the event is strictly a concert.
Perkins, a retired police officer who has worked with the St. Jude Community Center since 1973, established the melodious benefit in an effort to “give back to the city.” He decided to make the event a concert that comprises an eclectic assortment of music because it would appeal to a wide demographic.
And because New Orleans is known for its thriving music scene, the event draws interest from both locals and visitors alike.
“Music, as well as food, is one of our biggest attractions, and it’s our stamp on New Orleans,” Perkins said. “That’s what a lot of people come here for, and it gives us an opportunity to shed a light on a dark problem.”
For the inaugural concert in 2010, all of the work, preparation and promotion was done in-house. Diligent volunteers designed and printed fliers from the office and delivered them to the concierges of major hotels.
“Believe it or not, a lot of people that were in town for conventions — or just visiting New Orleans — made it to the concert and were pleasantly surprised by the amount of talent they had in one show,” Perkins said.
Since the success of the first event, the annual Jude event has continued to grow and attract new patrons.
This year, they are hosting a special party at Basin Street Station on Friday evening to say thank you to their supporters, donors and volunteers.
As for the concert at the Mahalia Jackson Theater, it will contain a focus on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and pay tribute to the people who were affected by the storm.
“It’s essential to acknowledge that date for everything that happened, from the bad times to the presently good times, and look forward to the future,” Perkins said.