Charity music extravaganza has energetic beats, beats on cancer

Marcelle Davies-Lashley/Courtesy

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The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic’s Fifth Annual Musical Extravaganza gave members of the Berkeley community a chance to come together to dance, celebrate life and battle cancer.

The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic has been providing integrative cancer care — including acupuncture, nutritional therapy and mental health support — for low-income women for more than 25 years and has been putting on an annual musical extravaganza for the past five. This year’s musical fundraiser included a dance floor, group performances and booths of other charity organizations that sponsored the event. Those attending also had the opportunity to take advantage of the coffee bar close to the dancefloor of The Freight & Salvage, though many didn’t need the caffeine to help keep them awake.

Three musical acts performed at the event: Pat Wilder, Marcelle Davies-Lashley and Ruby’s in Town. The first to perform was Wilder, accompanied by a bass guitarist, drummer, keyboardist and saxophone player. Wilder’s blues sound and upbeat rhythms alone were able to push people onto the dance floor, and the singer often would leave the stage to interact with the audience. Wilder performed both originals and covers of crowd favorites, like Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.” The entire theater wanted to participate in her bombastic tunes.

Davies-Lashley and her group slowed down the pace set by Wilder. Her powerful voice coincided with the slower and meaningful piano melodies moved both the audience and the artist herself. She had trouble holding back tears and often expressed how grateful she was to be performing for such a touching group. Many of her lyrics touched on the power of God and staying positive, ideals that people suffering from cancer often turn to. Her music was not only fitting to the event, but also managed to move audience members emotionally. It served as a beautiful reminder of what the event was truly about: bringing people together to support an organization dedicated to aiding those who may not be able to provide for themselves.

The final performers was the R&B group Ruby’s in Town. This group’s performance was an ode to older musicians, resonating well with the audience who sang along to nearly every tune. Unlike the other two performances, the dance floor was immediately flooded without trepidation. Their R&B sound was an instant hit with the crowd and provided a lively ending to a meaningful event.

The benefit featured primarily female musicians, many of whom were women of color, reflective of the communities that the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic aims to provide care for. Those attending the “Music Extravaganza,” however, were clearly from many different backgrounds, and every audience member revelled in the ability to enjoy music while also supporting a worthwhile cause.

When music wasn’t being played, emcee Melanie Berzon brought the audience’s attention to the real issues being tackled both by the clinic and other local charity organizations. She creatively integrated the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic’s spirit with the unique qualities present in each musical act. Berzon either left the audience laughing or inspired to join the cause, in addition to leaving behind a fervent excitement for lovely music.

Throughout the afternoon, people pledged money to the cause and thought of loved ones they had lost to cancer and those they know currently suffering from cancer. The benefit did a great job of utilizing the lighthearted and fun nature of music without minimizing their cause. The performers used their music to bring support and to send a clear message: similarly to how loved ones offer their support to someone going through treatment, communities can rally together to ensure that this sort of care and support is provided to everyone. Organizing musical extravaganzas, supporting cancer patients and providing medical care cannot be done alone.

Contact Samantha Banchik at [email protected].