Christmas Cavalcades

Christmas Cavalcade Benefits For the Homeless

The Christmas Cavalcade Benefits For the Homeless have been a tradition for more than a decade, in Somerville at Johnny D’s (sadly, now closed) and in Orleans in the function room at the Jailhouse Tavern (recently converted to the Hog Island Brewery), raising a good deal of money over the years for the Somerville Homeless Coalition and the Noah Shelter for the Homeless (we are now working with their parent organization, The Housing Assistance Corporation of Cape Cod), and giving some of the bay state’s best musicians a chance to get together and do seasonal songs that either aren’t in their repertoire at all or only appear for a few weeks annually. They’re real community bashes, family affairs where it’s not unusual to see performers playing with their kids, as Steve Shook did with his daughter Liz when she was growing up, and as Sarah Swain did with her daughters Lucy and Jesse (whose Cavalcade careers started a couple of years ago, at the ripe old ages of 4 and 5.) At the other end of the age spectrum for a few years was Rock King, who was 86 last time we looked, all mixed in with some heavy duty pros like Livingston Taylor, Patty Larkin, Barrence Whitfield, the Upper Crust, Jon Pousette-Dart, and Robin Lane.

My reluctance to say no when booking the acts has led to some wonderful surprises and to fairly long shows -2011’s Cape Cod Cavalcade clocked in at just under five hours, and they almost never last less than four. Still, the format of the show keeps things lively, as usually no act plays longer than a couple of songs (except for the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, who act as hosts and occasional backup for some of the other performers, and have a large and constantly changing collection of sometimes riotous Christmas songs to draw on), which gives the Cavalcade shows the feel of a vaudeville holiday revue.

Traditional Cavalcade highlights at the Boston shows have included the Philharmonic Trombone Shout Band (about 15 of the area’s loudest trombonists, plus tuba, drums, and trumpet, who appear once a year, a Cavalcade exclusive); the 8-piece Boston Typewriter Orchestra, typing your favorite Christmas classics; Mission of Burma‘s Clint Conley with Gang of Four‘s Hugo Burnham; and Jen Kimball, Ramona Silver, Jen D’Angora, Amy Fairchild, Merrie Amsterburg, the Incredible Casuals, and Shaun Wortis are all frequent Cavalcade participants (not to mention guest vocalists in the Cavalcade’s choir, the Athol Thingerth, who also appear, with a different cast of characters, at the Cape Cavalcades.)

A highlight of the Cape Cod Cavalcade is always the Ticks segment, a new, fully costumed epic every year: who could forget their condensed versions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”? (looking forward to what they come up with this year, too!) There’s also spoken segments from highly esteemed local actors like Stephen Russell, Christine Ernst, and Gip Hoppe. Tripping Lily, Kami Lyle, and the Parkington Sisters are also frequent Cavalcade favorites, and the Cape Cavalcades always devolve into a ripping rock n’ roll party as the chairs are removed later in the night for blistering sets by local rockers like the Rip-It-ups, the Catbirds, the Flakes, and the Greenheads.

The Christmas Cavalcades are always memorable and delightful -truly the “Ben Hur” of Christmas shows!

Photos from past years’ Christmas Cavalcade Benefits for the Homeless