THE Yorkraine benefit concert for Ukraine brings together York cover bands The Supermodels, The Mothers, The Y Street Band and Sister Madly on May 24.
Acoustic sets from Alex Victoria and fellow York singer-songwriter Mal Fry and contributions from guest speakers complete the “totally York” 7.30pm bill at the Grand Opera House, York.
The evening of pop and rock classics from the past six decades will raise funds for the British Red Cross DEC appeal to aid Ukrainian refugees who find themselves in dire circumstances. All artists, hosts, sound tech and crew have donated their time free of charge.
Concert organiser Ian Surgenor says: “I’m a taxi driver by trade, and when I was working at night, there was a newsflash that Russia had invaded Ukraine. I was mortified, and then, like 99 per cent of the British population, I just felt helpless.
“The only thing I thought I could do was to arrange a concert for the DEC appeal. I’ve always held York Rocks Against Cancer concerts at the Grand Opera House, so I got in touch.
“The manager, Alice [Long], went out of her way to find us a spot, squeezing us in for May 24, and we’re delighted to be doing the show there as the acoustics are great.”
Explaining the choice of musicians for the night, Ian says: “Cover bands have a broad appeal, and I have a really good relationship with most of them in York, just from doing events and seeing gigs.
“There’s a mutual respect, so I approached Dave Sykes, from The Supermodels, who did the first York Rocks; I knew Rob Wilson, from The Mothers, and I’ve done shows with The Y Street Band.”
Sister Madly happen to be Ian’s own band, also featuring two stalwarts of the York musical theatre scene, Jo Theaker, last seen in York Stage’s Calendar Girls at the Grand Opera House, and Ian’s wife, Marie-Louise Surgenor, from Rowntree Players.
Ian was keen to include acoustic acts too. “I’d seen other venues putting on acoustic singers on such nights,” he says.
“In fact, I provided the sound for the acoustic lounge when Big Ian Donaghy held a fundraiser for the Ukraine emergency appeal at York Sports Club in March, with Huge playing in the main room, and Dan Webster, Emily Lawler, Rich Hardcastle, To The Blue and a young lady called Alex Victoria in the lounge.
“I was blown away by her. ‘What a voice this girl has,’ I thought, and I wondered if she’d like to do the Yorkraine gig. She said she’d be honoured!”
In attendance too will be a civic party led by Andrew Digwood, Undersheriff of the City of York, while a speaker from the British Red Cross will explain “what will happen to the money and what it’s like on the front”.
“We’ll also be welcoming a Ukrainian gentleman, Dimitri, who works for the Studio Cloud Nine fitness company. He drove to Poland to bring a family here, but couldn’t get them into the country, so they ended up going to Portugal, where the children were placed in a school within two days. Amazing what can be done, isn’t it?”
Look out too for a guest appearance by York vocal drag diva supreme Velma Celli, alias York’s West End musical theatre actor Ian Stroughair. “Ian approached me and said he thought what we were doing was amazing and asked how he could help,” says organiser Ian, who duly slotted Velma into the bill.
Surgenor has secured sponsorship from four sources: Nestlé, Vincent & Brown, Ainsty Ales and Fenton Simpson Financial Services. “They’ve covered the costs totally for hiring the theatre, projection, and so every ticket sold, every penny raised on the night from a collection, all the money will go the DEC appeal.”
The last mention goes to Simon Hudson, who is providing the sound and lighting…for free, of course.
Yorkraine, Ukraine Benefit Concert, Grand Opera House, York, May 24, 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.