Arts & Leisure

Sing your hearts out for a cause

MARY KATE MCDEVITT of Panton has been an illustrator for 15 years. She created the “Sing for Ceasefire” poster using Cintiq in Photoshop, which allows her to use digital brushes and texture to give it a screen printed feel. For more about McDevitt visit marykatemcdevitt.com.
Illustration / Mary Kate McDevitt

How do you confront atrocities committed half-way around the world from the comfort of your Vermont bubble?

This is a question that Bristol residents Rebecca Ryskalczyk and Nick Dooley couldn’t shake in the face of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, now in its sixth month. 

“With more than 30,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza and hundreds of thousands going hungry, there’s little room for expressions of joy,” read a report from the Associated Press on March 9. 

Ryskalczyk and Dooley needed to do something, so they turned to their skills as musicians with professional karaoke gear and threw a “Sing for Ceasefire” event in Bristol this past January. 

“I loved that event, and loved how the community came out for it, and both had a good time and got into very serious conversations about this devastating conflict, and about the much longer oppression of Palestinians that has been taking place for the last 75 years,” said Salisbury resident Julie Conason, who has been a member of the newly formed Jewish Voice for Peace Addison County since its inception in December 2023. 

“Sometimes it feels a bit disjunctive to be having fun, singing, eating, drinking when we know others are starving and in fear of their lives,” Conason added. “But we also have to live our lives, and better to live them with both joy and a commitment to serving those who are experiencing harm, and to making peace however possible.”

“It was inspiring seeing folks get together and share our grief with how America is supporting this genocide,” echoed Panton resident Mary Kate McDevitt, who’s the artist responsible for the “punchy” poster and promotional materials. “It can be easy to feel hopeless, but bringing people together and supporting organizations that are working for peace is inspiring.”

With such a good turnout at the Bristol event, which was held at Tandem, Ryskalczyk and Dooley decided to recreate the event again in Middlebury. A second “Sing for Ceasefire” karaoke event will be held this Saturday, March 16, from 6:30-10 p.m., at Haymaker Bun Company, 7 Bakery Lane. This event is co-hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace Addison County and the Vermont Coalition for Palestinian Liberation, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Palestine Legal. 

What can people expect from Saturday’s karaoke event? 

“Haymaker buns of course, and non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages,” Ryskalczyk said. “It will be very supportive. Some people will speak, sharing information from Jewish Voice for Peace Addison County and the Vermont Coalition for Palestinian Liberation; and there will be ways to sign up to get more information if you’re interested. It will be a safe space to come and talk openly and meet people.”

“We’re hoping everyone will come and walk out knowing more than when they came in,” Dooley said. “There will be lots of smiles and welcoming faces… We want to pivot the local viewpoint to share that our local communities are affected by things happening half-way around the world.”

SINGERS BELT OUT tunes at Tandem in Bristol this past January during the initial “Sing for Ceasefire” event, held to raise funds and awareness about Palestine and the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. A second “Sing for Ceasefire” karaoke style event will be held in Middlebury at Haymaker Bun Company on this Saturday, March 16, from 6:30-10 p.m. 
Photo / Kevin Barry

That’s a sentiment shared not only by individuals, but also by local businesses. 

Photo / Kevin Barry

“We are really excited to host this event at Haymaker,” said Haymaker owner/chef Caroline Corrente. “It is my privilege to use our restaurant as a gathering space and platform for these types of worthy causes. I speak for myself, and I believe others, when I say sometimes when witnessing horrific events that are happening around the world I can feel paralyzed by my fear of not knowing how to best help. Whenever I get this feeling I turn towards the direct service organizations that are providing aid in the most impactful ways at the moment for guidance. This event will be an excellent opportunity for our community to come out and support such a worthy cause. It is awful witnessing what is happening in Gaza and Israel, and I believe that coming together and being proactive is the best way to collectively show support, concern and love.”

All ages are welcome to attend the “Sing for Ceasefire” event on Saturday evening. 

“We had a wide range of people attend the Bristol event in January,” Ryskalczyk said. 

“We just ask everyone to come with respect and good intentions,” Dooley added. 

Conason hopes this karaoke event in Middlebury will be even more successful than the Bristol event. “It’s a great opportunity to educate folks about the issue, and to help them understand that we don’t have to just stand by and feel helpless as the war in Gaza continues. We hope to galvanize others to take action along with us — and we also hope to have a really great time with our community!”

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