New Orleans Musicians Aid Lincolnshire

The Normal Appeal wants UK music lovers to help the 3,200 professional musicians evacuated from New Orleans to rebuild their lives and careers. Stranded miles from home, often having lost all their belongings, including their musical instruments, the only hope for the New Orleans musicians to continue to earn a living is to arrange for them to perform and that costs money.

Jonathan Hoare and John Coops of South Rauceby near Sleaford have formed NOrMAL, New Orleans Musicians Aid Lincolnshire, to co-ordinate benefit concerts in regular music venues across the country. The main objective of NOrMAL is to bring a greater awareness in the UK of the plight of musicians and their families in New Orleans and the Delta.

We don't want any money ourselves. We ask people running a live music event to dedicate their next performance as a New Orleans Musicians Benefit. We also hope that venues and musicians will come forward to offer their assistance with the appeal. This is for musicians involved in all types of music. The donations that we ask you to make through our website will go directly to the Jazz Foundation of America. The recipients will know that your money has come from NOrMAL, UK. NOMC, New Orleans Musicians Clinic, is another organisation which is working on the ground with evacuees. Their need is great.

Events

NOrMAL will be helping organise three events in South Rauceby to mark Mardi Gras. Subject to confirmation, the choir Wide World Voices from Grantham will sing at Rauceby Hall by kind permission of Mrs Gillian Hoare. A Mardi Gras special will be held at the Bustard Inn courtesy of Mike Peterken and there will be a music event in the Rauceby village hall, and a carnival parade with marching band.

NOrMAL is working to a longer time scale too. Next February 28th is Mardi Gras the time when New Orleans musicians should be at their busiest. There is no chance that Mardi Gras will be celebrated as normal in the city. What we are doing is getting venues to hold charity events during the early part of 2006 and then sending the proceeds directly to aid musicians.

Lincolnshire jazz and blues venues approached for the New Year events include Boston Jazz Club, the Black Horse at Nettleham, New Jazz 5 at Lincoln, The Sands at Gainsborough, The Farm at Chapel St. Leonards, the Bull at Kirton, the Axe and Cleaver in Boston and Old Nicks Tavern in Horncastle.

The Musicians' Plight

Blues and jazz musicians, many of whom lived in low-lying areas close by the French Quarter, have especially been badly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Many are homeless and have lost their instruments. Relocated to Lafayette , Louisiana , the New Orleans Musicians Clinic is organising its own aid programme for musicians displaced by the disaster. There and in Baton Rouge the Jazz Foundation of America is funding the employment of 150 homeless musicians at a series of concerts for children in schools and people in shelters.

Jazz Foundation director Wendy Oxenhorn says: I pray the musicians will be able to find ways to stay (in New Orleans ). So many have left the state. The more we get in donations, the more we can give them the chance to work and pay for their housing (in the city they made).

Classical music is suffering too. Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is the only full-time orchestra in America that is owned and operated by its musicians. The bassoonist is now in Texas . The violinists are in Ohio , Georgia , Massachusetts , Illinois and Tennessee . The lead horn player is in Nashville . The 68 orchestral musicians are in exile and none of them knows how their orchestra will survive. When the New Orleans Symphony went bankrupt in 1991 its musicians formed The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. They sold their own tickets, recruiting friends to conduct. Even now, players are paid less than half the going rate for professionals and almost all the members had second jobs to supplement their musical income. They too need assistance.

Voluntary groups have formed in the USA to support displaced musicians. One such group, NOAHleans.com is in Houston. They say what the musicians of New Orleans need are:

1. Places to live in until they can get on their feet.
2. An instrument clearing house where they can get access to instruments in order to perform and make a living.
3. Local venues to expand their use of live musicians.
4. People to organise and hold benefit concerts for
New Orleans musicians.