“Now I Have A Whole Great Big Family”

Two months after a midsummer flash flood wreaked havoc on a vibrant neighborhood talent showcase, performers returned to tell Lyric Hall impressario John Cavaliere how much they love him. And to help him buy a new furnace and build a retaining wall.

More than 100 people gathered Saturday night at the restored vaudeville theater and antiques shop on Whalley Avenue to recite, sing, and play music all in the service of launching the Lyric Hall Flood Relief Campaign, an online fundraising instrument.

Allan Appel PhotoThe aim is to raise $21,500 to replace the furnace the 4-foot-high waters destroyed in the basement on Aug. 15; to restore waterlogged decaying sills; and to build a retaining wall at the rear of the property, with drainage channels appropriate to handle the heavy run-off from the West River behind the the theater, among other projects.

Within an hour of the kick-off the party and the fund, nearly $1,000 had been contributed online.

Cavaliere has restored the former vaudeville theater and opened it up to local performers from video artists to poets to composers restoring original scores to silent films. Many were on hand Saturday night to return the favor, and more.

The business that supports those efforts—framing, antique restoration, furniture repair, and artisanal gilding—suffered a big blow in the flood: lost essential tools, supplies, jobs-in-progress, and other equipment.

Click here for a story with a tour by Cavaliere of the basement the day after the flood and an itemization of the damage.

The point of the Saturday night outpouring of support was not to relive the flood or to itemize the damages. It was to give a hand to Cavaliere, whose catholic tastes in the arts, humanity, and great pizza cooking in a 1930s gas oven have given a hand and even a new start to many, and transformed Lyric Hall into an essential community resource.

“It was a flood, but my cup runneth over,” Cavaliere quipped before he introduced the performers and they took the small, elegant stage he had restored in the theater.

James Joyce scholar Richard Stack gave a lively reading of the first published chapter of Finnegans Wake

Xavier Serrano and Daniel Eugene Kaminsky of singing group Kindred Queer performed a medley of eclectic songs with beautiful James Taylor-ish harmonies and wistfulness.

Zelphia Hunter, whom Cavaliere had helped to relaunch her spoken word career, returned to the Lyric Hall stage to read two poems in praise of Cavaliere’s morning glories and in praise of his kitchen.

A man whom Cavaliere had never met before, a bass player who goes by the name of Jaxsn, had come by to watch a friend perform for Cavaliere. When he heard about the flood and the reason for the evening, he was touched. He asked if he could perform.

Cavaliere hugged him, and shortly afterwards, Jaxsn was leading the audience (see the video at the top of the story) in rounds of “John, we’re here for you. John, we love you.”

“Now I have a whole great big family,” Cavaliere said.

Click here for David Sepulveda’s description of Lyric Hall’s past, present, and future, and for full directions on how to contribute to the campaign via the online fundraising site Indiegogo.

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posted by: Truth Avenger on October 9, 2012  12:34pm

Thank you to New Haven Independent for always following and reporting on stories of relevance to the community.  Mr. Appel always writes insightful and meaningful accounts of the things he covers and did so with this story about the communtiy coming together to support a neighborhood institution.  I hope Lyric Hall meets its funding goals to help fix the flooding issues so that we can continue to enjoy that special events and programing that the Hall offers.  I will be going to the Indiegogo.com website to do my part in supporting this great cause soon.