Circle of friends

Songwriters in the round will take the stage for Island Elderly Housing.


On June 29, acclaimed songwriters and musicians Jemima James, Lilah Larson, Willy Mason, Lexie Roth, Rose Guerin, Phil daRosa, Cliff Eberhardt, Amanda Palmer, Rachel Jayson, and more to be announced will perform at the historic Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs to raise money for Island Elderly Housing.

Island Elderly Housing (IEH) provides apartments for very-low-, low-, and moderate-income elderly and disabled people across four campuses on the Island. While they receive assistance from the federal government, it’s for housing only, and their quality-of-life services, such as transportation and community meals, depend on the generosity of supporters both on- and off-Island.

The idea for Songwriters for Island Elder Housing came to fruition last year. “I was talking about IEH at a party with Geraldine Brooks, Laurie David, and Kate Taylor,” songwriter and IEH board member Jemima James said. “Laurie suggested a musical fundraiser, and it grew from there. Kate came up with the idea of an ‘in the round,’ which I loved. Laurie, Kate, and I strategized after that. Kate enlisted her family, and Laurie was very helpful with ticket sales strategy, networking, and inviting John Forte, Chadwick Stokes, and Amy Schumer.”

“We appreciate all the effort that Jemima has put into leading this fundraiser, and we also want to thank the musicians so much,” IEH executive director Dorothy Young said. “We are so honored by their support. We really enjoyed the concert last year, and are looking forward to June 29. Our residents will be attending again this year as well.”

James is directing and co-producing Songwriters for Island Elder Housing with Young and IEH staff members Mary Gosselin, Marianne Sebastian, Linda Amaral, and Lisa Eller. “Like last year, we’re continuing to fundraise for generators,” Young said.

IEH received a grant from the West Chop Community Foundation for $50,000 for a portable generator, which was a big step forward, but they would like to become more self-sufficient. Their long-term emergency management plans include placing permanent generators in each building, so residents can access power for oxygen tanks and storage for medications that require refrigeration, and stay in their apartments. Providing generators to all 18 buildings will cost close to a million dollars, so proceeds from this event will go directly toward meeting that goal. “Last year, we raised almost $80,000, and we would like to meet or exceed this, but we appreciate any amount that we raise,” Young said.

Author Geraldine Brooks spoke at the event last year, and will be doing so again this year. “We all know we’re in a housing crisis. Elderly and disabled Islanders are among the most vulnerable, and IEH serves this community so well, providing not just housing, but a home, with all that means for a caring, supportive environment,” Brooks said.

Last year’s fundraiser exceeded expectations, and the Island community is in for a treat this year as well. “It was one of those magical Island evenings that can happen almost no place else,” Brooks said. “Amy Schumer kicked off the evening, most of the Taylor family played, along with Jemima and her son Willy Mason, and a raft of other immensely talented singer-songwriters. It’s a great format — all the artists onstage together, taking turns singing. For the audience, it’s like sitting in on a private jam session.”

New to the lineup of talented musicians performing in the round this year are Lilah Larson, Phil daRosa, Cliff Eberhardt, Rachel Jayson, and Amanda Palmer. Both Jayson and Palmer will be performing on the Island for the first time.

“I’ve been to the Island several times, but have never played there,” Palmer said. “I’m really excited. And I’d do anything for Geraldine Brooks. She swooped in and mothered me when I needed it, and I so appreciate it. Her love of the Vineyard is passionate and palpable. As someone who travels and performs everywhere and is asked to do a lot of gigs, when someone feels so passionately about a place like Geraldine does about the Vineyard, it’s easy to say yes. Can’t wait to be in your waters.”

Songwriters for Island Elder Housing starts at 7:30 pm at the historic Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. Donations can be made the night of the event via the QR code found in the show program.