Gypsy Soul holiday concert supports WinterSpring
Compassion, kindness and comfort. The band Gypsy Soul exemplifies these ideals through their music and commitment to their community.
The band — husband and wife duo Roman Morykit and Cilette Swann — play in venues around the world, but make sure to return home to the Rogue Valley each December to play a special benefit concert for WinterSpring, a grief counseling center that utilizes trained volunteers to give support to the bereaved.
Benefit shows are a familiar endeavor. The band has done numerous similar performances for nonprofits such as ACCESS, Code Pink and Peace House.
“We’ve been doing it wherever we’ve lived. We all have a responsibility to pass on when we’re abundant in some way,” said Morykit during a phone interview. “That’s definitely the feeling of the season; it should be at least, rather that consumerism. It’s just to spread some joy and happiness to those who maybe aren’t feeling it.”
The band is spreading that joy on a whirlwind tour through Oregon, California and Arizona, doing 10 concerts in 20 days to promote their recently released holiday album, “Comfort and Joy.” Swann and Morykit don’t mind the busy pace one bit.
“December is our favorite time,” said Swann. “We can only do so many concerts ... and it’s never enough for us, because we’re like, ‘It’s going to be over soon and we can’t play (holiday songs) anymore!’”
The album, originally entitled “Winter Wonderland,” changed when a friend of the duo got a first listen.
“He said the comfort is like the bass; that round, beautiful bass tone is like a warm blanket, and the joy is voice,” said Morykit. “That’s how he saw the album when he was listening to it, and we went ‘Great! Great title for the record.’ Because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do, trying to bring some comfort and joy to people.”
The 14-song holiday compilation sports a blend of fun, bright songs, including “Winter Wonderland” and “Joy to the World,” with slower arrangements of classics such as “The First Noel” and “Silent Night,” all done in the band’s particular sound, a style Swann calls “soulful acoustic roots.”
“We try to have a balance between the sacred and the secular,” said Swann. “We don’t do a lot of the childlike songs, but we also want to balance that sacred, maybe a little heavier message, with the lighter and more heartfelt, more wintry music.”
“Not everybody celebrates Christmas,” Morykit adds. “There’s Hanukah, Kwanzaa, a lot of people have different ideas of what the holiday season is, but the overriding feeling, I think, is of gratitude, kindness and unity. A lot of these Christmas carols, we love them, we loved them as kids. But I’ve always hated the versions I’ve heard. That was one of the things that motivated us to do it. These are great songs. Let’s do something interesting with them.”
The song “The First Noel” means a lot to Swann particularly. When she was a small child, she was convinced the song was written specifically for her father, who shares the classic carol’s name. “The Snow, the Sea” is another standout for Swann, “because it reminds me of our time in Scotland where Roman and I met.”
The record is available now through their website, gypsysoul.com as a pay-what-you-can download, or “if you haven’t got it this year, you can have it for free,” said Morykit of their gift to their fans. The band will also have physical copies of their CDs available for purchase at the show.
Gypsy Soul will play many of their holiday songs at the WinterSpring concert, a program called “The Gift Within the Song,” on Saturday, Dec. 21.
The audience will see some deviations from how some songs sound on the record.
“We’ll take “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” [for example],” said Swann, “and we’ll make it this almost Paris café jazz, really cool feel, and we’ll insert — the part of the gift within the song — this little, tiny kind of mash-up with the song “Moondance ” (by Van Morrison). That’s part of the fun for us. We couldn’t do that on the record.”
The WinterSpring show aims to raise awareness and funds for the organization. Both Morykit and Swann have experienced the loss of loved ones and hope to remind people to be kind to one another during a season that can be difficult for some.
“I lost my father on the 23rd of December five years ago,” said Morykit. “So Christmas, for a lot of people, it’s not always jolly, jolly, and it’s just remembering that, and trying to support people during an often very difficult time.”
“Most of the world at some point, in fact, everyone, is going to suffer from grief,” Swann said. “And so if we can (bring attention to this issue) in a lighthearted, beautiful, memory-creating moment with a concert, then it plants that seed that WinterSpring exists.”
WinterSpring will receive a portion of the ticket sales, with 100% of the proceeds from the raffle and food sales.
“We all need help sometimes,” Morykit stated. “We’re all in this togetherbe kind to each other, it doesn’t cost anything, just be kind.”
Gypsy Soul will present “The Gift Within the Song” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland.
Tickets are $27.50 and can be purchased at gypsysoul.com or Music Coop, 268 E. Main St. Doors open at 7 p.m.