Around Town: Asheville concert to benefit Sistas Caring 4 Sistas

SONGS IN THEIR HEARTS: From left, Amanda Anne Platt (with daughter Tuvi), Jane Kramer and Sarah Siskind will perform at Central United Methodist Church on July 13. Photo by Ben Phan

The three musicians kicking off a new concert series at Central United Methodist Church of Asheville are all mothers, and that’s no coincidence, says the show’s organizer, poet/songstress Jane Kramer.

After all, she explains, the concert will benefit Sistas Caring 4 Sistas, a nonprofit doula program founded by women of color for women of color.

“When I set about the ultrafun work of dreaming up a bill that went with the theme of birth, sisterhood and parenthood, two of my absolute top favorite regional women songwriters — Amanda Anne Platt and Sarah Siskind — came to mind,” Kramer explains. “Both are mothers and full-time artists themselves. And I wanted to play alongside them.”

The Sanctuary Series will get underway at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 13, with Sisters in Song, an in-the-round show featuring Kramer, Siskind and Platt.

“This is not going to be your typical performance with solitary individual sets,” Kramer says. “Amanda, Sarah and I will all be on stage together, all sitting side by side, and we will be going round robin, each sharing one song at a time.”

Kramer has been friends with Platt, leader of the popular Americana band Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, for years. But she didn’t know Siskind until she approached her to participate in Sisters in Song. “I was actually quite nervous reaching out to her cold and wasn’t sure if she’d be interested, but her response was warm and enthusiastic, and I was delighted,” she says.

The concert series was born when pastors Luke Lingle, Patrick Neitzey and Rob Blackburn approached Kramer this past winter and asked if she would like to organize it. “They expressed the desire to use their gorgeous sanctuary — with gorgeous acoustics — to welcome in the wider community beyond just their congregation and to use their resources and platform to help lift up local and regional artists and benefit a new nonprofit each time,” she says.

The series will likely be quarterly, with a full schedule to be released in August.

Central United Methodist Church of Asheville is at 27 Church St. For more information or to buy $25 tickets, visit

In a trance

For Chelsea Lynn LaBate, the personal trials of the pandemic proved a source of inspiration. The Asheville musician/songwriter/poet suffered through a series of psychotic episodes that resulted in five hospitalizations and a diagnosis of bipolar 1.

Those experiences inspired LaBate’s poetry collection Free Roses, recently published by Mezcalita Press.

“I wrote all of the poems while I was manic and most of them during the pandemic,” she explains. “There are pandemic poems, poems where I am talking to animals, poems that illustrate my time in the mental wards and these ‘one-for-all’ type poems that are cheering the collective on.”

Despite the heavy subject matter, LaBate says, Free Roses is uplifting and even funny.

“I’m hoping that readers see their own story in mine,” she says. “I write for those who have been in psychosis and for those who haven’t. This is an invitation into the ecstasy of mania — into its beauty and insights. When you’re in trance, no one ever asks about your story; they just ask if you’re hearing voices or if you’re suicidal. Psychosis has a lot of beauty.”

In addition to 51 poems, Free Roses includes a transcript of an interview LaBate did with Matt Peiken for his Blue Ridge Public Radio show “The Porch: Artists Coping with Their Mental Health Through a Year of Turmoil.” The book also includes a link to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization LaBate says helped her through difficult times.

“This is like AA for people with mental illness,” she says. “We meet once a week through Zoom or in person. You can talk about anything and someone in the group may have been there too. I’m approaching my [one]-year mark out of the ward. I can celebrate with friends who really know what that means.”

To purchase a copy of Free Roses, visit

Symphony shows moved

The Asheville Symphony will move all shows that were scheduled to take place at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium this season because of significant problems with the venue’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

“Parts to repair the HVAC system are not readily available, and [Harrah’s Cherokee Center — Asheville] has let us know that it may not be fully back online for at least nine months,” symphony director Daniel Crupi wrote in a June 23 letter to supporters. “The Asheville Symphony must keep the stage within certain ranges of temperature to ensure the safety and sound quality of musicians’ instruments, and we will not be able to adequately control the comfort of the auditorium for our patrons’ experience.”

The auditorium will remain open at a limited capacity, with about 1,000 of its 2,431 seats available.

The symphony will move most of its Masterworks Series to First Baptist Church of Asheville, 5 Oak St. Other changes include:

  • “Star Wars: Celebrating a Galaxy of Music” will be performed Sunday, Oct. 1, on Salvage Station’s outdoor stage, 468 Riverside Drive.
  • “New Year’s Eve: She’s Got Soul” will take place Sunday, Dec. 31, at Harrah’s Cherokee Center — Asheville’s Arena, 87 Haywood St.
  • “Masterworks 7: Titan” will be performed Saturday, May 18, at the Brevard Music Center’s Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium, 349 Andante Lane, Brevard.

For more information, go to

Bubblin’ up

FEEL THE LOVE: Paula Hanke, left, Hank Bones, center, and Peggy Ratusz make up the harmony trio Love Bubble. Photo by Sandlin Gaither

The Grey Eagle will host a record release show for Dream Big, the second album by Asheville bubblegum pop trio Love Bubble, at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 9.

The harmony-driven Love Bubble is made up of veteran Asheville performers Hank Bones, Paula Hanke and Peggy Ratusz. Keyboardist Taylor Pierson, bass player Connor Law and drummer Micah Thomas will join them for the show, which will feature the 12 tracks from the new album, including “I Owe the Radio,” “Wholeheartedly,” “Columbus Street” and “Rhythm of a Heartbeat.”

The group will also play its usual selection of traditional blues and swing songs.

The band released its first album, Love Revolution, in 2021. Music Street Journal said the record’s 1960s-style sunshine pop made it feel like “a long-lost gem of times gone by.”

The Grey Eagle is at 185 Clingman Ave. For more information or to buy tickets, go to


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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