By Jerry duPhily

January through early March can be challenging in these parts. It’s cold. It’s gray. It gets dark early.

In other words, it’s a perfect time of year to hold Shine A Light.

Early last month, area musicians joined forces for the 11th consecutive year to put on this benefit concert at The Queen. If you weren’t there or haven’t caught a previous Shine A Light (SAL), you’re missing out. It may be Wilmington’s best musical event of the year.

Each SAL pays tribute to a different era of music — 1968, the 1980s, the Rolling Stones… This year’s theme was the music of 1983 and attendees watched in nostalgic delight as a cast of 67 musicians (including 15 females and 11 people of color) performed 41 songs — from Lionel Ritchie to Cyndi Lauper to Talking Heads. 

The performers changed for every song, yet there appeared to be at least 20 musicians on stage for each number. While quite a planning challenge, each year the SAL cast begins planning in August and rehearses throughout February; they have the changeovers down pat. They also have the talent to pull off this spectrum of songs and styles. 

For me, it was once again moving to witness it all unfold. After all, Out & About has history with many on that stage. 

We’ve written about virtually every performer who took part — many of them, multiple times. We’ve watched them grow up. Some have become friends. And while a few have tasted the big time, each has enjoyed a moment in the local spotlight, and no doubt entertained you at one of your go-to nightspots. They’ve helped lay down the soundtrack for this city.

Of course, it takes more than just the musicians to pull off such an undertaking. And as I entered this year’s concert, I saw the usual ensemble of “doers” volunteering to scan tickets, apply wristbands, answer questions, hand me a glass of champagne!

“The people in this room are probably responsible for half the cool stuff that goes on in this city,” I commented to one who has helped me on many an endeavor. She nodded in agreement. Hyperbole, perhaps, but we both knew I wasn’t far off.

Oh yes, I mentioned this was a benefit concert — and not just for the benefit of those who attend. Indeed, it is.

Shine A Light has raised more than $700,000 since its inception in 2012. Last year, it not only helped fund music education programs for underserved youth at Reed’s Refuge, Christina Cultural Arts Center and Kingswood Community Center, some of the SAL musicians helped instruct. To bring the relationship full circle, Reed’s Refuge co-founder Fred Reed sang this year’s Lionel Ritchie number and has performed at SAL the past two years. 

Pretty illuminating stuff for an otherwise dreary winter night. Yes, musicians have that superpower.

And when you see 67 of them wielding it all at once, well, that’s a powerful experience. But don’t take my word for it, next year come see for yourself. 

Jerry duPhily
Since 1988, Out & About has informed our audience of entertainment options in Greater Wilmington through a monthly variety magazine. Today, that connection has expanded to include social networking, a weekly newsletter, and a comprehensive website. We also create, manage, and sponsor local events.