Eau Claire Journalist’s Articles on Homelessness Inspires Music, Fundraising
For several years, journalist Julian Emerson has examined the problem of homelessness in the Chippewa Valley through words. Now those words have inspired songs as well, songs that will be performed on a musical and literary tour that kicks off Thursday, Oct. 13, in Eau Claire.
In the summer of 2015, Emerson – a longtime reporter with the Leader-Telegram newspaper – took part in an artists’ retreat on Mallard Island in Rainy Lake, near the Minnesota-Canada border. On the first night, the participants were asked to share their work with one another, but Emerson didn’t have anything new to present. Instead, he decided to read aloud from an in-depth series of articles he had written about homeless people struggling through the brutal winter of 2013-14 on the streets of Eau Claire. While his descriptions of frigid urban homelessness stood in stark contrast to the scenic summertime idyll provided by the retreat, they nonetheless motivated four other attendees to start creating words and music.
“I absolutely did not ever envision those homeless stories having the kind of impact they have had, and I certainly never thought they would inspire musicians to want to create/perform music to them.” – Julian Emerson
“While listening to … Emerson’s stories of the homeless surviving that long, cold winter, we were inspired to craft a series of songs antithetical to our beautiful wilderness surroundings,” Pepin County singer-songwriter Yata Peinovich, who took part in the retreat. The creative collaboration continued in subsequent months, and the participants gathered in an Eau Claire recording studio to put down some tracks. Now, an album is forthcoming.
“I absolutely did not ever envision those homeless stories having the kind of impact they have had, and I certainly never thought they would inspire musicians to want to create/perform music to them,” Emerson says.
Now, Yata and his partners – harmonica player Joel Kroenke of Shawano, and violinist Dalyce Elliott and poet Timothy Young, both of St. Paul, Minnesota – are launching a mini-tour to raise awareness and funds for organizations in their hometowns that help the homeless. The tour begins at 7pm Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Volume One Gallery inside The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. Other concerts will follow: Friday, Oct. 14, at Accola Gallery in Durand; Saturday, Oct. 15, at Como Cottage in St. Paul; and Saturday, Oct. 22, at Zion Lutheran Church in Shawano. Emerson will read adaptations of some of his articles to accompany a few of the songs.
At each concerts, donations will be accepted for local groups that aid the homeless. In Eau Claire, funds will go to the Eau Claire school district’s Homeless Children and Youth Fund for Today. The show will launch a one-month fundraising effort for the school district’ program. If you can’t make it to the concert – or just can’t wait to pitch in – you can do so online.
Find the event on Facebook.