Gypsy Soul’s “A Gift Within the Song” concert could be described as a holiday cocktail with a twist. The husband and wife duo blends folk, rock, jazz and blues arrangements of traditional seasonal music with a splash of snippets from other popular tunes.
The result, says lead vocalist Cilette Swann, is a feel-good concert.
A feel-good concert intent on bringing awareness to a subject that most people feel very uncomfortable embracing: grief.
Swann and her husband, multi-instrumentalist Roman Morykit, along with trumpet and bass player Mikey Stevens, will serve up acoustic, soulful Americana in “An Evening with Gypsy Soul: A Gift Within the Song” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at gypsysoul.com or Music Coop, 268 E. Main St, Ashland.
The 17th annual holiday concert is a benefit for WinterSpring, a Rogue Valley nonprofit that assists children, teens and adults experiencing loss through death, suicide or divorce.
WinterSpring is especially near and dear to Swann, who lost her father 15 years ago.
“It was such an incredible loss,” she says of the man who inspired and supported her music. “He was dear to a lot of people.”
She credits both her parents — semi-professional musicians and singers — with giving her the gift of song.
“I think I was singing before I could walk,” Swann says.
In recent years, Morykit lost his mother and father in quick succession.
Knowing firsthand the heartache of devastating loss, the musicians want to put the spotlight on the incredible support system and community within the WinterSpring organization.
Thirty percent of the proceeds from ticket sales as well as 100 percent of raffle and refreshment concessions will be donated to WinterSpring to help sustain its various programs and support groups that foster healthy grieving.
Saturday’s concert is not only a gift to WinterSpring, but also a gift to the duo’s Southern Oregon fans. On the road much of the year, Gypsy Soul only performs three shows a year in local venues.
The annual holiday concert is a lot of fun and a chance to reunite with family and friends in the Rogue Valley, Swann says.
"The Gift Within the Song” refers to the hidden gems tucked into each of the songs on the playlist.
For instance, “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” suddenly goes “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” before sliding back into the traditional carol.
And, “Little Drummer Boy” is nothing like the drummer boy you may be familiar with, Swann says.
"It’s more like the ‘rockin’ guitar boy.’ It will be like you’re hearing Christmas standards for the first time,” she says.
"The music of the night, however, is not 100 percent Christmas music,” Swann adds. “Probably more like 60/40. We also will perform a mix of Gypsy Soul originals and covers of non-holiday music.”
Aptly-named, the duo is marking its 20th anniversary as independent, professional recording and touring artists.
Swann and Morykit met in Scotland and have traveled the world for nearly two decades. Between them, they have lived in five different countries.
Swann was born to South African parents and raised in Canada. Morykit was born in England to Italian and Ukrainian parents. First-generation United States citizens, their music reflects their multi-cultural heritage.
Swann is the lyricist and Morykit the composer and arranger of a soulful sound reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Lady Antebellum.
Gypsy Soul has received many songwriting awards from around the country and the globe, critics' choices in more than 70 publications, and many placements in feature films and TV shows, including “Providence,” “Roswell,” “Felicity” and “90210.” They’ve opened for the Doobie Brothers and Edie Brickel, and they've been featured in record compilations with artists artists Keb Mo, Shawn Colvin and Aimee Mann.
Reflecting on the more than 1,000 shows performed and half a million miles logged, Swann says “We feel good about the choices we’ve made, and we're grateful for the opportunity to continue to perform at this level.”