Last Sunday afternoon, March 19th, the Rose Bowl featured live music, as usual, but on this particular day the patrons were also interested in helping Champaign County cats live their best lives.
Local no-kill cat shelter CATSNAP held their first in-person fundraising event at The Rose Bowl Sunday afternoon, with local musicians donating their time and talent to entertain and raise much-needed funds for stray and feral cats in Champaign County.
Being the first in-person fundraising event for CATSNAP, the volunteers didn’t know what to expect, but were extremely pleased by the turnout and the generosity of the patrons. The Rose Bowl was packed for the entire event (2 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and patrons donated cash, purchased raffle tickets for door prizes and also bid on silent auction items, unique gift baskets, and other prizes such as a weekend stay at a cabin near Lake Shelbyville. There was even a hand-made quilt, a juice cleansing system, and a fashionable Coach purse, providing something fun to bid on for everyone in attendance.
The money raised goes directly to all of the activities central to CATSNAP’s mission of improving the quality of life of every cat they encounter, according to President, Freda Shore.
“One of our main objectives is to spay and neuter cats that we come in contact with,” said Shore. “So far this year we have spayed or neutered over 100 cats.” CATSNAP has helped over 1,000 cats yearly for the past five years, and thousands more since their founding in 2005. However, the pandemic hampered their ability to help as many cats as possible, and those same issues have had dire consequences on other cat rescues.
“The challenges presented by COVID have forced many shelters to close in the past 18 months,” said Shore, “and all the ones that haven’t closed are filled to capacity at the moment. We currently have 40 to 50 cats at our facility despite our capacity being around 30.”
In addition to helping support CATSNAP, patrons were there for the music.
The Fiddle-Sax Fusion band kicked off the afternoon with their “Old Time and Irish fiddle tunes and folk hymns with a blues twist,” as heard on their album Grumbling, Growling, and Other Pandemic Breakdowns. The band features fiddle player Jessie Stark, a classically trained violinist, and her husband Brian, a jazz saxophonist along with their friend and neighbor Stephen Busath on percussion. Fiddle-Sax Fusion band was born after the pandemic took away the Starks’ usual gigs, so they decided to start playing together and found a sound that’s familiar yet unique. Their music got the afternoon to a great start, and set the tone for the great entertainment yet to come.
The next band that took the stage was the Peter Tijerina Quintet, featuring Peter Tijerina (trombone), Doug Nicholson (piano), Sam Olson (bass), Max Osawa (drums), and filling in at the last minute on trumpet, Nickolas Kaplan. The tight quintet regaled the audience with old classics such as “The Girl From Ipanema” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and “(In My) Solitude” by Duke Ellington. For being a last-second fill-in, Kaplan performed impressively on the trumpet, especially considering he was replacing a trombone player who had to cancel at the last minute.
The third band of the afternoon was Rose Bowl favorites the Church Street Ramblers. The Ramblers are known for their brand of early 20th century jazz, and it was evident many in the audience were most familiar with this group of musicians. Host for the afternoon, Tania Arazi Coambs, even got up on stage and sang a jazz standard with the band, as did two other members, Nancy Livingston and Sandra Eades.*
The next musical portion of the show wasn’t on the bill, but consisted of four amazing vocalists singing various showtunes accompanied by Cheryl Forest Morganson on piano. Ingrid Kammin and Elena Negruta first performed “Memory” from the musical Cats by Andrew Lloyd Weber, followed by the very enjoyable (especially for this crowd) “Duetto buffo di due gatti,” (Humorous Duet for Two Cats) that was entirely sung in meows — and I guarantee it sounded way better than you’re imagining right now.
Next, Matt Hester sang “My Friends” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd, and Tina Radi sang “Green Finch and Linnet Bird,” also from Sweeney Todd.
The musical entertainment concluded with host’s own band, The Tania Arazi Coambs Trio, with Coambs on vocals, and Chip McNeill (Professor and Chair of the Jazz department at the University of Illinois) and Ben Taylor, a local bass player. Taylor even contributed to the event by donating large prints of photographs he took of lions while on safari in Africa.
The event on Sunday raised over $2,500 for CATSNAP, but they are always looking for any help they can get with their mission, including people willing to volunteer, specifically helping trap and transport feral cats for spaying and neutering, medical volunteers that are comfortable giving cats their medications, as well as “socializer” volunteers who help keep the front of the building clean and tidy and provide love and care to the cats so they can be ready to go home with an adoptive family. You can learn more on CATSNAP’s website.
*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article failed to identify Church Street Ramblers members Nancy Livingston and Sandra Eades. This article has been updated to reflect their participation in the performance. We regret this error.