Rob Sharer of Craicdown jams with other musicians at the ‘Music Folk for Ocracoke’ benefit concert in Durham in October. Photo: Peter Vankevich

By Peter Vankevich

The outpouring of support for Ocracoke since Hurricane Dorian is a constant inspiration for those undergoing this trauma.

Many creative fundraisers–from a lemonade stand to T-shirts, a song and books, not to mention simple cash donations–have raised more than $1 million. There have also been several music events organized and performed by talented artists who love Ocracoke. Even a bar in Boston held a fundraiser.

One benefit Music Across the Sound at the Turnage Theatre in Washington, Beaufort County, went on despite missing two of the featured artists, Ocracoke’s Molasses Creek and Coyote, who were not able to attend due to a nor’easter that suspended the ferry service that day.

The Carolina Theatre in Durham. Photo: Peter Vankevich

The biggest benefit concert was “Music Folk for Ocracoke” on Oct. 14 at the historic Carolina Theatre in Durham.

It was organized in just 13 days by Craicdown, the trio of Rob Sharer, David DiGiuseppe and Jim Roberts, which has performed at the Ocrafolk Festival for the past 11 years.

Featured performers Diali Cissokho & Kaira Bal, the Chatham Rabbits, Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbough of Mipso also have performed at this festival that takes place the first weekend in June.

Another performer, popular Jonathan Byrd, backed up by a dynamic duo called the Pickup Cowboys, has played on the island with Fiddler Dave Tweedie of Molasses Creek fame and director of the festival.

Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys. Photo: George Wood

Marcy Brenner, who with her husband Lou Castro make up the musical duo Coyote, who are fast friends with Craicdown, set the tone for the evening.

Marcy Brenner. Photo: George Wood

She came on stage and described the devastation that Hurricane Dorian wreaked on Sept 6.

Their Coyote Music Den in a historic building in Community Square and which was an intimate place for small concerts, music jams, music lessons and winter literary readings called Word Play, was destroyed.

Brenner and Castro lost their vehicles and their house, and a 1908 Steinway piano inside was badly damaged.

She described the conditions on the island that lasted a few days: No electric; no potable water and ferry service–the island’s lifeline-badly curtailed.

Closed for varying periods were the Variety Store, bank, school, health center, library and the restaurants. Almost all of the island businesses were damaged, and some may never reopen.

With all of the debris along the roads, it wasn’t safe for children to ride their bikes.

Brenner lamented that FEMA had denied Individual Assistance for the islanders, causing even more stress.

But she saw a flickering of hope.

After the waters receded, individual boats began docking next to the Music Den, bringing all manner of supplies donated by individuals living in nearby communities.

Sarah McCombie of Chatham Rabbits plays with Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbough of Mipso. Photo: George Wood

Gov. Roy Cooper soon showed up to pledge state support in lieu of the FEMA-denied Individual Assistance, and literally tons of food and supplies were delivered.

Volunteers, many from faith-based groups, arrived to help repair the damaged homes and remove fallen trees. Several state emergency teams and the National Guard came to help. The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department became the command center, affectionately referred to as “the Fire Mart” as islanders showed up to get badly needed supplies.

The organizers of the concert decided to give all of the proceeds to the Outer Banks Community Foundation Disaster Relief for its Ocracoke fund.  An active board member for 25 years, Brenner is a director emeritus.

Yes, the music was stirring. The musicians all spoke of their love for Ocracoke and considered it an honor to perform for the cause.

Rob Sharer. Photo: Peter Vankevich

Sharer, acting as the MC, periodically gave updates on the money raised.  The scheduled 10-minute intermission stretched on much longer as people stood in long lines in the vestibule to donate above the $27.50 ticket.

In the end, Sharer broke two big stories. The concert raised more than $10,000 and he had gotten word from Tweedie that the Ocrafolk Festival 2020 will go on.

In his enthusiasm, Sharer blurted about Ocrafolk “Come hell or high—-. Ahh, let me rephrase this…”  that drew many laughs.

As donations have continued to be sent to OBCF in the name of the concert, it has raised about $16,000.

It was a concert that began with sadness and ended with a lively jam with all of the artists on stage singing in joy and hope.

Sharer performed Bob Marley’s “High Tide or Low Tide” with the fitting chorus, “In high seas or in low seas, I’m gonna be your friend. In high tide or in low tide, I’ll be by your side.”

Special thanks to the Carolina Theatre’s director Rebecca Newton for putting together the concert in remarkably s

The Music Folk for Ocracoke finale. Photo: Peter Vankevich
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