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June 24, 2015

A&I Headliner Brings Music To Fellowship Place – New Haven Independent, June 24, 2015 

Wherever you are right now, you have a right to live music, and to happiness.” — Mary McBride, Founder, The Home Tour
With that as her mantra, international recording artist and singer-songwriter Mary McBride brought her foot-stamping, high-five-ing rock-and-roll Home Tour to Fellowship Place.

Tuesday afternoon about 75 clients of Fellowship Place, the social and vocational center for people struggling with mental illness, filled the organization’s sun-lit clubhouse on Elm Street for the performance.

They took Executive Director Mary Guerrera’s introductory words to heart: “Mary [McBride] wants you to get up and sing, and if you feel like stomping your feet in the aisles, please do. This is your morning.”

The audience did more than that. Within 15 minutes of the concert’s starting, Novem Alston and Dave Neal (pictured) were among more than a dozen people who turned the clubhouse into a dance space.

After ten years of concerts on the road, McBride began the Home Tour to bring live music to people who might not have easy access to it, but who can benefit from music’s power. She got early support from the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), and the Home Tour is now one of its programs.

She’s going to be talking about it in “Rock and Roll That Heals,” an Arts & Ideas panel discussion that convenes at 12:30 p.m.Wednesday at the Yale University Art Gallery. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, her band will perform on the main stage on the Green.

In addition to scores of programs in Connecticut, McBride is creating models of the program across the country and the world, with lots of nonprofit partners. The idea is not only for McBride to perform, but to assemble local artists to do the same at venues like Fellowship Place across the country, including centers for the homeless, vets, seniors — any audience that might not be able to pay for, or get to, live music events.

With her strong self-assured voice, McBride began with tunes like “Route 66,” and other rhythm and blues standards.

She turned her smartly chosen Ray Charles standard “I Don’t Need No Doctor” into a kind of subversive anthem of wellness that seemed to scoop up the entire audience in its musical I-been-there smile.

A high point of the concert, for Pamela Park and many others, was when McBride — who said she had the good fortune as a white girl to learn to sing in a Washington D.C. black church — launched into “Amazing Grace.”

In addition to the concerts, McBride has been conducting songwriting workshops for DMHAS clients. Some of them, and their songs, will be on Wednesday’s program on the Green, McBride said.

A reporter wanted to know how the vibes of happiness and love that filled up Fellowship Place compared to her concert experience in other venues.

“It makes a regular rock club pale in comparison,” McBride replied.

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