GREAT BARRINGTON >> The seventh Warm Up the Winter fundraiser for emergency fuel-heating assistance takes the stage at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Thursday.
The event was first organized in January 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession by Rabbi Deborah Zecher of Hevreh of South Berkshire. It has been presented annually except for last year.
"Those were terrible economic times," Zecher said. "It's improved for a lot of people, but not for enough. Too many people are foundering, and we don't want anyone to have to choose between food and heat. If someone doesn't have to make that decision, I'm relieved."
During the 7 p.m. concert, co-organizer David Anderegg will present music by his men's a cappella group Quintessential, rhythm and blues artists The Wanda Houston Band, alt-rockers Jordan Weller and the Feathers, and cabaret performer Zecher's pop standards, accompanied by pianist Joe Rose.
All proceeds go to the heating assistance programs administered by Construct, Inc., to support Berkshire County residents in need. The benefits have raised about $25,000.
Zecher credits Anne Schnesel for continuing to underwrite the show's expenses following her husband Ernest's death last year.
"The two of them have been very active philanthropically in the community; modest people who wanted to see it happen," she said. Thursday's concert will be dedicated to his memory.
Zecher traced the show's origins to her work at Hevreh with bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah students, whose preparations include a community project as a gift for the extended community.
"It's required so they learn to think beyond themselves," she said. "In 2009, I was working full time and since I was telling kids to reach out to others, I thought, now it's my turn."
"This is a fun, lively event about reminding people not to be complacent, that we do have neighbors here in South Berkshire who can't pay their bills," said Anderegg, a psychologist who teaches at Bennington College and has a private practice in Lenox. The benefit also serves as "a model for others in our very vibrant, artistic community that talent can be used to help our neighbors."
Each concert features Rose's song, "Warm Up the Winter," composed for the event, said Anderegg. "We end with a collaborative, rousing finale with everyone on stage to do one number that reflects the theme, to send people out on a very positive note."
Quintessential, Anderegg's group, also features Jim McMenamy, Jay Wise, John Miner and Alex Thorp, all current as well as founding members of the vocal ensemble.
"When people think of Thanksgiving, gratitude and family, my hope is that they will also think about expressing thanks for what each of us has and to reach out beyond ourselves," Zecher said.
Zecher, a Lenox resident who has traveled widely for her singing career since her retirement from Hevreh, leads the Northshore Jewish Congregation in Mandeville, La., one weekend each month. She remains Rabbi Emerita of Hevreh, based in Great Barrington.
"There are always surprises during the concert," Anderegg said. "There's a certain element of the unexpected since it's a live show, but most of the time things work out very well. The feeling on stage is always very loving, everybody really looks forward to working together for a good cause. It's a family feeling on stage and in the audience as well."
If you go ...
What: "Warm Up the Winter," benefit concert for area residents who need help to pay winter heating bills
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle St., Great Barrington.
Performers: Quintessential vocal ensemble, vocalist Deborah Zecher with pianist Joe Rose, the Wanda Houston Band, Jordan Weller and the Feathers
Tickets: $25 (adults); $75 (patrons); Children under 16 admitted free.
Information: www.mahaiwe.org or 413-528-0100.