When Sheldon Jones moved to the area about two years ago, he wanted to be involved in the music scene and engaged in the community.
He found a way to do both.
He took up the guitar again, adopted the stage name of Loco Lobo, and came up with a plan.
“It was one of my crazy ideas,” Jones said. “But other people took me up on it.”
The idea was to ask local bands and musicians to donate a Christmas song—either classic or original—and sell an album, with proceeds going toward programs to benefit the city’s homeless.
The album is “Joy to the Burg,” created in cooperation with Christian Churches United’s HELP Ministries and Susquehanna Harbor Safe Haven.
“I discussed the idea with rock legend Shea Quinn of the Sharks and the Luv Gods and Greg Platzer, lead guitarist of Grumpy, and it took on a life of its own,” Jones said.
“O Holy Night” isn’t exactly a song Quinn is likely to record, given that the Luv Gods are a high-energy, five-piece rock group.
“But there is something beautiful about the song and about the mission,” Quinn said. “So, when Sheldon asked, I agreed.”
Another contributor is No Last Call, a band formed in 2009 by Ted Reese and fellow trumpet player, Doug Wilburne. They modeled it after other brass bands that pop up on street corners or at community events—with a repertoire of rock, pop and jazz covers.
“Our band plays some Christmas tunes, but we put a raucous spin on most things,” Reese said. “It’s not usually pretty. But there are a wide variety of styles on the album, so we’re playing a brassy version of ‘Carol of the Bells’ arranged by one our members, Jim Neidinger.”
Indeed, said Jones, the musical genres represented range from rock to country-western, from classical to bluegrass and more.
Among the other 14 songs are “We Three Kings” by the Steve Rudolph Trio, “Greensleeves” by Ryan Chilcote, “The Work of Christmas” by the Susquehanna Chorale and “Winter Wonderland” by Grumpy.
Jones himself recorded John Denver’s “Christmas for Cowboys.”
“Joy to the Burg” was unveiled during a press conference and musical performance last month in the state Capitol’s main rotunda. Since then, the album has been available for purchase on compact disc or digital download.
“Joy to the Burg” will continue with a live Christmas concert on Dec. 8 at HACC’s Rose Lehrman Arts Center.
“A little more than half of the artists will perform,” Jones said.
One hundred percent of album and concert ticket proceeds will go to support the Christian Church United homelessness programs.
The organization does more than distribute clothes and meals—it also helps people find jobs, Jones said.
“It’s much more difficult to address,” he said. “It’s not just treating symptoms.”
CCU provides a continuum of homeless services that aim to prevent homelessness, provide short-term help when a household is in crisis, and offer long-term assistance for people to achieve and maintain permanent housing.
“’Joy to the Burg’ seemed like a great way to both raise awareness about the need for supporting people experiencing homelessness, as well as an effective avenue to raise funds to support our programming,” said Darrel Reinford, CCU executive director. “We will use the money to build our capacity in all of the programs mentioned with the goal of reducing the homeless population in Dauphin County.”
Beyond the performers, many recording studios donated their time to produce the album, which sells for $20. The download costs $15.
The CD will be sold through CCU member churches, retail stores, online, at the concert and other means, Jones said.
“I really admire Sheldon Jones for producing this project,” Reese said. “He came to town only recently, but has poured his personal resources and time into ‘Joy to the Burg.’ Who can bring more than a dozen bands and artists together in less than a year? He is making a tremendous impact to help—and inspire.”
The “Joy to the Burg” concert takes place Dec. 8, 3 p.m., at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center on the HACC campus in Harrisburg. Tickets and CDs can be purchased by calling 717-585-0107 or by visiting www.JoytotheBurg.com.