Grief and music are inexorably intertwined. Since the beginning of recorded history, people have used music to express and help process the profound feelings that the loss of a loved one inevitably brings. When guitarist Mike Kaufman’s wife, Suzanne, lost her battle with ovarian cancer last summer, Kaufman knew that music would be his salvation, so he organized a “Cancer Revenge Tour” to raise money for research and awareness of this deadly disease.
His one-man tour makes a stop in Newport on Oct. 8, at St. Paul’s Methodist Church.
“In the days and weeks immediately following Suzanne’s death, I knew I needed to face all my emotions head on,” he said. “Grieving is a funny thing; it’s not nice and neat in the five classic stages. We go through them all, but not in any specific order, and some hit multiple times, on their own schedule.”
Kaufman said grieving is different than one might expect when dealing with a long-term illness like terminal cancer. “A lot of the process is faced in advance of the actual date of death,” he said. “In Suzanne’s case, I had to consciously hold off grieving while she was alive, because I couldn’t just ‘bury’ her while we still had time together.”
For Kaufman, a retired music teacher and guitarist from South Carolina, songwriting was his therapy. “I would get up and write in a very disciplined manner,” he said. “I was expecting to have a crop of angst-ridden ballads, and indeed there are songs that will never see the light of day, for which everyone should thank me. But mostly, these [new] songs are about life and living, for which I am surprised and grateful.”
He’s compiled his newly minted tunes in a CD titled, “Old Guy, New Songs.” Copies are available at all his shows and can also be downloaded off iTunes and Band Camp.
What should people expect to hear on Oct. 8?
“I’m an old school folkie and I play primarily fingerstyle guitar,” he said. “The songs for the show will run the emotional gamut, but the music, in my opinion, stands on its own, irrespective of the event’s goal.”
As is often the case with musicians whose tours pass through Aquidneck Island, the Newport connection is palpable. Newport musicians Chuck and Toni Ciany are musical soulmates and friends of the Kaufmans, and there’s even a chance the Cianys will sit in with Kaufman on a song or two.
“Toni was one of Suzanne’s best friends forever,” he said. “Chuck and I have played and sung together for as long as I’ve known them. While we haven’t picked any particular songs to play yet, my guess is that we will absolutely play together.”
Admission to the concert will be by donation to the Staar Ovarian Cancer Foundation at staaroc.org.
“At a [previous] show, we had folks donate anywhere between $5 and $200,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to stay away if all they can afford is a few bucks. If a lot of us do a little, it adds up.”
For more, visit mikekaufmanmusic.com.
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: St. Paul’s Methodist Church, 12 Marlborough St., Newport
Admission: Donations to Staar Ovarian Cancer Foundation are encouraged