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Tribute concert aims to aid Parkinson’s research

By Jackie Lupo
Spuyten Duyvil and Jim Gaudet kick off the concert with Linda Ronstadt’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.”

IRVINGTON — This year, 60,000 people living in the U.S. will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD), a degenerative neurological disorder that affects five million people worldwide.

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Next Saturday, Oct. 1, Common Ground Community Concerts will present “The Music of Linda Ronstadt: A Benefit for Parkinson’s Research” at Irvington Town Hall Theater. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the concert will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, established by the actor, a PD patient, in 2000. Ronstadt, the winner of 11 Grammy Awards, was diagnosed with the disease in 2013.

Performers at next weekend's benefit will include Steve Addabbo of Hastings, Arlon Bennett, Bobtown, Ana Egge, Abbie Gardner, Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys, Vance Gilbert, Abby Hollander and Andrea Asprelli, Sara Milonovich, Matt Nakoa, and Spuyten Duyvil, all playing songs Ronstadt, now 70, recorded over a career spanning four decades. 

Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991 and revealed his condition in 1998; he continues to work in show business.

Oftentimes people live with PD for some time before the condition is identified, which was the case for Ronstadt, who gave her last concert in 2009 after years of suffering misdiagnosed aches and pains, combined with a progressive deterioration of her singing voice. When she received a diagnosis of PD, she went public with that news via AARP The Magazine. Ronstadt revealed that she had lost her ability to sing.

These days, Ronstadt does make occasional personal appearances where she discusses her career and her experiences with PD (her next local appearance will be on Nov. 17 at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on Long Island University’s Post campus in Brookville).

PD, which is caused by low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, produces symptoms such as tremors, movement problems, rigidity, impaired balance, and depression. PD can cause problems coordinating the many small muscles involved with speaking or singing, and with modulating the voice to control its pitch and tone. After Ronstadt announced that she had PD, she told interviewers it was likely that it had been developing for years.

Carter Smith, a longtime Hastings resident who now lives in Yonkers, founded Common Ground Community Concerts 16 years ago. A former reporter with The Rivertowns Enterprise, Smith was diagnosed with PD in 2013. His idea for a Common Ground benefit for PD started back in April of this year, when his friend Mark Miller of the band Spuyten Duyvil invited him to speak at a Spuyten Duyvil concert in Manhattan, featuring Ronstadt’s music, to raise funds to further research on the disease.

“I had never gone public with my PD other than to speak of it at my church [the First Unitarian Society of Westchester in Hastings, which is also the location of the Common Ground Coffeehouse concerts],” Smith said. “But I had gotten to the point where, when people asked, ‘How are you?’ the question became complicated.”

He agreed to talk about his own experiences with PD at the Spuyten Duyvil concert. And he also realized that Irvington Town Hall Theater, where Common Ground had been holding larger concert presentations for years, would be the perfect venue for a PD fundraiser in Westchester.

For Smith, it is important to donate 100 percent of the ticket sales to the Michael J. Fox Foundation; so he spent many months gathering sponsors for the concert. “I’m very grateful to the sponsors,” he said, noting that they include personal friends and associates from the music scene, as well as Rivertowns companies, including Greenleaf Pharmacy and the Andrus on Hudson nursing home in Hastings; Senior Helpers, a home healthcare company based at Ridge Hill in Yonkers; and Healthy on Hudson, a nutritionist in Irvington.

Ronstadt recorded 30 albums — mostly in the folk-rock genre, but also in other styles. The concert, expected to be about two hours long, with one intermission, will lead off with one of her hits from 1977, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” performed by Spuyten Duyvil with Gaudet. Gaudet has PD, as does performer-songwriter Bennett, who is also a crusader for PD awareness. Smith said the song lineup was “inspired by Linda Ronstadt’s role exposing great music in a lot of different genres. The American public knows her because of her hit songs, but she also did Gershwin, Cajun music, folk rock, country rock, New Age, Gilbert & Sullivan, opera.” Most of Ronstadt’s hits will be performed, along with what Smith called “some surprises.”

Tickets for the concert on Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. at Irvington Town Hall Theater, 85 Main St. (entrance on North Ferris Street), are $30 for orchestra and box seats, $25 for the balcony, and $50 for the front three rows. Visit or call the box office at 591-6602. To donate to the cause, go to to be taken to Common Ground’s donations page on the Michael J. Fox Foundation website. For a schedule of Common Ground Community Concerts’ 2016 season, visit

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


September 23, 2016

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