Columbus native returns to sing for fundraiser in fight against AIDS

The 30-year-old professional singer and Columbus native is thinking about the music she will sing, certainly.

But as Kate Hamilton considers her first hometown performance in more than three years Sept. 9, she can’t help but think of struggling women a world away in Zambia as they work to raise grandchildren and others orphaned by AIDS.

“It’s the least I can do — to support the Granny Connection,” Hamilton said.

She referred to the local nonprofit organization, one that includes her mother, Dr. Sheryl Elston of Columbus, caring for children of the AIDS crisis in Lusaka, Zambia. Hamilton, with enough of a heart for the hurting that she has been on two missions outreaches to Kenya, admires the strength of the African grandmothers raising their own grandchildren, and others’ children, too.

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Her concert, billed as “The Great American Songbook” at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus Building, serves as a fundraiser for the Granny Connection, and a salute to Granny Connection member Sherri McKinney, who died March 3.

The Ron McCurdy Quartet will accompany Hamilton for what is expected to be a 15-song, 90-minute show. McCurdy performed in Columbus in 2015 with Columbus native and Broadway performer Marja Harmon at a Granny Connection fundraising concert at The Commons. He is a professor of music at the University of Southern California, and has worked with well-known artists such as Wynton Marsalis.

Hamilton herself has in the past two years sung at a range of clubs nationwide on a tour as part of the folk-style duo known as Rubyfruit. She and her life partner and musical sidekick Jenny Posnack just released an extended-play disc, “Half Moon,” compiled while they worked on farms in exchange for boarding from city to city. When Hamilton spoke recently about the upcoming concert, the Denver-based pair was in Columbus, Ohio, for a show linked to the release.

As Hamilton has gotten older and faced struggles, she mentioned that adversity has strengthened her. She includes in that reference a controversy that went statewide and beyond last year when she backed out of a patriotic Columbus Indiana Philharmonic concert that then-Gov. and Columbus native Mike Pence was added to as a speaker.

As a bisexual, pro-choice woman with immigrant descendants, she took issue with some of Pence’s political stances. And she faced a range of both sharp public criticism and staunch support for her decision.

“I feel like life experience has made the well from which I draw — one for not only the sounds within my voice, but also the intention of a song — so much deeper than before,” Hamilton said. “I can now bring much more nuance.”

Granny Connection founder Ann Jones of Columbus thought of Hamilton for this event for more than her long-recognized talent, such that she drew raves as a fifth-grader in a major role in the local then-Mill Race Players’ musical “The Secret Garden” in 1997.

“I thought it would be wonderful to bring her to town, this time for a joyful celebration and situation,” Jones said.

The 2005 Columbus North High School graduate and former New York City resident will croon material from Cole Porter to Duke Ellington, including jazzy tunes that she has covered in the past. Yet, her presentation even from one night to the next can differ substantially.

“Not only can it be different every night, but you never sing exactly the same way, for example, under an outdoor band-shell as you do in a smokey club,” she said.

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What: The Great American Songbook event featuring vocalist Kate Hamilton and the Ron McCurdy Quartet.

When: Live auction at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 and concert at 7 p.m.

Where: The 200-seat Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus building, 7850 W. Goeller Blvd.

Why: To raise money for the work of the local nonprofit organization the Granny Connection’s work alongside the Power of Love agency caring for AIDS orphans and their relatives in Lusaka, Zambia. The event also will salute the life of Sherri McKinney, a Granny Connection member who died March 3.

Expected to be available at the concert: The newly-released extended-play disc, “Half Moon,” from Hamilton’s duo, “Rubyfruit.”

Tickets: For adults, $30 in advance and $35 at the door, $15 for students. Advance tickets available at Viewpoint Books, 548 Washington St. in Columbus or by phone at 812-350-0528.