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Singing for a cause

PRINCETON —A rural Tiskilwa man has raised more than $78,500 for hunger relief during the past two years through his performances of “The Cotton Patch Gospel” musical.

Area residents can help Phil Kaufmann continue with that mission of hunger relief by attending the June 8-9 performances of “The Cotton Patch Gospel” at the Prairie Arts Center in Princeton. Ticket information is available through Mark Frank at 815-875-2249. Proceeds from the June shows will be split between the Buddy Bag lunch program for area children and the Bureau County Food Pantry in Princeton.

Kaufmann has performed “The Cotton Patch Gospel” as a one-man show for more than two years. His first show was March 31, 2011, and he recently returned from Brooklyn, N.Y., where he performed his 75th show.

In a recent interview, Kaufmann said “The Cotton Patch Gospel” tells the story of what it would be like if Jesus was born in Gainesville, Ga., in the 20th century. The musical was written by Tom Key and Russel Trez and features the music of singer/songwriter Harry Chapin. While in New York recently, Kaufmann performed the show for Chapin’s widow.

With permission from the Chapin family, and through the use of audio and video technology, Kaufmann portrays more than 20 characters, plays 11 musical instruments and sings his own backup vocals for his one-man rendition of “The Cotton Patch Gospel.”

In describing the musical, Kaufmann said he likes the fresh, contemporary approach to the story of the life of Christ and the “masterful way” that Chapin’s music intertwines with Key’s libretto. The vernacular translation of the Gospel was done by Dr. Clarence Jordan, who was instrumental in the founding of Koinonia Farm and Partnership Housing which later became Habitat for Humanity, Kaufmann said.

“The Cotton Patch Gospel” has a broad appeal to both those who have heard the old Bible stories and to those who aren’t as familiar with them. For those with more Bible knowledge, they will recognize the musical’s stories and situations come from Biblical text, but the contemporary telling of those stories makes them very understandable to persons of any background and experience, he said.

As far as the donation of all funds to hunger relief, Kaufmann said he has found donors to cover the licensing fee and to help with transportation costs, so he has been able to distribute all the money raised at shows to not-for-profit organizations impacting hunger and food needs.

Looking ahead to the June 8-9 performances at the Prairie Arts Center in Princeton, Kaufmann said the shows will be both entertaining and challenging.

“With all our presentations, we seek to provide an entertaining and challenging experience,” Kaufmann said. “Hopefully the challenge is to recognize the needs in our world, and respond as the show puts forth: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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