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Charleston concert to honor memory of 'Elizabeth'

WANT TO GO?

"For Love" Covenant House benefit concert

By the Charleston Gay Men's Chorale

WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Culture Center Theater

COST: $25

INFO: forloveconcert.eventbrite.com or 304-344-8053, ext. 22.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Gay Men's Chorale and Covenant House will present a special "For Love" benefit concert and fundraiser 4 p.m. Sunday at the West Virginia Culture Center Theater in the state Capitol Complex in honor of a well-known street person known locally as "Elizabeth."

 The concert, which includes a dessert reception afterward, is dedicated to the memory of George L. Bartlett, known as Elizabeth, a longtime Charleston resident whose family Covenant House helped to reunite in 2009. Bartlett died earlier this year at the age of 59 in Tulsa.

A June 2-4 series by the Gazette, "Elizabeth & George," told the tale of how as a young musician, George wandered away from his family in his late 20s after adopting the identity of Elizabeth. Elizabeth took up residence on the Charleston streets sometime around the turn of the century and found friends and benefactors here through the years.

The family was separated for more than a quarter-century until Elizabeth was reunited at Covenant House with her three sisters and mother. She later returned home to Arkansas and Oklahoma to live out her life with them.

"The concert honors the life and memory of Elizabeth, who so many Charlestonians recall," said Covenant House Executive Director Ellen Allen. "It further delights us that her sisters, Sharon, Lisa and Leigh Ann, will be among those in attendance."

"We wouldn't miss it for the world," said Elizabeth's youngest sister, Lisa Davis, in a phone interview. "We have been anticipating it for several weeks. We are just over the moon and back with excitement. We're honored to be able to be there and experience this. We're truly touched."

The concert, which is also a fundraiser for the chorale, features members performing such classics as "Embraceable You" and "You Can't Hurry Love," along with more recent songs like "Seasons of Love." The concert marks the first time CGMC has teamed with Covenant House for a full performance.

A portion of the proceeds from "For Love" will help Covenant House provide nutritional support for persons living with HIV/AIDS and to provide free, rapid HIV testing. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online at forloveconcert.eventbrite.com and at the door. Or call 304-344-8053, ext. 22.

 "Covenant House has been a terrific supporter of the Chorale, and we are thrilled to team up with them for this exciting and important concert celebrating love," said Billy Burdette, CGMC artistic director.

The "For Love" theme of the show is a broad one and will be reflected in both song selections and in-between quotes about love, said Burdette.

"It's not just about the marriage type of love. It could be the love between a child and parent. It could be the love between a brother and sister, the love between friends. It's not limited to the romantic type of love. Its any kind of love we have experienced."

The love of Elizabeth's family in seeking and finally reuniting with a long-lost family member certainly falls within that circle.

Burdette would encounter Elizabeth while working at Bob Evans in downtown Charleston when in college and she would come in for coffee.

"She always had a friendly smile. I truly believe she loved Charleston. She was always so kind and wanted to pay for her coffee and even wanted to tip which I would never let her do any of that."

Burdette noted another sort of love as demonstrated by Covenant House, founded more than 30 years ago to help people with the fewest resources meet their basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter.

"It was a beautiful thing when Ellen said let's do this for Elizabeth. She was reunited with her family through a loving organization." Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.


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