Benefit concert for retired artist

Retired entertainer, Neville D Harris, left, with one of the organisers of the benefit concert in his honour, John Mans.

Musicians from Athlone have called on all people who enjoyed the entertainment of now retired artist, Neville D Harris, to support a benefit concert in his honour.

The concert will be held at Athlone High School’s hall on Saturday October 13, at 7pm.

Mr Harris, 73, was forced to call it quits after he suffered a stroke in June.

He has been entertaining crowds for 53 years — either with his drama, music, song and comedy or being a master of ceremonies.

Although he has recovered well after the stroke, his memory and his singing have been affected, but his humour is still in tact.

One of the organisers of the benefit concert, John Mans, said over the years, Mr Harris never declined to perform at any community event, and therefore they decided to honour him in this way.

“Mr Harris always availed himself — many times without remuneration. A lot of people benefited from his performances, especially the seniors. He also performed at fundraisers for schools and organisations. Now he has difficulty holding a microphone, and he can’t sing like he used to. Part of Mr Harris’s vision was for the Athlone central business district (CBD) to be revived to its former vibrancy. With his entertainment there, he brought it to life,” Mr Mans said.

Mr Harris said he misses being “the people’s entertainer”.

“Especially this time of the year, I miss entertaining people. I loved the way people thanked me and the smiles on their faces. The stroke was a big shock to me. I thought it was the end of my life. I am happy that I am doing better, but there are still times I go blank,” Mr Harris said.

Mr Mans said the reality of musicians and entertainers, is that they can never be certain about their income.

“For a lot of artists, when tragedy strikes, they are left with nothing. It has almost become protocol that when something happens, your fellow musicians step in to help. Some are friends of Mr Harris that he used to work with. I am looking forward to the event, and hope to see many people there whom Neville has given his kind heart to,” Mr Mans said.

Among the artists who will be performing include the Butler Connection Band, featuring Sandra Butler, the Bridgetown Theatre Company, Dub C, and Yusuf Abrahams Productions.

Said Mr Mans: “Athlone was known for its fine bands. There are very few people around from that era. Mr Harris is among the heroes of that time.”

Mr Harris said the first person he performed with was his friend Kenneth Everts.

“Mr Everts was known as the karaoke king, and that is how I started out as an entertainer. I did not expect my fellow musicians would host something like this for me, because what I did, I did out of love. I am very grateful though,” he added.

Doors open at 6.30pm, and tickets, available at the door, are R50 each.