The Memory Brothers are hosting a benefit  concert for Philippines disaster relief at Nob Hill Saturday, April 5. 

Proceeds will go to the Red Cross.

“We’re featuring two bands, a guest vocalist, plus a speaker who will talk briefly about the situation in the Philippines,” says organizer Doug Koempel of the Memory Brothers Band.

The benefit is being coordinated in conjunction with Women’s Weekend Out through the Winneshiek County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

On Nov. 8, 2013, the strongest tropical typhoon ever recorded hit the Philippines.

Typhoon Yolanda, as it is known in the Philippines, killed over 6,000 people. It has been estimated this cyclone has affected well over 11,000,000 people – many of whom remain homeless today.

Koempel wanted to do something to help; so he came up with an idea.

“Shortly after the terrible Haiyan/Yolanda typhoon,” he recalls, “I sent an email to Steve and Linda Henning at Nob Hill and several of my musician friends starting with the sentence: ‘OK … crazy idea here. What would you think of putting together a benefit to raise money to help provide relief for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines?”

The response was immediate from all parties: We’re in.

“So that’s when the wheels began turning,” Koempel says.

The musicians involved are The Memory Brothers Large Band (Larry Crandall, Lefty Schrage and Koempel, West Union; Erik Berg, Decorah; Dave Christopherson, Waterloo); The Buck Hollow Band (John and Teresa Condon, Decorah); and Jeni Grouws, Decorah.

The concert is Saturday, April 5, at Nob Hill Ballroom in Decorah, from 7:30-11:30 p.m. Admission is a $10 donation. All proceeds go to the Red Cross. 

Advance tickets are available at Oneota Community Food Co-op, KDEC Radio, Nob Hill Ballroom and Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Keith Lesmeister, of Decorah, will speak to attendees of the event about the situation in the Philippines.

“I’ll talk about the huge needs in the P.I. and how this money will provide support,” he says. “I have a strong interest in helping in any way raise funds for the recovery in the P.I. and so I instantly agreed to say a few words. I’m planning to give a quick one-to-three-minute ‘thank-you’ speech and encourage people to donate.”

Gabrielle White, major gifts associate with the Decorah branch of the American Red Cross of the Tri-States, was surprised to learn about the benefit – and happily so.

 “I saw the posters and contacted the Memory Brothers to thank them for donating the proceeds of their event to the American Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Recovery efforts in the Philippines,” White says. “We’re grateful to live and work in such a generous and thoughtful community where we think not only of ourselves but also of our world neighbors suffering still in the Philippines.”

According to the website for the American Red Cross, funds like those raised from this benefit are used “to purchase and distribute emergency relief items such as food, shelter supplies, hygiene kits and mosquito nets, and to provide cash grants that help typhoon survivors address storm-related needs.

“In addition, the funds have supported the deployment of 43 disaster specialists from the American Red Cross to the Philippines. They have provided a wide range of support for sheltering activities and relief distribution, as well as technical expertise in mapping, telecommunications and information technology,” the web site continues.

“The American Red Cross receives no government funding and relies on donations of time, treasure and talent,” White notes. “Consider becoming a Red Cross volunteer, donor or taking a first aid/CPR/AED class with us.” 

For more information visit or

Like all the people Koempel contacted about participating in this event, John and Teresa Condon, who together comprise the Buck Hollow Band, jumped at the chance to participate.

“It’s not every day we can perform with such great musicians and assist in a small way the people devasted by the typhoon,” John says. “One night not long ago Teresa and I watched a Frontline program about Typhoon Haiyan and I was stunned at the devastation. Doug called me about a benefit show and we eagerly volunteered.”

Singer Jeni Grouws of Decorah also didn’t hesitate to offer her support.

“It seems to me when something happens on this grand of a scale, it’s our job both locally and globally to respond, at least as much as we can,” Grouws says. “I know when events like Katrina and 911 happened in the United States, people from around the world responded with kindness and generosity and when an event this large hits a country like the Philippines, I only hope people in our area would also be willing to respond in kind and to show the love and support back.”