On March 19, McGill Students for Amnesty International (MSAI) hosted Jamnesty, an annual coffee house fundraiser featuring student and alumni artists. The event was free but organizers encouraged audience members to donate money as part of their “ticket.” The initiative resulted in $1,042 raised for Meals for Milton-Parc, a student-run community organization that provides food and supplies to unhoused people in the neighbourhood.
Previous iterations of the coffee house have taken place at local venues, but this year’s event was held on Zoom due to the pandemic. With quick reminders for the audience to hit mute and performers to unmute themselves, the first screen-share began.
Sarah Plenge, BA ‘21 and California-based artist, kicked off the show with an original poem. She appeared via pre-recorded video and performed a love letter to Montreal. Speaking solemnly and with a slight rasp, Plenge delivered terse snapshots of the city, capturing in vivid detail both its most picturesque scenes and its more dreary sights. Her care to depict Montreal in its entirety demonstrated her true love for the city—even the gritty parts.
The first musical number of the night came from Alina Jalink, U2 Arts and a member of McGill a cappella group Tonal Ecstasy. Armed with a ukulele, gray cardigan, and girl-next-door charm, Jalink began her first original song, “Butterflies,” in a delicate, ethereal falsetto. Jalink’s backdrop of Polaroids and tie-dye canvas created an intimate setting that would be unachievable onstage; Jamnesty’s audience looked directly into her bedroom.
Jalink continued her set with a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Right Where You Left Me,” before a cascade of plucked strings introduced her second original song “Spring Cleaning.”
“The thing I can’t seem to get rid of is how much I care,” Jalink sang. “I can’t make you leave when I still wear the necklace you gave me.”
Once she finished, the audience flooded the chat with supportive comments and clapping emojis.
Caroline Lauf, U1 Arts and also a member of Tonal Ecstasy, embodied an entirely different aesthetic: Long, dramatic, black curls framed her face, and the walls of her own bedroom stood bare. Lauf began her set with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “That’s Alright.” Playing a muted guitar, Lauf transformed the originally upbeat single into a heartfelt, bittersweet send-off.
“I hope you find love, your own designs love, that’s alright,” Lauf sang.
Lauf’s strong and dark vocals carried over to her next song, a cover of Harry Styles’ ballad “From the dining table.”
Lauf showcased her lower vocal range in her final selection, Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.”. Clearly comfortable in chest register, Lauf exuded the quiet confidence of a performer at home onstage, or in this case, on-screen. Her voice on the descending melody of the title lyric was mesmerizing.
Ending the night was Katie Harbour, U3 Science, who performed a mashup of SZA’s “Love Galore” and Jhené Aiko’s “Everything Must Go,” on her guitar, followed by Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” Then came time for the final verse of the night, Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”
“This last song is a certified banger,” Harbour said.
And as if only one banger did not suffice, she then transitioned into Robin Schulz’s “Sugar.” In response, the chat lit up with cheers, and expressions of delighted surprise appeared on the faces of audience members. Harbour matched the spike in energy as her own face lit up with a smile.
In addition to fundraising for a worthy cause, Jamnesty 2021 provided a much-appreciated night of joy. It offered an escape into the wonderful world of art and music—not only did it speak to our communal need for a thriving performing arts scene, but it also demonstrated the resilience of those who’ve continued to practice their crafts and perform.
Meals for Milton-Parc is currently seeking both monetary and item donations.