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Concert raises money for Newton Food Pantry, Community Freedge

Lily Tsai and Solon Gordon performed for the Music for Food fundraiser.Charlotte Howard

A cacophony of violin strums and piano keys echoed in the halls of Newton’s Allen House on a recent Saturday. Each note played was organized by Music for Food, raising over $1,000 to benefit the Newton Food Pantry and Newton Community Freedge.

“There’s a whole arc over the course of a half an hour where you are taking people on a journey and trying to express emotions,” said pianist Solon Gordon.

At the April 30 event, Newton residents gathered to hear Gordon and violinist Lily Tsai, who played a series of classical music pieces to raise money for the Community Freedge.

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Tsai and Gordon, who have strong ties to Newton, met in San Francisco where Gordon played piano and was a staff accompanist at the conservatory where Tsai was a student. The pair reunited and performed for the first time in Newton for this event.

Tsai is in her fourth year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying to obtain a doctorate in computer science with a minor in music performance. Gordon recently took a break from his career in software engineering to be a full-time parent and pursue his passion for the piano.

“We just love music. It has the power to move and heal people and bring people together,” Tsai said. “We probably spend too much time on music compared to our actual jobs.”

Tsai and Gordon said they prefer chamber music, a style where company is necessary. Gordon said he gets bored when playing alone.

“It’s so much more interesting and dynamic with playing with someone else, bouncing off each other and continually feeding off each other’s energies,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s mother-in-law and Newton resident for 33 years, Lisa Wong, said she thinks both Tsai and Gordon are incredible musicians and was the one who recommended they play for the charity event. Wong, who was a previous advisor for Music for Food, helped put together a proposal for the fundraiser.

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“Using music, which is our language, to help our community, was this natural fit,” Wong said.

Music for Food, an international organization that has 20 chapters, is allied under the same mission: fighting food insecurities in local communities. All concerts are donation-based and 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the organization.

Janny Joo and April Sun, co-executive directors of Music for Food, said by the end of this season, the organization will have donated over $2 million in meals since it launched in 2010.

“The need for this kind of activism is now greater than ever, especially with the pandemic,” Joo said.

Jen Abbott, Newton Food Pantry fundraising chair, said the proceeds from the concert will go to the Newton Community Freedge, which opened during the pandemic, giving people in the community 24/7 access to groceries. Abbott said it takes a big, community-wide effort and about $2,400 a month to stock.

“Food insecurity is real for a lot of families here, and the pantry does really good work in supporting those families,” Abbott said.

Gordon said he and Tsai were grateful for the opportunity and wanted their music to inspire people to help the Newton Freedge.

“Everywhere you go there are going to be people who love to play and give back to the community and bring joy through music,” Tsai said.

Charlotte Howard can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.

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People gathered to watch Lily Tsai and Solon Gordon perform in the newly renovated Allen House. Charlotte Howard