Jazz singer and Southold native Allison Mann visited her hometown early last spring with what seemed like a random request for her parents.
Write down your favorite songs from when you were younger, she asked of her father, Russell, 93, and mother, Joan, 87.
Later that year, Ms. Mann took her parents’ list and developed a sold-out three-concert jazz series dedicated to them. She then recorded and released three live CDs from the concerts entitled “For My Mother and Father: The Best Songs of Their Times Vol. I-III.” The albums include classics like “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Route 66” and “Over the Rainbow.”
“I wanted to do something for my folks,” said Ms. Mann, sounding a little choked up. “They’re getting old and I don’t know how long they’re going to be here, so I wanted to honor them before they’re gone.”
From her parents’ lists, she chose songs from the 1930s and 1940s, paying tribute to when her parents were in their teens and early 20s. The time period also reflects when they first met, when Joan was 13 and Russell was 19.
Ms. Mann, 56, said her mother trained as a cadet nurse during World War II but never served. By the time her training was over, so was the war. Her father, however, lived through an incredible journey overseas.
“It’s quite an amazing story,” Ms. Mann said. “My dad was a World War II bomber pilot shot down over France and was in a German prison camp until the war was over.”
Ms. Mann’s musical tribute to her parents began after she’d spent nearly a decade away from singing to focus on parenting and work. It was an effort that didn’t go unnoticed by her parents.
“We were excited and very honored,” said Joan Mann. “Absolutely. Both of us felt that way.”
Ms. Mann said all of her family members attended the first show in her current hometown of Montpelier, Vt. Her sister Debbie, who lives in Southold, brought her parents for the occasion.
The concert series will be making a fourth stop in Southold Sunday, Aug. 23, as a benefit for First Universalist Church, which burned down in March. The concert begins at 2 p.m. at the Southold American Legion hall, where Mr. Mann was commander for “years and years,” said Ms. Mann. Ms. Mann will be accompanied by keyboardist Trevor Davison of Jamesport. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door.
Ms. Mann said she’s planning the benefit as a way to give back to the church, which she began attending at just 6 months old. Her father served on the church board and cooked at every pancake breakfast, she said, and her mother volunteered at First Universalist whenever necessary. Ms. Mann and her sister both sang in the youth choir. Her other sister, Jackie, participated in one of the first food cooperatives on the North Fork, which used the church as a distribution space.
“It was just a place where the whole family could go and could all participate in their own way,” Joan Mann said.
In order to celebrate First Universalist’s history, Ms. Mann is asking that people who attend the concert bring any old items they have, such as church photographs and bulletins, to be displayed on a memorabilia table. She also hopes some people will donate the items they’re willing to part with so the congregation can begin rebuilding its collection of documents.
“I just think it’s wonderful that she would do this,” Joan Mann said. “It takes time and practice. I hope we have a large turnout for the benefit of church because we sure do need it.”