The Kin visit: 'Nothing matters except remembering to love and see the people you have around you'
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Kindred spirits, powerful connections: These were the themes that resonated on the front lawn of an Ann Arbor couple’s home Saturday afternoon.
The sun was shining and sweat glistened on the brows of audience members and The Kin brothers, Australian natives Thorald and Isaac Koren.
The Kin, an eclectic rock band, traveled from New York City, minus their drummer, Friday to meet and perform for one of their biggest fans in an intimate concert Saturday at the home of Dan White and Cathy Cieglo. About 70 people were in attendance.
The Kin was called to Ann Arbor on a special mission: To honor and cheer up a courageous 2012 Pioneer High School graduate who has faced a number of physical challenges throughout his 19 years and recently missed his graduation festivities.
William McGuckin was born with multiple congenital anomalies that resulted in 23 surgeries before the age of 5. Most recently, McGuckin spent 29 days in the hospital after complications from an emergency stomach surgery that almost took his life.
The Kin’s music, in particular a song called “Waking Up Shining,” has provided encouragement for McGuckin in his recovery.
Thorald Koren said it doesn’t matter if you’re U2 or a band that not many people have heard of — “yet” — “it’s always surprising and always humbling” to learn how your music touches people’s lives.
“For us to be here, and for it to be special, is special,” he said. “And that’s why we made space for it. We’re honored to be here and grateful to be here and to see the power of what wakes us up in the morning, have an impact.”
The Kin wrote the up-tempo “Waking Up Shining” when the band was living in Los Angeles a few years ago, Isaac Koren said.
The song talks about feeling out of place and not being able to rely on one’s built up knowledge. Isaac said, in a sense, the song is about taking the bull by the horns and living each day despite feeling like you don’t belong.
The bond between The Kin and McGuckin is somewhat of a mutual exchange. McGuckin’s story has inspired the Koren brothers as well, they both said on multiple occasions.
Thorald has been dealing with his own health struggles, said Mary Byce, McGuckin’s mom. He talked about them Saturday with the gathering in Ann Arbor.
“I was thinking last night, I’ve been going through something very different, and it’s much smaller and definitely not physical. And I thought to myself, if Will can do it, well then I can do it It was a very powerful moment for me.”
Byce and several others in the audience shed tears throughout The Kin’s performance. McGuckin had just one word for the day: Awesome.
Cieglo provides the link between The Kin and another Ann Arbor family: The family of Mariel Almendras. Mariel, who died of cancer last Thanksgiving at the age of 8, was a student in Cieglo’s Dicken Elementary class when The Kin came to play for them.
Mariel’s mom, Gemma Almendras, said a love of music helped Cieglo and her daughter share a truly special bond.
During Saturday’s performance at Cieglo’s home on Ann Arbor's west side, The Kin dedicated a song to Mariel. It was a very emotional part of the concert.
“It was so unexpected. I had no idea they were going to do that. It was such a surprise,” Almendras said. “We were here to give back love to a community that gave so much love to us when we needed it. But for The Kin to do that, was just most beautiful.”
Almendras added Cieglo and White, who orchestrated The Kin coming to play for Will, are phenomenal people whose “grand purpose” in life is forming connections. She said Cieglo is so much more than a teacher to all of her students.
“To see providential connections being made the joy these past two days have brought to my son there are no words for this all has meant,” Byce said, staving off tears. “Will said to me yesterday, ‘Nothing else matters except remembering to love and see the people you have around you.’ And that’s what today has really been about.”