Noah Gabriel to premiere ‘Songs Illuminated’ series at Moonlight Theatre in St. Charles

Echo and Ransom first guest artist at candlelit event

Moonlight Theatre in St. Charles recently opened its doors and plans to offer theatrical productions, music and comedy acts. The St. Charles City Council recently approved an historic landmark designation for the former Idle Hour Theatre at 7 S. 2nd Ave, which was built between 1904-1908 and had housed Idle Hour Theatre from 1914-1926.

ST. CHARLES – A candlelit songwriter series at Moonlight Theatre called “Songs Illuminated” will launch at 6 p.m. July 26 in St. Charles, showcasing the duo Echo and Ransom in an interview and performance format steered by Fox Valley songwriter Noah Gabriel.

Rather than a songwriter night with multiple artists, which leaves too little time to delve into each performer’s process, Gabriel said “Songs Illuminated” was inspired by Elvis Costello’s program focusing on one artist while featuring conversation about the songs and history of the musician.

“It helped to fill in the gaps and get deeper into the music,” Gabriel said. “That was the initial spark for the whole thing.”

Gabriel will add an atmospheric twist to the evening by staging it in a candlelit setting. The theater has a mix of tables and rows of seating, and offers beverages and refreshments. Gabriel ( said plans are to make it a monthly offering.

“(Candlelight) will add to the intimacy of the event, and create a more unique experience for the concertgoer,” he said. “This whole thing is for real fans of music that want to get inside the songs, and aren’t just looking for the regular background cover band stuff that can float by.”

The evening will kick off with Gabriel playing one of his songs, before he brings out the guest artist for an introduction and the performance of a song or two.

They then chat about those songs, digging into their backstory and about how the artists embarked on music, Gabriel said.

Colleen Wild and Jason Benefield comprise Echo and Ransom. In addition to their work as a duo, each is known for their own projects.

“Their duo is becoming very popular,” Gabriel said of the two singer-songwriters. “My intention is to find out what got them working together ... and how their collaborative efforts function.”

He describes the music of Echo and Ransom as Americana, with the artists rooted in folk, classic rock and R&B and soul music, adding, “They bring a lot to the table.”

Gabriel knows firsthand that writing is peppered with personal allusions that may seem innocuous, but “if you take a deeper look, you find out there is weight that is carried by those tiny things.”

A goal of “Songs Illuminated” is to find out how in depth these songs go.

The Fox Valley is not short of singer-songwriters, Gabriel said, adding, “We are loaded with plenty of exceptional talent, and, hopefully, this will help to shine a spotlight on it.

“I know this will provide a nice opportunity for songwriters to be heard in a way that they not usually are heard,” he said, acknowledging that musicians’ audiences often expect them to perform covers of popular hits. “We are a flesh jukebox. We’re there as background to make sure it doesn’t get too quiet. Being able to sit down and talk about your songs and be heard for what they are is a big thing.”

He said another benefit of bringing artists together is to let them support each other, bounce songs off one another, and develop creative relationships along with a vibrant arts scene.


WHAT: Debut of “Songs Illuminated” series

WHERE: Moonlight Theatre, 7 S. Second Ave., St. Charles

WHEN: 6 p.m. July 26

COST: $5 for general admission