Delaware's Got Talent
Lawyer and Profundo Bono ensemble player Kiadii Harmon counts Moby Dick as a theater credit, and Judge Robert B. Young as a friend
Published in 2021 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine on May 26, 2021
Kiadii Harmon didn’t need to go to law school to learn this fundamental truth: “If a judge asks you to do something, you do it—even if it means agreeing before you know what you agreed to,” Harmon says, laughing.
That’s what happened when Delaware Family Court Judge James McGiffin emailed Harmon in January and told him he had a musical opportunity for him. McGiffin, known for his love of music, wanted to make a funny COVID-19 singalong to help cheer up his good friend, Delaware Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young—also famous in Delaware legal circles for his musicality—who was battling cancer.
“These two guys, they were very good friends, and when they got together, that’s what they did: play guitar, goof off and write songs,” Harmon says.
In 2007, when Harmon was a clerk in the Delaware Superior Court, the judges would often rotate, so there were a few weeks when Harmon clerked for Young on his rotation to Wilmington. It wasn’t long before Harmon realized this particular clerkship came with some added duties.
“He would call me in and ask me for a word that rhymed with another word,” Harmon remembers. “He called me in two or three times to do this, and these were literally the only things he was asking me for—words that rhymed with another. I would be like, ‘Your honor, what are you doing?”
Young, who wrote musicals, was looking to his clerk for some creative inspiration. Young’s original works include Macbeth—A Family Musical, A Tale of Two Cities—The Rock Opera and Moby Dick—A Maritime Musicale. “Offhand I said, ‘Oh, I acted in musicals in high school.’ And Judge Young said, ‘Oh! Great. Now you’re in this one.’ So that’s how it started, with me playing Ernest Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities.”
Harmon joined Profundo Bono, the nonprofit ensemble troupe of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals, helmed by Young, who perform Young’s musicals and raise money for Combined Campaign for Justice, an initiative to promote equal access to justice. Harmon even landed the title role of Moby Dick. “I’m only in the one scene, when Ahab tries to harpoon the whale, so I’m singing behind this giant cardboard cutout,” he says. “Dude, imagine the ‘Fudgie the Whale’ ice cream cake: That was me.”
So when the idea of the pandemic video came around, Harmon got the phone call. “These people really think I can sing,” he says. “And I don’t know why.”
The video, titled “Don’t Let The Covid Get You Down,” debuted in February 2021 and is chockablock with good humor: a lawyer in unicorn footie pajamas cuddles her cat; a judge joyfully shimmies in his robes and sweatpants; and Harmon rocks a COVID-apropos uniform of T-shirt and tie and bounces his baby son on his knee as he closes out the montage in his baritone. Above the Law picked the video up and quipped, “Finally, a reason to be thankful that our country’s entire business operation runs out of one state.”
But for all the funny, there is a lingering sadness.
“Judge McGiffin had a real sense of urgency about this video because he didn’t think Judge Young would be alive to see it,” Harmon says. “And we actually got the news today—he passed away this morning. So I’m really happy to have been a part of this last gift to him.”
Young’s gift to Harmon keeps giving. “Being a part of Profundo Bono … there are a lot of best parts,” he says. “One of the things is it’s just so fun. Listen, I like making a fool of myself. It’s not like we’re a group of professional singers. Some of the people literally can’t sing. There are people who are tone deaf! But they go after it. The rehearsals are so funny. It’s just a wonderful antidote to whatever else is going on.”
The other best parts, he says, are teamwork and fundraising. “We get to do something as a team, which is always attractive to me, and particularly now when I miss it so much,” he says. “And we really raise a decent amount of money. So I get to be on stage as a senile Louisiana plantation manager [in The Tennessee Waltz] with the master in chancery, and it helps raise money? I’m in.”