The Voices of Hope
Guys...let me tell you about the most amazing group of people you will ever meet...
The year is 2012. I pay $16 dollars for a ticket to see my friends play a benefit concert. I'm not gonna lie. I had NO clue what my money was going to. I heard "Cancer research" and didn't have a problem supporting that OR my friends. I show up to this little place and there is close to no one there. But I walk in and sit in the back, waiting for my friends to take the stage and play their hearts out. The concert was awesome. The speaker of the night was the founder of the organization Greg Chastain.
He spoke a bit about what the organization was about. I was intrigued. I went home that night and looked up the Termeer Center at Mass General Hospital which is where my measly $16 dollars went that night. Upon reading about the center, it brought me back to their sponsors. I happened upon The Voices of Hope website and continued to read about the organization and how exactly they raise money for cancer research. After reading literally every ounce of verbiage on their site...a song started stewing in my heart. I wrote lyrics for the organization in exactly 9 minutes. Don't ask...I literally remember it took 9 minutes.
Two years went by and I was invited by the director/manager of The North Shore Music Theater (1 of only 3 round theaters left in the country!) to attend the Voices of Hope gala. Obviously I was ecstatic to once again be involved in such an incredible cause that I immediately agreed and bought tickets to attend in 2014. I was blown away by some of the talent and that they did an entire show with people who donated hours upon hours of their time to take the stage and raise money for cancer research. So an ALL volunteer organization had not only the guts to get in front of people and perform at a prestigious theater, but they did it all for free.
Now...as a musician, I have met people who will NEVER play for free. And I get it. It's their livelihood, how they buy food and survive. HOWEVER...in my opinion, it doesn't hurt to volunteer your time and talents a few times a year for a good cause. Anyone who wants to argue with me...honestly...you're just throwing excuses at me and I don't want to even look at you. DO SOMETHING for others instead of being such a selfish person you can't give a few freakin days of your year back to something bigger than you. Cause guess what? People won't remember that you played at a golf course for a wedding. They're gonna remember you by the things you did selflessly. ***END RANT***
To those of you who DO volunteer your time to do something so incredible and to give back...this blog is for you. Voices of Hope was given the song I wrote, we recently recorded it, and performed it live. I am happy to say since the time my co-writer and I introduced the Anthem to the group in 2015, it has been sung 3 years in a row at the VOH Gala and we now have a recorded version of the song on iTunes as well!
I recently returned home to participate in my 3rd annual gala, and let me tell you some things.
1. The week prior to the show...you get no sleep.
2. You research the best ways to keep your voice in top shape and home remedies such as mint and cucumber water...are left sitting around searching for their beta fish ;)
3. You often forget to eat food.
4. Everyone back-stage is naked.
5. Everyone back-stage doesn't care they are naked.
6. Sometimes when you have dancers on stage in front of you, you forget you actually have to SING.
7. You are stretched a lot more than you ever thought possible.
8. You may get locked in a bathroom stall or two.
I would like to introduce to you a few people that make up VOH and then talk about a few people that made an impact on me personally during this particular show.
Greg Chastain- The Founder of VOH and the quiet yet strong leader. Always lightening the mood and helping others recognize the work that we are doing, he is the epitome of a fearless leader. He is always giving us feedback and helping motivate us by continuing to share all the wonderful things people are saying about how we've helped them through tough times.
Dana Seigal- The Creative Director of VOH. Has a vision, says what she wants...and ultimately makes it happen. Dana is a force to be reckoned with! Dana has a way of making EVERYONE feel important, significant to the cause, wanted, needed and welcomed. She never turns away an idea without really thinking about it it can work. I have enjoyed learning so much from her. From blocking in a round theater, to directing the cast on how they should be acting or feeling during a certain song, she's CONSTANTLY thinking about the why's and how's. I'm pretty sure her mind doesn't ever stop working.
Beth Kennedy & Di Longtin- Choreographer extraordinaries! I was so amazed at some of the dancing this year. The number I was in especially. I have never been a fan of "lyrical" dance, but for some reason number 6 I listed above is totally a dig at myself. It was so hard for me to concentrate with the amazing choreography happening on stage in front of me haha! They both bring a "cool" vibe to all of the numbers. There is always something that sneaks up on ya! ;) Thank you for all you do ladies!
Chris Desjardins - I have to tell you that one of the highlights this year was being able to have Chris still be part of our anthem (which he taught and arranged for VOH by the way). He had to go off and have himself a baby... 👶 🍼...but we stole him and his wife Zoe (amazing voice) back for the show! Something you may not know about Chris is that he is actually one of the easiest people to work with ever. The anthem he taught this year was more difficult than last because we taught it to be recorded in studio, not just sung live. So we went to work finding 5 or sometimes 6 part harmonies in places to make sure it sounded it's best. It was a lot of hard work, but he spent the time (sometimes maybe too much time) making sure it was just right. When we took it to the studio, he was there hours continuing to teach parts WHILE in the studio recording. It was a massive under-taking which is why I'm very happy to have had him be able to conduct the piece in the gala. I am so proud of his work on this and I couldn't have asked for a better fit of a person to be on this project. We love you Chris!
Jonathan Plouffe - Jonathan was our Music Director for this gala. Something I can tell you about him...is that I am sad I didn't get to know him better. I can tell you that he is VERY good at what he does. I won't pretend to know how he works, but I can tell you some things I observed about him during the process of this show.
1. He knows there is a job to be done, and he wants to get the best out of everyone. If that means that he needs to keep us on task by putting us in our place and telling us to pay attention, he will.
2. He will not compromise the quality of a song.
3. He will not accept anything less than what we are able to give of ourselves.
4. He will let you know when he's disappointed in a performance BUT equally fair he will also let you know when he's ecstatic about one.
5. He keeps things moving and hates wasted time.
6. He says what he means and means what he says.
7. He's one of the most talented people I've met.
Jonathan...if you're reading this...it has been a pleasure!
Probably one of the highlights this year for me was being a part of a Q&A session with the kids of Andover High School Show Choir. You see, every year we try to get them a part of the gala. And each year they blow the socks off all of us! So Chris and Beth are the two teachers of this group which is why they are able to come and support our gala and take part in it! This year, I made my way over to answer some questions before the show with my friend and fellow musician Darren Bessette. I am telling you these kids are so incredible. They asked me questions like "What sets apart good lyrics from great lyrics?" and "When do you decide to write a song? Does it come quick?" and "How do you write first? Lyrics or Melody?" These kids are on top of it! It's so nice to speak with kids who are motivated to continue to work towards something that is so difficult. They were the highlight of the night always cheering on each number and clapping along and really got into it. It's nice to know us old folk still got it ;)
I would like to give a HUGE shout out to Karen Nascembeni who is the Manager of The North Shore Music Theater and Heather Romani Facilities Manager of the Theater who put up with all 200 of us and our 3am late night cast parties! They work so hard and donate their time as well and I just want you to know how amazing you ladies are. Thank you so much!!!
Well, I want to end this blog with a list of all the links you can use to find out more about The Termeer Center, Mass General Cancer Center, Voices of Hope and The North Shore Music Theater. If you would like to know more about how to donate, feel free to contact me...I don't bite! OR you can click on the Voices of Hope Link below. Thank you all!
Keep the Faith, Love the Music,