My husband and I rewatched Hamilton the other night.
I’m honestly not sure how much of the crying was caused by the storytelling and the performances and the fact that I love that production, and how much was caused by the sadness and frustration of what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the world of live performance. So, rather than staying stuck in that sad/frustrated/afraid/self-pitying place, I decided to switch lenses and focus on a live performance that still warms my heart even though it took place ten years ago. I was fortunate enough to perform onstage at one of Toronto’s most iconic venues, and it was a night I’ll never forget.
If I recall correctly, it all started with an ad on Craigslist. A woman named Andrea Freedman Iscoe was scouting for local talent: she had a vision of bringing together lots of musicians and singers to sing incredible music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s for an iconic charity fundraiser called A Night at Massey Hall. It must have been in spring 2010 that Andrea came to see me sing at a local restaurant, and shortly after that she invited me to be part of the girl group she was forming to present a medley of 1950s songs: the Sheer Delights. Of course I said yes.
Soon there were dozens of performers, and dozens of rehearsals, and I was added to enough other ensembles to keep me very busy leading up to the big event. I lived in a flurry of key changes and costume changes, learning new songs and polishing up old favourites, making new friends and stepping my game up because so many of my fellow performers were far more experienced than I was.
Most of the night itself was a blur . . . although for some reason I clearly remember walking up the stairs from Queen subway station out onto Yonge Street, right by Shuter. Massey Hall itself was just around the corner, and instead of sitting in the audience I was ready to take the actual stage. I sang ballads and backgrounds. I sang R&B, rock, pop, and soul, and loved every minute of it. I’ll never forget singing Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” with the rest of the Sheer Delights; it’s a song my dad really enjoys, and he was in the audience with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me.
We all agreed to forfeit any payment, and in the end we raised more than $20,000 for SOS Children’s Villages. Some of the friendships have lasted, and the memories always will. As I write this, Toronto is more than eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic and lately, even before crying over Hamilton, I’ve spent quite a bit of time missing things like concerts and other live performances. I don’t know when they’ll be part of normal life again; I don’t even know when I’ll know when they can. So I’m even more glad that for one dizzying night, I sang my heart out from the stage of Massey Hall . . . thank you, Andrea! xo