Do Me A Solid: Hope Rising!

On Wednesday, November 7, the second annual Hope Rising! benefit concert took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan and Angélique Kidjo performed (more on them in a bit!) to the sold-out crowd. The evening raised funds and awareness for the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), an incredible organization that provides resources and support directly to grassroots organizations in 15 countries most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. 

The night kicked off with a small cocktail reception, where guests toasted Stephen Lewis on the occasion of his 75th birthday. While Lewis’ birthday isn’t until Sunday, Hope Rising! was the perfect chance to celebrate this remarkable man’s milestone birthday. Raising their glass to Lewis was his family, including daughter Ilana Landsberg-Lewis (executive director of the SLF), and friends such as Thandie Newton, Olivia Chow, Matt Galloway and Jeanne Beker. 

Photo: Kristina Laukkanen 

Jian Ghomeshi did a stellar job of hosting Hope Rising! He started off the night by addressing the big W that Barack Obama had won the night before and added levity to the evening. Plus, as one audience member heckled him about, he looked “real good” in a suit!

Annie Lennox kicked off the night by performing some of her classic tunes, including No More I Love You’s, Here Comes the Rain Again and There Must Be An Angel. Despite suffering from a cold, Lennox delivered a knock-out performance. She played a piano during her set and sipped tea in between songs. 

Photo: Cameron MacLennan

Sarah McLachlan also played her own music during her set – she was seated at a grand piano in the centre of the stage. During one of her songs, she was accompanied by three dancers from the Alberta Ballet (with whom McLachlan is collaborating with on a new original ballet). She ended with a stellar performance of her hit song, Angel. 

Photo: Kristina Laukkanen

Of all the evening’s performers, Angélique Kidjo was likely the least well-known to the audience, but no one at Roy Thomson Hall that night will ever forget her after her high-energy performance. A close friend of Stephen Lewis and the SLF, Kidjo, her band and her back-up singers had everyone in the room up on their feet dancing and singing along. Audiences couldn’t help but feel energized and positive after seeing her on-stage. 

Photo: Kristina Laukkanen

One of the highlights of the evening was definitely when Annie, Sarah and Angélique came together on stage to sing a gorgeous version of ‘Sweet Dreams’, the Eurythmics hit song from 1983. Then, as a surprise end to the evening, the entire group of performers (including d’bi young, African grandmothers and daughters and dancers from the Alberta Ballet) gathered to sing Happy Birthday to Stephen Lewis. It was a beautiful ending to an evening of positivity, hope and celebration.

Photo: Kristina Laukkanen

CIBC was the presenting sponsor and pledged a donation of $1 million to the SLF. In addition, over $250,000 was raised by Hope Rising! and we were humbled and honoured to be part of this very special night. 

Rave: Love Lies Bleeding Karaoke Night

We think it’s time we confess to something. We are really into the ancient Japanese art of karaoke, so needless to say, we were pretty excited to be a part of an Elton John-themed karaoke night at the Gladstone last week.

Why Elton John? Well, Loves Lies Bleeding, a critically acclaimed ballet inspired by the life and music of Sir Elton John, premieres Tuesday, November 8 at the Sony Center. To get pumped up for the premiere, we threw an evening of Elton John karaoke. 

The night was a little bit cool and rainy, a perfect night to spend inside a warm room with a glass of wine. There were some great performances throughout the night, including a pretty spot-on version of Crocodile Rock by two gents (falsetto included), an energetic and pitch-perfect version of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart by @mattyaustin and his talented friend Shannon, and an A-for-effort version of Circle of Life by @bigail and her husband (yes, 100% cheesy). 

@laratobin and a small gang did their part up on stage, and @badalie and @debgee rocked out a groovy version of Bennie and The Jets, glasses included. 

Watch them perform it here: 

One of the most fun performances of the night came from the lead dancers from the ballet, Yukichi Hattori and Kelley McKinlay. They got up on stage to sing Honky Cat, and impressed the room with their ability to sing AND dance. See them perform here: 

By the end of the night the entire room was either up on their feet dancing or singing along to a great version of The Lion King’s ‘I Just Can`t Wait To Be King’ by none other than @shotbyphil and @badalie.

The top three performers of the night each won a pair of tickets each to attend the premiere of Love Lies Bleeding, and choosing between all the great performances was not easy. 

The only thing more fun than an evening of karaoke is a night spent enjoying this amazing ballet when it arrives in Toronto, so make sure to grab your tickets now. 

To get your tickets to see the Alberta Ballet perform Love Lies Bleeding at the Sony Centre (November 8 to12) click here