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: Hope Rising! Benefit Concert

The evening might have started off with a bit of rain, but the Sony Centre boasted a cheerful full house for the Hope Rising! concert, in support of our amazing client, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, this past Tuesday.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation brought together a sparkling line up of A-list performers, including Alicia Keys, K’naan, Rufus Wainwright, Angélique Kidjo, Jully Black, Holly Cole and Gloria Reuben. Harry Belafonte co-hosted a VIP roundtable dinner and discussion earlier in the evening, along with Stephen Lewis.

One of our fave moments came earlier in the day, while we were waiting for a few people to arrive at a hotel to participate in a few interviews. Angélique Kidjo walked into the lobby, bursting with personality and energy. The African grandmothers arrived soon after, and upon seeing Angélique, hugs, excited greetings and an impromptu dance-off started. It was loud, warm and genuine, and was a glimpse into what was to come later that night.  

Angélique Kidjo. Credit: Alexi Hay

Some of the best performances of the night came from the same African grandmothers who flew in especially for the event, and d’bi Young and Ngozi Paul. They helped bring some of the true flavours of Africa to the event.

Emcees Gloria Reuben, Marci Ien and Jian Ghomeshi did a fabulous job at keeping all 3,200 people at the Sony Centre entertained between performances.

One of the most rousing and touching speeches of the evening came from Stephen Lewis himself. His legendary eloquence and fine balance of humour and seriousness was perfect to introduce Alicia Keys, and remind everyone why they were there and how we can all help make a difference.

 Legendary singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte at Hope Rising!.

Alicia Keys, K’naan, Angélique Kidjo, Rufus Wainwright, Gloria Reuben, Jully Black and Holly Cole all acknowledged, in their own way, the tragedy that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has brought to the people in Africa and how charities like the Stephen Lewis Foundation are helping improve the lives of thousands of people. 

Alicia Keys belts out a hit at the piano during Hope Rising!.  
We’re so happy to have been a part of this event. We love that we got to share in a thrilling evening of raising awareness for a meaningful cause like this. 

All photos courtesy of Cameron MacLennan, unless otherwise noted. 

Do Me A Solid: Stephen Lewis Foundation

We’re thrilled to continue the Do Me A Solid series with The Stephen Lewis Foundation and their amazing upcoming event, Hope Rising!. 

On May 3, the first Hope Rising! annual benefit concert will be held at The Sony Center. Proceeds from the event benefit the Stephen Lewis Foundation, helping them support grassroots organizations at the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Alicia Keys and K’naan.
This will definitely be one of the concerts of the year, with a stellar lineup of artists. Alicia Keys, K’naan, Rufus Wainwright and Grammy Award-winning Angélique Kidjo headline the event, each performing some of their best-loved songs. As if that weren’t enough, the evening will also feature performances by Canada’s reigning R&B queen Jully Black, jazz songstress Holly Cole, and Lorraine Segato. Hosts Jian Ghomeshi, Marci Ien, and Gloria Reuben will also participate, making this evening truly spectacular.

Rufus Wainwright and Angélique Kidjo.

But, it’s not just a concert. The legendary Harry Belafonte will co-host a roundtable dinner and discussion with Stephen Lewis, providing a unique opportunity for philanthropists to discuss the real affect they can have in Africa with their donations.

Harry Belafonte. 

The night will also feature unique video shot in Africa, stories from African grandmothers who live in the midst of the pandemic, and other one-of-a-kind experiences. Hope Rising! is meant to celebratory and fun, sharing the joys and successes of the grassroots organizations working to turn the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

 Photo: Alexis MacDonald

These grassroots groups are lifelines for their communities: they provide care to women who are ill; assist orphans and other children affected by the AIDS pandemic; reach heroic grandmothers who care for their orphaned grandchildren; and support people living with HIV and AIDS.

Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster, or at 1-855-872-7659, and start at just $75. That is a serious bargain for this incredible cultural event that offers you a one-of-a-kind concert and the chance to help out people who truly need it across the globe.

See you there!