Against a simple, sheer backdrop, the voices and message of Voices of Hope shone at their October 17th “To Life!” Gala at the North Shore Music Theatre. Founder and president Greg Chastain created the non-profit following his mother’s passing from cancer in 2009; Voices of Hope raises money for cancer research through theatrical performance, mounting a Gala with dance numbers, vocal performances, and emotional testimonials in the autumn, and a full-length musical in the spring. Voices of Hope performances receive tremendous support from the North Shore community, often drawing audiences of 800 or more, and “To Life!” was no exception; board members estimate that the evening could raise up to $75,000 including ticket sales, donations, and proceeds from the evening’s raffle.
Now in its seventh year, the group has raised over $300,000 for various organizations and more than $120,000 for the group’s current beneficiary, The Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Voices of Hope is a very special group,” says Michelle Filteau, associate director of development at Mass General’s Cancer Center. “We’re honored to partner with them, and we’re so grateful for their support.” Many of the faculty and staff from the Termeer Center were present at the Gala, and were honored by a slide show featuring photos of their work while soloist Laura Iwaskiewicz performed a stunning rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.”
Over a hundred Voices of Hope members performed selections from Wicked, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and a medley from Fiddler on the Roof including the eponymous “To Life!” Interspersed between song and dance numbers, personal experiences from cast members kept the focus on the night’s cause, reminding the audience of the organization’s goal: as Greg Chastain puts it, “We’re in it until we can sing only to remember cancer, not to cure it.”
Special guests included singer-songwriter and two-time cancer survivor Charlie Scopoletti, as well as the Andover High School Chorus, who performed Eric Whitacre’s haunting “Fly to Paradise,” and a selection from the musical Rent. Jordan Rich of WBZ News Radio 1030, the evening’s MC, alternated wisecracks and meaningful sentiments, proclaiming in his welcoming remarks, “Tonight is about life, and hope, and living beyond cancer.” The evening also marked the debut of “We Are The Voices,” the group’s new anthem, composed by members Krystal Polychronis and Peter Tentindo.
Dana Siegal, the group’s executive artistic director, was forced to sit out the final weeks of rehearsal due to a broken hip, but she commends music director Chris Desjardins and choreographers Beth Kennedy and Alison Fox for stepping up in her place; “They did an incredible job of protecting and nurturing my vision,” Siegal says. “We wouldn’t be able to do this work without them.”