“Music and words have the power to create social change, inspire, empower and give hope,” says Ingrid Taheri, Artistic & Executive Director of High Notes Avante Productions Inc—a non-profit that aims to help those touched by mental illness survivors move forward on higher notes. “One in five Canadians are impacted by mental illness but one in five people do not have the courage to reach out for help and that is what we want to change. We aim to empower, educate and shatter the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Simply put, we want to save lives.”
Celebrity support for the gala has been wonderful with Luba Goy and Jean Stilwell, Classical 96.3 FM host and singer cohosting this year. Ms. Goy’s father committed suicide when she was young and Jean says “I can’t think of a more beautiful and compassionate way to honour the journey so many suffer and struggle with than by raising awareness and creating empathy through musical expression. It’s a direct line to love.”
Opera singer Richard Margison and his daughter Lauren are participating for the third time. “Mental health is an issue that should be important to everyone. It touches a personal chord for me as well,” says Lauren who has suffered from depression. “As a society we can’t turn a blind eye to something that affects so many. When it is ignored it forces those affected to feel there is something wrong with them and that it’s their fault—which is absolutely not true. We need to create awareness for it to get better.”
In the current issue of the WholeNote, Dr. David Goldbloom, Professor of Psychiatry at U of T and Senior Medical Advisor at CAMH says “the High Notes Gala for Mental Health is not an historical exegis as much as a bold statement about problems facing every Canadian family now. It is a conversation about the present, not the past, about those people close to us, not distant admired musicians.” He will talk about Celebrating Talent and Fighting Stigma and Bill McPhee, publisher of SZ Magazine and Anchor, will talk about Life after Mental Illness.
Paul Radkowski, pianist and Founder of LifeRecoveryProgram will give insights into some composer recovery stories, while also performing. Mercedes Cheung, one of the youngest violinists to play Carnegie Hall, and Grammy-nominated flautist Ron Korb are also among the performers. Julie Everson will perform spoken word poetry and members of Ballet Jorgen will entertain with a Beatles number. Two winners from the North York Music Festival’s High Notes Gala category will perform music by a composer who had a mental health issue.
“We use words to share the success stories of everyday heroes and to showcase celebrities that have moved forward after mental illness touched them. We use music because it speaks to us all and can penetrate our hearts and express what there are no words for. Music can heal our souls when medicine can’t. Music is entertaining—but can also draw attention to issues we are not aware of,” says Ingrid who was just awarded a “Leading Women in the Community Award,” by the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues for her work with High Notes Avante.
About a dozen mental health organizations are available to connect with the audience in the lobby. FOR TICKETS: Call 905.787.8811 or visit rhcentre.ca. Doors open at 6:30 pm with the show starting at 7:30 pm. the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts is located on 10268 Yonge Street in Richmond Hill, north of Major Mackenzie Ave.