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Concert to benefit kids inspired by Robin Williams

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Clockwise from top left: Sophie Medad, Ruth Rumack, Manny Veinish, Joni Miller, Theadora Draper and Andrea Freedman Iscoe
Clockwise from top left: Sophie Medad, Ruth Rumack, Manny Veinish, Joni Miller, Theadora Draper and Andrea Freedman Iscoe

An upcoming concert at Toronto’s Koerner Hall in support of the Psychology Foundation of Canada, which develops programs to help children become confident and productive adults, was born in the shadow of Robin Williams’ suicide in August 2014.

Around that time, Andrea Freedman Iscoe, a singer who had organized a Massey Hall concert in support of the SOS Children’s Villages, was having lunch with a friend, Karen Katchen, a psychologist on the foundation’s board of trustees. Freedman Iscoe remembers talking about how sad she was at the beloved comedian/actor’s passing and she mentioned to Katchen that she wanted to put on another concert, but this time at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.

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“I said, ‘I want to do it for kids,’” Freedman Iscoe recalled. “So she said, ‘What about the psychology foundation and kids’ mental health?’ and it just all clicked.”

Excited by the prospect of organizing the concert, Freedman Iscoe met with the foundation’s board and showed them the program and pictures from the November 2010 Massey Hall event, which featured singers of all ages, who, like herself, had always dreamed of performing on a world-class stage.

When she began organizing A Night at Massey, Freedman Iscoe recalled that she got some less than encouraging responses. “Everybody thought I was crazy when I said I would rent Massey Hall and was putting on a concert. I had people hang up the phone on me,” she said.

But she pulled it off, and the funds raised by the concert supported the Canadian children’s village in Namibia for a year.

After getting the go-ahead from the psychology foundation’s board, Freedman Iscoe secured her dream venue, Koerner Hall, which is known for its excellent acoustics.

The May 6 event, similar to her Massey Hall project, will showcase talented local youths and adults, some performing on a world-class stage for the first time. The show is built around hits from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and will be hosted by Duff Roman, a former DJ on CHUM-AM radio. The lineup also includes appearances by guest artists guitarist Liona Boyd; Little Ceasar and the Consuls, a 1960s Canadian rock band; and the Dylan Tree, a group that performs the music of Bob Dylan.

“It’s like Canada’s Got Talent. You have the guest artists to make it all feel exciting, but really it’s about people singing their hearts out because they want recognition,” Freedman Iscoe said.

Altogether 92 performers, including two choirs, will appear at Koerner Hall, participating in a total of 24 acts.

The show features several Jewish singers, among them Freedman Iscoe, Sarah Dylan (not a member of the Dylan Tree), who also sang at the Massey Hall event, baritone Manny Veinish, soprano Joni Miller, Jessica Faith, Sophie Medad and sisters Naomi and Ruth Rumack, who will sing a duet. The evening’s Jewish performers also include acoustic guitarist Theadora Draper, 14, an aspiring musician, actor and filmmaker who’s also a Grade 10 film major at the Claude Watson School for the Arts at Earl Haig Secondary School. Theadora is a member of an all-girl rock band.

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The money raised by the concert will go toward the psychology foundation’s programs, including several under the category Kids Have Stress Too, aimed at children and young people aged 2-1/2 to 15. The programs are offered free of charge, except for fees for materials, by the national not-for-profit foundation. They are available to teachers and parents through schools and public health departments.

“Right across the country, 25,000 Grade 4, 5 and 6 teachers have our stress lessons program, so that they can work with the kids in their care,” said the foundation’s executive director, Judy Hills. The foundation is about mental health promotion and prevention, she said, “and giving people the skills so that they can handle all the ups and downs of life.”


For tickets to A Night at Koerner Hall: Rock the Blues Away at 8 p.m. on May 6, click here. VIP tickets include a reception and a tax receipt.