A real unity concert

Community Opinion & Analysis Dec 17, 2009 at 3:59 pm

(More photos….)

Ma-Anne Dionisio moves audience with her songs at the Unity Concert on Dec. 13, 2009 at MacMillan Theatre. PHOTO: TAN CANCHELA

Ma-Anne Dionisio moves audience with her songs at the Unity Concert on Dec. 13, 2009 at MacMillan Theatre.

TORONTO – When the idea of a “unity concert” for typhoon victims was suggested by the Comunity Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) amidst a flurry of various other fundraisers – separate initiatives by individual organizations – it meant embarking on an exciting project that would unite various groups willing to work together in a collaborative way for the same cause.

It was going to be a concert where everyone was to volunteer for free whatever they were willing to share toward the project – time, resources, expertise and talent – without any expectation of monetary reward. It was agreed that everyone involved, from organizers to performers and their families, had to pay for a seat at the theatre, in an effort to raise as much funds for the flood victims.

And so it was that when the Unity Concert: Rebuilding People’s Lives 2009 was finally staged last Sunday, Dec. 13, at the MacMillan Theatre in Toronto, the inspiring and heartwarming show manifested the concept of unity in most interesting ways.

First, the donors and sponsors – the behind-the-scenes enablers who, with their generous support, gave the project a big boost.

The concert brought together major donors, all of them successful Canadians of various ethnic backgrounds. They believed in the worthiness of the cause, the integrity of this all-volunteer effort, and the trustworthiness of the Philippine partner – the Citizens’ Disaster Response Centre (CDRC) – well known and respected in the Philippines and internationally for ensuring that assistance goes directly to the most vulnerable victims.

Platinum Sponsor was Dr. Teodoro H. Cabanela Tsang and Associates, with its two clinics in Toronto: Dentistry on Main Street, and Sheppard and Yonge Dental Health Centre. Dr. Tsang, the popular dentist in the Filipino community who also goes by the name, “Happy,” attended the concert with his wife Marifel and two young children, with whom he said he had told the story about the flood victims in the Philippines. His children told him they wanted to watch the concert too, for they want to help. He thus bought additional tickets for them, and even paid for an ad in the souvenir program, which meant additional funds on top of his already hefty contribution.

Bronze Sponsor was Toronto ALPHA (Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia), represented by its founder and chair Dr. Joseph Wong, and Flora Chong. Dr. Wong, in his message of support to the Unity Concert shown on a video presentation, had expressed appreciation for the Filipino community’s participation – through CASJ — in Toronto ALPHA’s campaign for justice for comfort women who suffered in the hands of the Japanese military during World War II. He also asked the audience to donate generously toward the concert’s worthy cause. Dr. Wong and Flora Chong, respected leaders in the Canadian and international community for their work with Toronto ALPHA, came to watch the show and sat with the general audience. Two days after the event, in a phone call where this writer had apologized for not having attended to them personally during the show, he graciously expressed thanks for the opportunity to be part of “a great show” for a good cause. He then volunteered to pay for another 10 general admission tickets on top of his generous contribution.

Councillor Raymond Cho of the City of Toronto came in as a Bronze Sponsor, after he was invited to be one of the donors. He had already helped in other fundraising efforts by other groups, yet he did not decline to support one more. He watched the first half of the show, and was so impressed with the performers with whom he posed for souvenir photos during the intermission.

Alex Chiu Charities, led by Councillor Alex Chiu of Markham donated sponsorship money, despite having just completed their own fund-raiser to benefit Global Medic’s efforts for the Philippine flood victims. He was represented by his wife, Alice Chiu, who came to watch, and with Alex, had supported the event by having the Markham Federation of Filipino Canadians youth performers participate in the show.
Councillor Sandra Yeung and husband, former Ontario MPP Mario Racco, were unable to attend due to a previous commitment with their children, but they donated sponsorship funds as well.

Second, the concert united other organizations and individuals as donors and sponsors, their names too many to mention, but they ranged from alumni associations (UP Alumni, Siliman Alumni) to businesses; religious organizations that included the Muslim Filipino Association of Canada and the Willowdale Community Christian Assembly; media sponsors who contributed either monetary or in-kind support; food entrepreneurs who donated Filipino delicacies to add to the lunch fare for performers and volunteers; the professional videographer who had greatly reduced the cost of his services, provided some aspects of the production for free; the freelance photographers who produced beautiful photos to be shared with media.

Third, the concert was able to gather volunteers of varied status, skills and capabilities – from students who helped with ticketing, reception, bottled water sales, etc; to parents of performers, and members of sponsoring organizations who took on various tasks, including ticket sales; production talents who took on the difficult task as overall concert directors, Karen Tan and Randy Muere. The two volunteers worked so hard in the overall production – from program planning, rehearsals, to directing – together with alternative music segment coordinator Joyce Corpuz who also took on the multi-task of souvenir program coordinator, video presenter, and “voice over” master of ceremonies. Teresa and Mon Torralba of the Making Waves fame arranged and coordinated the participation of the bands in the rock segment of the show. And there was Michael Ombao, volunteering his professional piano skills to accompany the lead performers.

Fourth – the coordinating committee included leaders of various organizations within CASJ, who had committed focused time and effort toward the success of the concert. Orchestrated by concert chair Ben Corpuz, these inidividual leaders mobilized their own personal and organizational capacities to help with ticket sales, media and community promotions, seeking donors, and mobilizing human and technical resources to support the project. Together with non-CASJ members who came in as volunteers, they comprised a formidable team of planners and doers separately attending to their own tasks, big and small, throughout the two month-duration of the concert preparations.

Last, but certainly not the least, the powerhouse of performers — they comprised an impressive line up of about a hundred musical artists performing varied musical genre – from marching band, Broadway ballads, spoken word, alternative music, to pop and rock.

Some were professionals, including lead attraction Maane Dionisio of Miss Saigon fame; some were amateurs, but nevertheless, united in believing that this was a great cause to share their talents. And so they gave the best of what they had to offer, resulting in a magnificent show, to the delight of the concert audience.

There were numbers to please the traditional concert goer, the alternative music lover, and the younger rock enthusiasts. It was a concert that attracted a crowd just as varied – the older audience who preferred the ballads over the loud band music, which the young ones must have relished with gusto. Enjoying the show were parents, entire families, labor and human rights activists, professionals, workers, caregivers, philantropists.

As I write, we continue to receive kudos for a great show. It is to the credit of everyone involved that a production of such a gigantic scope and scale, comprising participants of various levels of musical artistry, and numbers tightly squeezed into time-limited segments, could be woven into such a wonderful and pleasantly entertaining show.

In due time a report will be prepared and published regarding the financial success of the concert, to coincide with the submission of the concert proceeds to CDRC. The organizing committee will follow up development of the relief, rehabilitation and disaster mitigation projects where the funds will be used. As in the Rebuilding People’s Lives Concert of 2006, a report on the development and progress of these projects will be published in the media for all to know.

For details and developments following the Unity Concert, visit www.rebuildingpeopleslives.info.