What started out as a concert to raise funds for A Better World’s projects in Africa has now turned into a local relief effort, in light of the wildfire currently burning its way through northern Alberta.
A Better World began planning a benefit concert for this Saturday with Ringa, Kenya in mind where there are schools needing water wells, renovations and need quite a lot of money in order to do so. Concert coordinator Melrose Randell said that A Better World has always been involved with charitable causes, and has now turned their hearts to Fort McMurray.
“Eric Rajah lives here in Lacombe and he’s one of the founders of A Better World so when I told him that I wanted to do this concert, it was before the Fort McMurray fires. I was away last week, so while I was away, this raging fire was going on in Fort McMurray. Eric, along with with the administration at the office decided to shift the designation of the funds,” she said. “Instead of sending all the funds to Africa, we would designate the funds that we will generate from this concert to help the victims of the fire of Fort McMurray.”
Randell said that because of the tragedy that has struck Northern Alberta, it would be “insensitive” of the program to send the money to another country, so, to compromise, they are designating a percentage to both relief funds. Some funding will go to Ringa and the rest will be going to a Fort McMurray relief effort. A Better World has decided to support the Fort McMurray Disabled Children’s Fund, as charitable donations must go to a specific program.
The benefit concert will feature the vocal styling of Nicole Brooks, one of Randell’s past singing students who has since went onto further her education in music, finishing up her masters this year at the University of British Columbia in opera performance.
“The whole benefit concert came about because Nicole is a former student of mine. She studied here in the studio for five years and then she went on to university. She’s been very lovely about performing when I do my studio recitals in the past because that’s a tradition that we have – students go on to advanced work but they become guests for the studio recitals. The students are inspired to work harder,” explained Randell. She went on to say that Rajah had heard Brooks sing at one of the recitals and decided to designate a concert just for Brooks, along with showcasing other talents.
Joining Brooks at the concert will be Dr. Cheryl Cooney, a local pianist at Burman University as well as guest pianist Debra Bakland.
Despite scheduling conflicts with A Better World and Brooks, the two finally decided on a date when they realized that most people would be gone on the long weekend and busy during the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Red Deer. However, with May being the only month Brooks was able to contribute her voice talents, Randell decided to have it this weekend.
Randell added that Brooks is a generous soul, and they are happy to showcase her at this benefit concert where Brooks has chosen her own specific repertoire for the occasion.
“She has always been very generous,” said Randell. “When we offer to pay her, she often turns around and gives the money back to A Better World because she has a real sense of mission to help people around the world. When she left my studio and she was in her late teens, she went to Colorado to do some studies there and it was primarily to learn how to help others and how to be a mission – that’s when she was really taught the importance of service.”
Brooks never thought, when she was younger, that she would ever be interested in dramatic music – let alone singing. She grew up in the country just outside of Wetaskiwin, singing country and gospel, but with a push from her mother, Brooks went on to sign up for singing classes with Randell.
“I started singing with Melrose when I was 14. We actually found her in a newspaper. I always liked to sing around the house and in my church here and there. It was all because of mum that I even started because I thought it was terribly boring to start singing lessons but she said under the agreement that I could quit within six months. I did play classical piano so there was that sort of influence but nothing gearing towards opera or classical singing,” she said. “Once I did, I essentially just fell in love with it, and when you learn more about something than you gain a deeper appreciation for it.”
This is Brooks’ first solo performance. She has experience regarding recitals and concerts in the like, but this will be her first concert where she herself will be performing for more than an hour.
With her repertoire in mind, Brooks explained that she has many different songs set in six different languages and two of the songs will be in Norwegian, in honour of her heritage.
“I also decided to do some Norwegian pieces because my family has background. My grandma who really loves hearing me sing grew up speaking Norwegian so that’s an addition as to why that is.”
The benefit concert will be held on May 28th and will begin at 7:30 p.m. with refreshments to follow. Tickets are $20 each, are available at the door and everyone is welcome – the concert is family friendly. Tickets are also available at Everything Nice Antiques.