by Cam Tait, Edmonton Sun, May 6, 2018
The horn section gracefully accepted musical director Emmanuel Fonte’s opening cue at 7:38 p.m. Friday to share the evening’s first note: so gentle, so soft before turning into a formidable force of the 60-piece John Cameron Orchestra in the first of a 17-song set of Crescendo.Cameron, clad in a pink velvet jacket, pristine white shirt and black bow tie played the piano for the instrumental four-minute piece from William Joseph called Heroes. It elegantly set the Winspear Centre’s stage for the next three hours as music and the spoken word were compassionately and carefully mixed to raise funds and awareness for mental illness.
Interestingly, Cameron said in an interview a few weeks ago his favourite piece of this year’s Crescendo was the opening number. Some three hours later, the 1,400 comfortably sitting in the audience probably could determine the meaning of the song’s title — and, in all likelihood, everyone was comfortable with the sentiment … everyone, that is, except Cameron himself.
We’ll get back to that in 320 words or so.
Crescendo is Cameron’s creation. He doesn’t just slap his logo on the event. He’s hands-on, absolutely: during Friday afternoon’s dress rehearsal he stopped the show several times. Timing of the 120-member choir in white angelic gowns coming on to the stage for “You Lift Me Up” was a little too slow. The lighting needed to be adjusted.
But Cameron also had fun during the dry run, sporting really big glasses (if you said Elton John give yourself 10 points) as he performed Levon.
Formality aside, there was a deliberate and methodical messaging for the night.
That’s what the John Cameron Changing Lives Foundation is driven by — specifically those who live with mental illness.
We heard at times heart-wrenching, personal stories of a man losing his wife to suicide just three months ago. We heard from a paramedic about her dream job. But when she returned to the sound of the siren after her first child was born, she struggled with anxiety and depression. Despite doctor visits, she went through more frustration, even to the point where someone from the Workers’ Compensation Board said her claim was not elated. Hard stuff, indeed, to hear.
But stuff, dammit, we need to hear.
Cameron, who oversees the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree, has a rare talent: to end a show with a poignant piece, leaving the audience craving more, but sending a message.
Cameron spoke of his own struggle, every day with mental health. “It isn’t like going to the hospital for a broken arm and you get better in six weeks,” he said to a hushed audience. “You live with mental illness, like I do, for your entire life. And I’m going to keep raising money for mental illness for as long as I can.
It takes someone to have that vision and commitment.
As uncomfortable as Cameron is, he continues to be listed among our, as the show’s first song so eloquently proclaimed, heroes.
WILLIAM JOSEPH: HEROES
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