Last Friday, my friend and I eagerly slipped into Hart House for our very first EarthTones Benefit concert. This year, EarthTones Co-Chairs Erica Pollieri and Robin Liu hosted UTIHP’s 16th concert, an inspiring night when rock, hip hop, a cappella, and classical piano combine for humanitarian relief. Pollieri and Liu proudly presented the evening knowing they had an amazing group of artists who would entertain the students, families, and professors seated with us in the crowd. We quickly searched for the best seats we could find. Very soon, my friend and I were both looking at each other in awe at the extraordinary U of T talent that kept following one act after another.
Our MC Ronnie Daoud had done his homework, and he creatively introduced each performer with humorous and sincere insight into their personality. Some of my favourite moments were definitely the songs by The Semiotones, not just because I’m from Vic, but because Professor Danesi and his students brought a Latin pulse, a jazzy tempo, and a real blues heart to the night. Then there were the multi-talented solos like Sean Ihn who managed to sing through a melody while beat boxing and playing his guitar; Jing Wang who bravely debuted with a strong voice and acoustic rendition on the piano; Rage MD who brought us rhythm by reacting science with stories to explode into hip hop; and Victoria Lao who looped all of her music live. We could hardly see her fingers flickering across her iPad, while she turned a one woman show into a medley worthy of an a cappella group. Speaking of a cappella, Onoscatopoeia took home base. U of T’s Hart House Jazz Choir needed only one instrument, a short cue on the harmonica, to bring their voices to perfect pitch. Of course, what UTIHP concert could exist without a medical student rock band? The hit was Orbital Groove with a charisma that earned a dynamic applause from enthusiastic fans.
As for Fatima & Daniel, Daniel & Josephine, and Johnny & Samik, comparing these duets proves how EarthTones performers boast a brilliant contrast in themes. The “spicy and saucy” act came first with Daniel Cuatico on the guitar and Fatima Butt swaying in rubato to soft jazzy vocals. Later, Daniel Li folded into the grand piano beside the stage, and Josephine opened her lungs to stun the audience with a beautiful soprano aria. Lastly, Johnny Wei Bai and Samik Doshi brought us back to the moment with pop music and an original song made beautiful by Samik’s interpretation on the piano and Johnny’s clear, honeyed voice. Daniel Li and Samik masterfully took over the keys making each of their performances seem effortless. Likewise, soloist Nadiya Bayeva confirmed her reputation as a maestro with a flawless delivery of Liszt’s “Love Dream” and Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons – October.” The Earthtones concert wouldn’t be the night that it was without Evani Patel and her piece Syrian Refugee. Patel used forceful and heartfelt spoken word to express the motive behind the music: to support children affected by the Syrian Refugee crisis. Her call to action was simple. Typing and tweeting doesn’t feed children, or provide them with family, shelter, healthcare, security and education. It takes the collaboration, organization, and the conscientious efforts of individuals like the EarthTones team to initiate a direct impact. With the funds raised at the EarthTones Concert, UNICEF and SOS Children’s village may continue their missions to deliver food, vaccinations, textbooks, clean water, family and more to address the needs of the most vulnerable, including the children and families affected by the current Syrian Refugee crisis. As we relaxed and enjoyed the night, Daoud paused the celebration for a moment of silence to recognize the sudden multiple terrorist attacks that were occurring in Paris. At that moment, the distress that spread through the entire hall was palpable, in recognition of these horrific attacks. Nevertheless, one million children face this fear daily. As a child, could you imagine multiplying that moment to fill your entire existence? This is why supporting charities such as UNICEF and SOS Children’s village is a necessity. Thank you to my fellow audience and UTIHP for making the EarthTones Benefit Concert 2015 a great success.