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July 2013 Issue

Sing for Siteman Concert Features World-Class Talent to Benefit Cancer Research

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Co-chairs Kim Eberlein and Janice Linehan

The Sing for Siteman concert held June 10 in Washington University’s Whitaker Hall proved that music has the power to touch hearts, lighten the spirit and deliver a message of
hope. Internationally renowned pianist Carol Wong accompanied nine world-class artists from the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ (OTSL) 2013 season, who united for a performance to use their talents in the fight against cancer.
Stephen Lord, the Opera Theatre’s music director, served as the evening’s host.

“This is the fourth year Carol has organized this concert to benefit the Director’s Discovery Fund at Siteman,” says Kim Eberlein, co-chair of the event. “It’s a wonderful gift to Siteman and to the entire community that these wonderful artists give of their time to help advance cancer research.”
Wong’s first concert benefiting cancer was held in Santa Fe in 2008 and was supported by a “Sing for Hope” grant from her alma mater, the Juilliard School. The benefit’s move to St. Louis came from Wong’s friendship with Sharon and Elliot Zucker, OTSL patrons, and the enthusiasm for the idea by Eberlein, an OTSL board member, and her husband, Tim, Siteman’s director.

“We approached Timothy O’Leary, Opera Theatre’s general director, with the idea. I am so grateful that Opera Theatre allowed the singers to participate in the event,” says Wong. “Their season is so busy, and they need every day they have for rehearsals.”

The event has grown steadily over the years, with 285 attending this year’s concert and net proceeds totaling $35,000.

For Wong, however, the concert holds a special meaning beyond raising cancer research funds. It also is a way to honor her father, who died of liver cancer in 1999.

“I had a difficult time getting over my father’s death, and these concerts have brought me closure,” says Wong. “Sing for Siteman has brought home the fact that everyone has been affected by cancer in some way.”

For the first half of the show, Wong asked singers to choose songs that express heartfelt feelings often left unspoken. For the second half, Wong selected inspirational songs from genres ranging from Broadway and the Great American Songbook to art songs and opera. Selections included Kern/Hammerstein’s “Bill,” Rodgers/Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” and Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind.” An arrangement of Anderson/Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” included a chorus featuring singers from OTSL’s Gerdine Young Artists program.

“The Opera Theatre’s singers are so generous to participate, and everyone who has participated over the years has asked to be included again when the opportunity arises,” says Wong. “It is an event that touches everyone, whether you are on stage or in the audience.”

This year, the Opera Theatre singers participating were Aubrey Allicock, Meredith Arwady, Deanna Breiwick, Matthew Burns, Thomas Hammons, Matthew Plenk, Emily Pulley, Hugh Russell and Corinne Winters.

Janice Linehan, co-chair of the event and a two-time cancer survivor, describes the concert as a “hope event” for Siteman and survivors. “It is such a joy to hear these young singers and see them perform in a relaxed atmosphere that brings out their personalities,” she says.

The intimate night of music continued after the concert, when Wong and the singers mingled with guests during a wine and dessert reception.

“Siteman is most fortunate to be the beneficiary of the time and talent donated by Carol, the Opera Theatre and its singers, as well as the many others who contribute their time and services,” says Eberlein. “It is a concert that truly comes together because of the generous spirit of all those involved.”  

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Photo credit: Suzy Gorman

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Photo courtesy of photosbydianeanderson.com