Stars give of themselves for “Cassandra’s Lilacs” concert

By Beryl Wajsman on September 18, 2008

Jazz great Ranée Lee is the latest performer to join the star-studded line-up for the “Cassandra`s Lilacs” Gentle the Condition concert to be held Oct. 2 at 7.30 p.m. at Théâtre St. Denis. The concert is being staged by the Garceau Foundation in co-operation with the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. It will benefit three Montreal charities that are in the forefront on issues of health, hunger and homelessness. Lee, already well known to audiences throughout North America and Europe, has just come off a brilliant portrayal of “Lady Day” - Billie Holiday. Ranée Lee is truly a virtuoso whose talent has captured - and captivated - audiences in clubs, on stage, and on screen. She even shines in the classroom, teaching music at McGill and Laval universities. Chantal Chamandy burst onto the music scene with a multilingual first CD entitled Love Needs You and followed that up with a stunning concert at the pyramids in Giza, making her one of a handful of artists that includes Sting, who have staged concerts there. Stephanie Biddle is the golden voice of the storied Biddle musical family of Montreal. She has forged a stellar career in New York, and is flying in for this special evening. Lorraine Klaasen, originally from South Africa, has captivated jazz and African music lovers the world over. She is a virtual embodiment of cultural diversity singing in English, French, Greek, Hebrew, and more than 12 African languages and dialects. Vancouver’s Nazanin Afshin-Jam is the former Miss World Canada who has devoted her life to international human rights. Her debut CD is entitled Someday - whose title song is a condemnation of Iranian religious fanaticism as well as a paean of hope for the future. The album is a captivating combination of folk-rock and sensual ballads.

Ashley King will be launching her first CD in Los Angeles in October. The multi-talented singer’s pure sounds and relaxing rhythms have been called seductive. Sandra Brandone has just released her first CD entitled “Nothing Feels As Good”. A single, Letting Go, has already gone 2008 Quebec platinum.

All the artists are performing free of charge for the benefit of the remarkable organizations the concert is supporting. Dr. Nicholas Steinmetz’ and Dr. Gilles Julien’s  Fondation pour la promotion de la pédiatrie sociale tackles the health needs of poor children. Helping thousands in Montreal’s poorest areas of Côte des Neiges and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, the Fondation cares for the physical, psychological and educational needs of children who are products of underprivileged homes. It not only provides immediate help, but follows the children through years of schooling to ensure that the work is having an effect. It is a totally holistic approach to childhood development. The Maison du partage d’Youville is a community kitchen and food bank that has served hundreds every week over the past 25 years in Pointe St. Charles, Verdun and Little Burgundy. It is straining for space and resources and is in desperate need of funds to move to larger, but cheaper, premises so that it can continue its critical work.

De la Rue…à la Réussite, takes homeless men and women and provides them with the necessary tools and employment opportunities to reintegrate into the workforce. This remarkable organization, founded by the indefatigable Sue McDougall and her late husband Jean-Pierre Chartrand, doesn’t just get people on their feet, it gets them back into life. It understands that it’s about more than just getting people a paycheque; it’s about giving them back their purpose.

Activist attorney Brigitte Garceau created The Garceau Foundation out of a desire to provide the highest level of financial, professional and organizational support to frontline community action and social service groups tackling our most daunting social challenges. The need for the most effective intervention on behalf of these groups, already operating with strained resources, will become ever more acute. Brigitte believes none of us can stay uninvolved. Building on the philosophy that to whom much is given, much is expected, she is bringing years of experience in political and community networking and fund-raising to bear on this mission.

Inspired by a real-life Cassandra – Garceau’s ten year old daughter - who wanted to do something to help the underprivileged , the symbolism of the lilac is poignant and pithy. Like children, the most vulnerable and fragile among us, each lilac flower alone is beautiful but fragile. But together in a bough, lilacs are not only fragrant, but strong. Each child alone is fragile. But if we look at them together, we are compelled by their needs and find the strength to accomplish the unimaginable. Together, we can gentle the condition.

This event will take place under the patronage of a very special Presidente d’honneur - Andrée Ruffo. For decades Ruffo has been the outstanding voice in Quebec, and perhaps unparalleled in the country, in defense of our most vulnerable and disenfranchised. Her particular passion was young people. As a youth court judge she not only showed compassion from the bench but commitment in the public arena. Few were as brave as she in demonstrating that when the system fails we as citizens must step in. That toeing the line is like doing a crime. Her book, “Parce que je crois aux enfants” is not only an indictment    of apathy but an eloquent appeal      for action.

The concert will not only be about entertainment. You will meet the people behind these groups and you will meet the people they help. We hope you will be touched as you meet the most humble among us who cannot secure the preferences of the privileged for themselves. We hope you will be touched enough to give of your time and talent as well as your treasure.

I assure you that the music, the words and the images of this concert will pierce your heart. We want you to take away from it a greater ability to see the world through the eyes of its victims. And to understand intuitively, that the less educated are not less intelligent and that the less affluent are not any less human. That is what Cassandra’s Lilacs “Gentle the Condition” concert is all about, and what the Garceau Foundation seeks to achieve. Please help.

For tickets:




Tel:         514.393.4022


A $250 VIP ticket entitles you to attend the wrap party at LaMouche, one block south of the theatre on St. Denis. General admission tickets are $150 and can be purchased  by calling Théâtre St-Denis at 514-849-4211. Direct credit card purchases can be made through Tel-Spec at 514-790-1111. 

All contributions are tax deductible. 


Please login to post comments.

Editorial Staff

Beryl P. Wajsman

Redacteur en chef et Editeur

Alan Hustak

Senior Editor

Daniel Laprès


Robert J. Galbraith


Roy Piberberg

Editorial Artwork

Mike Medeiros

Copy and Translation

Val Prudnikov

IT Director and Web Design

Editorial Contributors
La Patrie