Wednesday 18 April 2012

An extraordinary moment at ICRF Gala Auction

The Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) held its annual fundraiser recently at the Place des Arts and while the legendary Beach Boys were the headliners, an unknown woman from the audience named Rhona Fainman turned out to be the true star of the evening.

Before the featured act took the stage, community leader Ross Paperman came to the stage to oversee a live auction for a trip to Los Angeles. His goal was to obtain a bid of $9,000. When action heated up and $10,000 was on the table, a small voice from the crowd shouted out “$18,000” (the number 18 symbolizes good luck in the Jewish community).I was so shocked that I invited her on the stage,” Paperman told me. “When this woman came up she whispered in my ear that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer that morning. I asked if I could tell the crowd and she agreed. The audience gave her a five minute standing ovation.”

Rhona Fainman and Ross Paperman

Paperman then challenged the audience to join him in raising another $18,000  to bring the total to  $36,000. “I was yelling, ‘stand up stand up and be counted.’  Then something absolutely extraordinary happened. More than 50 people stood up. It was like a scene out of  a movie.  As a matter of fact, the next day people were calling in with  donations after hearing about what they missed. One thousand people that evening shared a moment in time. I'm so fortunate to have been able to help facilitate this moment. I went along for the ride. It was the most amazing moment I ever had on stage. This anonymous woman became the face of hope and support. It was magic.”

ICRF Montreal Executive Director Arlene Silver said the event raised more than $700,000 for cancer research. Rhona Fainman will be operated in late April and a whole lot of people will be praying for her.

Congrats to gala co-chairs Paul Ostrov and Gloria Richman. 

I just received this video clip of that extraordinary moment which I uploaded to YouTube, Let's hope it goes viral. Click here.

Monday 16 April 2012

St. George's impressive at Show Choir Canada

The lone Quebec representative in the prestigious Show Choir Canada National championships at the Sony Centre for the Arts in Toronto made a pretty impressive showing. St. George’s School of Montreal made it to the coveted top six finalists. Not only did St. George’s finish fifth overall, but team members took home three of the seven individual awards: Patrick Park was presented with the best male vocalist while Sara Diamond and Alexandra Cohen tied for the top female triple threat performer.
Jim  Welter from Yamaha with Olivia Kostin Cohen, Patrick Park,  Candace Grynol, Alexandra Cohen and Sara Diamond from St. George's.

Known as G. Major, St. George’s was the only non-Ontario entry. SPLASH from Etobicoke School of the Arts captured first place followed by defending champs Wexford Gleeks of Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts (Scarborough), SPSC from St. Peter Catholic High School (Orleans), Synergy from Unionville High School (Markham), St. George’s and Cheat Notes from York Mills Collegiate Institute.  There were 13 teams entered.

Here G Major performs Jump:

G. Major, which has its end of year concerts set for   May 10 and 11 at the Oscar Peterson Hall, won the 2010 Just for Kids Foundation Glee Showdown and came in second in the 2011 edition. Candace Grynol, the school’s head of performing arts, deserves a lot of credit. Not only is G. Major her baby, she spent the past year working with her team even though she is still on maternity leave after having her second child.  Aaron Stamboulieh, who by day is the school’s head of information technology, played an important role too as Grynol’s right hand man.

“Our goal was to make it into the top six” says Ms. Grynol. “The fact that we actually placed 5th was unbelievable given that many of the teams we were competing against were performing arts schools.”
Added Stamboulieh: “The relationships and bonds that happened naturally between all the schools almost makes the competition aspect secondary. Our students cheering for their competitors and receiving a huge ovation in return is something that none of them will ever forget, and that’s what made this experience so special for all involved.”

This was the second annual Show Choir Canada and there is no question the event will continue to grow. Organizers told me that television executives were in the audience and by the time the 2013 edition rolls around this could be the subject of a network documentary or reality series.

Toronto native and Juno Award-winning performer Shawn Desman, who served as a judge last year at the inaugural competition, did a superb job as master of ceremonies. He also delighted the audience of 1,000 strong with a solo performance on closing night.

The audience had a real treat with nationally ranked U.S. show choir, In Sync, from Burbank High School in California, performing outside of the official competition. They were amazing and we were told that this program was the inspiration for the Fox TV program Glee. Montreal educator and vocalist Jeri Brown was part of the judging panel.

Choirs that place first to sixth were awarded trophies and prizes totalling over $25,000. St. George’s will receive a Yamaha product valued at $1,500. The school’s  three award winners will each receive one-week scholarships to the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, valued at $1,000.

St. George’s had a well rounded set of about 20 minutes, which included routines to the tunes of Jump, You Can’t Stop the Beat, Happy Ending, One from a Chorus Line, a U2 medley and Unwritten.

“It is so great to see happy you are,” commented judge David Connolly, a professional director/choreographer. “The individual voices we heard stuck with us. You also showcased a nice variety, from Broadway to pop.”

“You had so much energy,” added Brown.

Show Choir Canada was developed in collaboration with Peter da Costa, Owner/Agency Director, da Costa Talent Management and George Randolph, President/Founder, Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts.   For more information go to

Here are the Wexford Gleeks on stage:


I am now a Shawn Desman fan

If you are a fan of top 40 music, then you will be familiar with the name Shawn Desman.  The Toronto native and Juno Award-winning performer is a true name in the business.  Judging by the reception he received during his two days as host of the Show Choir National championships at the Sony Centre for the Arts in Toronto, fans adore him.

Desman’s career already includes a platinum debut album, a sophomore Juno Award winning album for Best R&B/Soul Recording, chart-topping singles and videos, movie performances and numerous accolades under his belt.  The singer, dancer, actor, songwriter and producer’s third highly anticipated album “Fresh” will debut in early May.

Born Shawn Bosco Fernandes, he came up with the stage name Desman because friends always referred to him as “Dez-Man.” He is a very friendly and charismatic individual. In an interview with The Suburban he said he absolutely loves coming to Montreal. A concert tour is in the planning stages and he hopes to see it take shape next fall.

Desman said he loves being associated with events like Show Choir Canada, stressing the importance of teens having such an opportunity to express their love for music. “I wish I had this when I was in high school,” he shared with the audience. “We had track.”

Here is my one-on-one chat with him:


From the moment he released his self titled debut platinum-selling album in the fall of 2002, Desman has enjoyed phenomenal success in the music industry. His album spent an incredible 49 weeks on the SoundScan Top 200 sales chart and produced two Top 10 singles and two number one videos. He instantly proved he was about to become a superstar entertainer worthy of all the critical acclaim and destined to be at the forefront of the global music stage.

Desman’s visibility then soared to even greater heights after the subsequent release of his sophomore gold-selling album “Back for More” which produced a number one hit single, three Top 10 hit singles, and also garnered him a Juno Award for Best R&B/Soul Recording. Desman’s hit single “Spread My Wings” was featured in the film “Kangaroo Jack” and appeared on the soundtrack. Desman has also worked with acclaimed producers Rodney Jerkins (Michael Jackson, Destiny’s Child, and Whitney Houston) and Tricky Stewart (Beyonce, Rihanna, and Mary J Blige). His high-energy, infectious single, “Let’s Go,” exploded onto the Top 40 radio chart after just 1 week, peaking at number one. His extensive tour schedules, both in Canada and abroad, showcased him as a dynamic and energetic performer and received extensive praise from international fans.

It was these stellar live shows, coupled with the awards and album sales, which further bolstered Desman’s successful debut and international growth. The release of “Back for More” in Europe resulted in Desman moving to Germany for a short time as the singles flew up the international charts.
Despite the frenetic pace of his own career, Desman, has collaborated with other artists and producers to continue to explore the possibilities of music. He has co-written and co-produced three consecutive Juno Award winning albums in the Best R&B/Soul category. His passion for music continues to have him write and produce for artists and labels around the world.

Desman continues to have a very successful acting career including roles in Paramount MTV”s feature film “How She Move,” “Honey” starring Jessica Alba and “Get Over It” featuring Carmen Electra.

Having spent most of his life working diligently as a world renowned entertainer and performer, Desman continues to strive to leave an indelible mark on the human experience.

Here is some footage I got of Shawn performing for the Show Choir audience: