Monday 26 August 2013

CSL Cats Committee enjoys successful benefit concert

 By Councillor Mike Cohen
City Liaison  to the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee

For the second year in a row the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee (CSLCC) and Educhat presented a benefit concert August 22 at the former Wagar High School (now Marymount AdultEducation Centre) featuring the magnificent Musicians of the World SymphonyOrchestra. We wish to thank  conductor Joseph Milo and his wife Lucy Ravinsky for the wonderful partnership they have established with the City of Côte Saint-Luc and our committee.

Here are some video  highlights from the concert, with thanks to Darryl Levine.

I introduced the evening.

Once again the event sold out, with more than 300 people in attendance. They all left smiling. Funds raised from Beethoven, Broadway and All That Jazz –  the Cat’s Meow will go towards the CSLCC’s Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt Program and Educhat, the volunteer organization headed by Shelley Schecter, which has spearheaded efforts in Côte Saint-Luc and elsewhere. There are many feral cats in the community. The CSLCC’s team of volunteers sets out to trap as many as possible, have them sterilized and then adopted or returned to the spot where they were originally found. The committee has also rescued a number of baby kittens and found homes for them. The city’s first ever cat licensing bylaw was adopted last fall.

The evening featured words of welcome from yours truly (as official liaison between the city and the committee), Mayor Anthony Housefather,  Councillor Sam Goldbloom, Liberal MNA for D’Arcy McGee Lawrence Bergman and Howard Liebman, the chief of staff to Mount Royal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler. Councillor Glenn J. Nashen was also in attendance as were English MontrealSchool Board Commissioners Marvin Helfenbaum, Joseph Lalla and Ellie Israel.

Councillor Goldbloom with Darlene and Jessyca from Safari Pet Centre.
Thanks to Norm Zimmerman of Steve’s Music Store for assisting us with equipment needs. We were pleased to have with us Jessyca DeSanctis and Darlene Ovenstein of the SafariPet Centre chain. Bravo to their stores for now “only” selling homeless cats provided by the Valleyfield SPCA (a no kill shelter). Stay tuned for the next edition of the new Precious Pets newspaper, published by Bram D. Eisenthal, which will feature a story about the concert.

While the Milo Orchestra brought the crowd to its feat countless times, so did solo performances by Alexandra Cohen and soprano Brigitte O’Halloran  

Joseph Milo and his orchestra respond to the applause.
The Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra (MWSO) was founded in 2006 by Mr. Milo and  Ms. Ravinsky. This one of a kind orchestra was formed when it was discovered that a great pool of professional musicians, recently immigrated to Montreal, had no opportunity to make use of their valuable talent in their new home. The MWSO was created, not only to provide these new Canadians with the opportunity to engage in their main passion; making beautiful music in an orchestral setting, but to give them back the professional dignity they had enjoyed in their homelands and most especially, to share their wonderful talents with the music lovers of Montreal.

The MWSO is composed of 55 musicians: about 80 percent of its members are from 15 countries around the world, while the remaining 20 percent are natives of Montreal who successfully facilitated the integration of the newcomers. To date, the orchestra has entertained Montreal audiences with over 30 performances, including several benefit concerts as well as having produced several recordings. The orchestra has also been selected as the subject of four documentary films. They have been rehearsing at Côte Saint-Luc City Hall for many years and as part of the arrangement, they agree to perform a free concert once a year.

Brigitte O’Halloran is a Canadian soprano, originally from New Brunswick, who lived for many years in Italy before studying music in Quebec. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Performance in classical voice at Laval University and went on to attain her Master’s Degree and a Superior Specialized Studies Diploma, studying with Yolande Parent at the University of Montreal. She has been awarded the Hydro Quebec grant for promising young musicians and has been a two-time recipient of the Georges Cédric Ferguson Grant from the University of Montreal.

Alexandra Cohen has been performing in musical theatre since she was six years old in community and school productions, and acting in film, TV, and radio productions such as Rumours (CBC) and Prom Wars (Philms). She also frequently sang the national anthem for the Montreal Juniors hockey team and at Canada Day celebrations. She has been studying voice for three years with Joanne Fillion. Recently, her school’s glee club competed at the Show Choir Canada National Championships at the Sony Centre in Toronto. Alexandra was awarded Top Female Triple Threat performer at this competition. Her most recent film, Tale (Randfilm), continues to be screened at international film festivals. Alexandra is thrilled to be able to combine two of her loves, musical theatres and cats, in tonight’s performance on behalf of the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee.

Alexandra, accompanied on piano by  Mariana Muscaliuc, sang two songs: How Will I Know by Whitney Houston and Gimme Gimme from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. She also served as the evening emcee.
This orchestra is simply superb.

The orchestra began the program with musical expressions of the classical era, with Gioacchino Rossini’s overture to the Famous Barber of Seville opera, followed by the first movement of the most popular symphony, Beethoven’s fifth symphony, which is played in worldwide concert halls and on television commercials. They then went on to Brahm’s Hungarian Dance #5, the last of those czardas like dances, and continued with the aria every soprano should sing, from Puccini’s opera Gianis chicchi. They closed the first part of the concert with a much loved piece that no symphony orchestra would dare not play: Bolero by Ravel.  The second half presentation featured music from some of the longest running Broadway shows, such as The Phantom of the Opera, Porgy and Bess, The Sound of Music, and Les Miserables. The evening conclude with a varied selected of combined jazz and Big band music composed by the world-renowned Cole Porter and band leaders who have set the tone for that style of heart-warming and dance inviting rhythms. 
A special cats opera encore number.

Before the start of the second half, Shelley Schecter presented an Award of Merit to Barbara Hilliker, a warm and caring women who takes in many homeless cats at a time, fosters them and then finds good homes for them to live in. Barbara is an angel.

Special thanks to lead staff persons Alvin Fishman, Harold Cammy, Regine Banon, Darryl Levine, Peter Kopitas, Ruth Farrugia and Janine West for their work on the file.

Our committee will now get back to our duty of Trap, Neuter, Release, Adopt and Educate. The latter includes making owners of outdoor cats aware that they now need a license and a tour of schools  by Alexandra Cohen and members of her committee.

If you would like to volunteer, please contact us at 514-485-6800 ext. CATS and access our website at

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