Historically music has been powerful in bringing attention to issues needing attention — so why not mental illness?
“Music is such a powerful tool,” says bass-baritone Giles Tomkins (latest heard in Tosca at the COC and with many interesting upcoming performances including Tapestry Opera’s The Overcoat and Bach’s Peasant Cantata.) “It is a responsibility and privilege to be a musician and be able to profoundly impact a person. The better we are as artists, hone our craft and communicate our music […] the more we can make a difference.”
On February 1, Tomkins is participating in the 5th High Notes Gala for Mental Health — a charitable event using music and words to raise the image of mental illness, to educate and spread the message that we all have a (mental health) story.
Tomkins is singing in support of some of his closest friends diagnosed and living with mental illness. “I feel passionate about helping more people become aware, accepting of and talking about mental illness. Maybe artists are a bit less ashamed about the subject as we are somewhat more attached to our emotional sensitivity… Our highs are really high and our lows really low…”
Unfortunately, in general, there is still much stigma. “We celebrate survivors of cancer by ringing a bell for survivors. Gosh wouldn’t it be great if there was something similar for mental illness survivors!?!” says Tomkins.
With cancer and diabetes, you can pinpoint the cause. “With mental illness, most people don’t understand. They fear it,” says Tomkins. “We need to take away all the misinterpretations and create awareness of what you can pinpoint with mental illnesses.”
“Whether you or a family member is suffering, it is important to recognize it is an illness and treatable as such. The more open we are, the more people will come forward to seek treatment. It is so important not to try to hide it…because If you don’t get help it spirals and gets worse.”
Tomkins will sing “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha, “O del Mio Amato Ben” by S. Donaudy and “Stars” from Les Miserables on Thursday, February 1 at the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts.
The star-studded program is hosted by Luba Goy and also include talks by media personalities Lloyd Robertson and Michael Landsberg, former OBA president Orlando Da Silva and Dr. Steven Youssoufian of Mackenzie Health. Many musical personalities from the national and international music scene are contributing their talents. Amongst them pianist Frank Horvat, concert accordionist Michael Bridge, musical theatre performer Jennifer Walls and pianists Mark Selby and Kathryn Tremills. (Tomkins’ wife).
ABOUT HIGH NOTES AVANTE:
HIGH NOTES AVANTE is a registered charity (827049388rr0001) working to raise the image of mental illness. Our objectives include offering art productions (such as this High Notes Gala for Mental Health, Feb 1, 2018) directed towards the alleviation of loneliness and isolation as well as reducing any associated stigma. We promote mental health education by providing information from mental health professionals and testimonials from artists and other well-known personalities.
Our dream is to one day produce “THE” mental health concert that will be accessible from coast to coast in Canada and give hope to everyone touched by mental illness, whether they live in Nunavut, PEI or BC–or just are too ill to get off their couch in Richmond Hill.
The Gala will be live-streamed on Facebook.