After raising $35,000 in Dallas, Seelig expects New York donation to Komen to be larger
After a sold out performance at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on May 12, Resounding Harmony performs "Sing for the Cure" in New York at Carnegie Hall on June 6.
The Dallas performance raised more than $35,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Tim Seelig, director of the group, said he expects to raise even more in New York. Carnegie Hall seats about 1,000 more people than the Meyerson.
Seelig was excited about the New York performance after the success in Dallas.
"The first one was amazing," he said. "We had probably 400 survivors with us in the audience. Ambassador [Nancy] Brinker was there."
Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which she named after her sister who died of breast cancer. She originally approached Seelig about commissioning a work about breast cancer survivors in order to spread the organization’s message through music.
With Seelig directing, the Turtle Creek Chorale premiered the work at the Meyerson in 2000, with Maya Angelou narrating.
Rene Syler is this year’s narrator. She was known in Dallas as a WFAA and KTVT news anchor before moving to New York City to host the CBS "Early Show."
"Rene was fabulous," Seelig said.
Syler was apprehensive about following Angelou, but after performing the piece in Dallas, was excited about her husband seeing the New York show.
"It was unbelievable," Syler said. "You’re so into the piece and the music. It’s like an out of body experience. It transports you to another place."
She said she saw Seelig fighting tears and she began crying at one point during the performance.
Indra Krishnamurthy Nooy, the CEO of PepsiCo, will deliver an opening greeting on stage at Carnegie Hall. The company is based in Purchase, N.Y., a suburb north of the city.
Seelig said a member of the chorus who works for Pepsi’s Frito-Lay division in Plano applied for a grant from the company for the Sing for the Cure project. An online poll determined who would receive the corporate money. Hundreds of applications were received and $25,000 would be awarded to the top 10 vote-getters.
"Sing for the Cure" began at number 249 in the online voting. Seelig said when he saw that, he thought, "All right. I’ll tell everyone in the group to vote," but he said he wasn’t counting on it.
As members of Resounding Harmony voted, their ranking rose to 189 in the poll and so he got more encouraged and told everyone to tell family and friends. Again, their ranking moved up. After Komen sent out messages to vote, they ended up in sixth place and will receive the money from PepsiCo.
Seelig said that since they weren’t counting on the grant to get them to New York, the funds would be passed along as part of their donation to Komen. He said that was in keeping with Resounding Harmony’s mission of fundraising for the community.
To fund the New York staging, the singers each paid a $590 fee to participate, which covered all expenses.
Gary Rifkin is among a number of singers who performed "Sing for the Cure" at its premiere as well as at the May 12 performance at the Meyerson. He arrived in New York on Tuesday, June 1 for the Carnegie Hall presentation.
"It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the premier of Sing for the Cure," Rifkin said. "Since the first performance, my mother and my best friend have both been diagnosed and come out the other side."
But Rifkin said the piece reinforced the healing power of music.
"Standing on stage at Carnegie Hall and getting to sing Pamela Martin’s brilliant words is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "To get to do it twice — priceless!"
Seelig said that 146 of Resounding Harmony’s members will be in New York City for this Sunday’s performance, and they will be joined by 106 other singers from around the country. Among them is large group from Sarasota, Fla., who performed the piece at a May 19 benefit for Komen in their hometown.
A recording of the original performance with Angelou’s narration was sold at the Meyerson, but Carnegie Hall doesn’t allow the sale of merchandise in its lobby.
Stephen Tosha of the Turtle Creek Chorale said that "Sing for the Cure" has been one of the best-selling recordings of the 38 CDs and 2-set DVD that their group has produced. A 50-percent royalty is paid to Komen for every CD sold.
"It’s been performed more than any commission we’ve done," Tosha said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 04, 2010.