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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Charlotte singing for a cure
Gala concert benefiting Susan G. Komen to be held Aug. 23
Published Tuesday, August 19, 2014 10:00 am
by Michaela L. Duckett


Toni Land (left) going over music for Sing for the Cure with Moira Quinn during Monday night's rehearsal. Sing for the Cure will be held August 23 and features a 100-voice choir and 17-piece orchestra. It's a narrated song cycle that tells the stories of breast cancer survivors, their loved ones and friends. 

October, the month nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is still weeks away. That isn’t stopping Charlotteans from coming together now in an effort to raise awareness of the disease and money to find a cure.

“Cancer doesn’t wait,” said Charlotte-native Toni Land. “It doesn’t just affect people in October. It affects us all everyday.”

Land is one of the 100 vocalists participating in Sing for the Cure, a gala concert being held August 23 in benefit of Susan G. Komen Charlotte, Carolina Breast Friends, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center and GoJenGo Foundation.

The choir, which includes Tony-nominated singer/songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway, will be accompanied on stage by a 17-piece orchestra along with a narrator to share stories about breast cancer through the eyes of survivors, their loved ones and the doctors and researchers who are fighting to find a cure.

“Music is a powerful weapon in the battle for hope, and choral music – in particular – connects people not just to ideas, but to each other,” said Artistic Director Kathryn Mahan. “This piece is brilliantly conceived, pairing narration and a range of musical styles to lead the listener through the scary and angry parts of cancer to the humorous and inspiring places.”

Mahan said the overall message is that “there is hope, and that we’re in this battle together.”

Land, an administrative healthcare professional with Novant Health, is singing in honor a family member who died from cancer and the cancer patients she has encountered over the years. Her message to those battling the disease is that there is hope, and they are not alone.

“You have people who are there and want to help you, but you’ve got to let them in,” she said.

A musical journey of hope

Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, estimates that someone loses their life to the disease every 74 seconds. The most common risk factors are being female and growing older. Outside of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., accounting for nearly one in three cancers diagnosed each year.

"As a cancer survivor and someone who walked side by side with a very close friend who lost her battle, I know the sadness and aloneness caused by the invasive presence of breast cancer,” said Ann Hooper, producer of Sing for the Cure. “But one of the many silver linings, and I assure you there are bright beginnings, is the musical journey brought forth by the Sing for the Cure experience. It is a shared journey with the choir and those sitting nearby with the hope at the end that our voices will, indeed, find the day when cancer is a thing of the past." 

Charlotte City Partners COO and Senior Vice President of Communications Moira Quinn is a cancer survivor singing in Saturday’s concert. Her message is one of the importance of early detection.

“Early detection is your friend,” she said. “A lot of people may feel a lump but say they are afraid to go to the doctor. You should be afraid of waiting to go to the doctor. You should always go and check.”

Quinn’s cancer was found during a regularly scheduled, routine mammogram.

“If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” she said. “Mine is a very aggressive cancer. It’s triple negative. It was very small, but at Stage II when they found it. If I had waited or skipped a year, I would have likely been at Stage IV. I say that to say that it could be any of us.”

Quinn is Caucasian but said her form of cancer is more common in African-American women, who often face a grimmer prognosis than their white counterparts.

African-American women in the U.S. are more likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 and are more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors than white women. Although white women have a higher incidence of breast cancer, African-American women are more likely to die from the disease at every age.

Quinn said she was encouraged to share her story after receiving a phone call from a friend who told her that she had every intention of skipping her annual mammogram but scheduled the appointment after being reminded of Quinn’s experience.

Quinn recalls the conversation: “She said to me, ‘you made me make that appointment.  I would have put it off. If you can do that for me, think about if you speak about it what you can do for other women.’”

Following that conversation, Quinn, who is now in remission, called up the Levine Cancer Institute and expressed her interest in getting involved in the fight as a spokesperson. After months of keeping her diagnosis a secret only shared among family and close friends, Quinn now openly speaks out about her experience, sharing her story on TV, at events and any other place she may be of service.

Amantha Barbee, pastor at Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Church and narrator for Sing for the Cure, is participating in honor of a loved one who died from cancer.

“Breast cancer has touched just about everybody in one form or fashion, whether it was a family member, a friend or someone in the community,” she said. “For me, it was my godmother. She passed away with breast cancer. So it hits home.”

She said one of the many things that make SFTC so unique is that it shows how cancer affects the entire community by giving a voice not only to the patients, but their family members and others in the community.

“We hear the voices of all these people involved because everybody is involved,” she said. “It’s not just the person that has the cancer. It’s everybody in the community. Part of our message is to ask the question, ‘Who will speak.’ Everybody should be speaking… You are going to laugh. You are going to cry. You are going to think, but most of all we hope that you will act and get involved in helping to find a cure for this because we will find a cure. But it’s going to come out of our concern and our voices. So come. If you are not able to come, give. If you are not able to give, use your voice.”

Sing for the Cure was initially commissioned in 2000 by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It was the result of Susan Komen’s sister Nancy Brinker's belief that more people would listen to the message if it was delivered through the powerful medium of music.

From its first performance by Turtle Creek Chorale and the Dallas Women's Chorus with renowned poet and activist Maya Angelou as narrator, Sing for the Cure has moved and delighted thousands of people. This is the third time Sing for the Cure has been performed in Charlotte.

Saturday’s performance will be held at Dale F. Halton Theatre starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are currently on sale. Visit www.singforthecurecharlotte.com for more information. 


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