Voices of Hope chorus to again unite those touched by cancer
Larry Zabinski joined the Naperville Men's Glee Club, left and came back for a one-time concert in 2013 when the group organized Voices of Hope, a community chorus for men and women singers whose lives have been touched by cancer.
Zabinski, of Sugar Grove, had fought Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma 10 years earlier and was celebrating his survival.
"I enjoyed it so much, I joined back up," Zabinski said. "Cancer is such a negative term, but it can bring people together especially for music."
Voices of Hope brought together a packed house of cancer survivors and supporters at its debut 2013 concert and is expected to draw even more this year. From the very beginning, Voices of Hope was a more exciting and powerful experience than anticipated, said Bonnie Klee Roberts, artistic director of Naperville Men's Glee Club.
"We really only intended it to be one experience," said Roberts, who had conceived the idea of Voices of Hope to celebrate the club's 25th anniversary in 2013. But the response to the first concert persuaded her that the club should do it again.
"After their performance, I received many voice mails, handwritten notes, and emails about the impact and meaning of the project. Reading their stories, I was sold on my premise of group fellowship and the inspiration of song to bring about a special kind of healing. So we decided to do Voices of Hope again in 2015," Roberts said in a news release.
The Naperville Men's Glee Club Voices of Hope 2015 will begin rehearsals at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, for a concert that will be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. Men or women singers who are cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, family members, colleagues or friends of someone with cancer are invited to join.
Katie Andrade, the music director at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Naperville, joined Voices of Hope in 2013 with two members of her church choir who were battling cancer. One has passed on; Andrade and her other friend will sing in her memory this year.
"I embarked on this adventure and had a wonderful time," Andrade said. "It was truly an inspiration for me to be among them and hear their witness of faith and strength."
John Bodine of Naperville was glee club's president when the first Voices of Hope was organized. He said to find singers who might want to participate, the club reached out to the coordinator of the cancer survivors network at Edward Hospital, attended a cancer survivors event at Morton Arboretum and participated in Relays for Life.
"It's amazing how pervasive cancer is," said Bodine, who added that he has also learned about the healing power of music through his daughter, a music therapist. "I've learned a lot about music therapy and how pervasively music can go into a person."
Roberts recalled Jennifer Jones, a wife and mother from Downers Grove who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 40s. Music had been an important part of her life, but cancer treatment had destroyed her confidence and left her unsure she could sing when she joined Voices of Hope in 2013. When Roberts asked for members to audition for a solo, she didn't find the right voice until some suggested she have Jones sing.
"She nailed it. It was perfect," Roberts recalled. "The expression on her face knowing she had her voice back was so stirring."
Jones will be back for Voices of Hope this year, along with many others who participated in the first concert and new ones who have signed up. Bodine said about 75 community members participated in 2013 with the 35- to 40-member glee club. So far, about 115 have signed up this year, Roberts said.
One-hour rehearsals will be held weekly on Saturdays starting at 10 a.m. Feb. 7 at Naperville Church of the Brethren, 1020 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville. Participants should have a background as singers.
Roberts said the April 26 concert will include seven to 10 songs that are familiar to most people. They will include modern tunes that can be heard on radio or TV along with older, well-known pieces such as "Climb Every Mountain" and "You'll Never Walk Alone."
As in 2013, the club will invite cancer survivors and supporters to submit photos and a short commentary for a "Faces of Hope" that will be an insert in the concert bulletin this year.
"That turned out to be very powerful," Bodine said.
The lobby of the Wentz Concert Hall where the event is held also will feature artwork from "Lilly Oncology on Canvas -- Expressions of a Cancer Journey," a traveling exhibit of award-winning paintings by cancer patients and survivors courtesy of Lilly Oncology and the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship.
Free tickets to the concert will be given to cancer patients and survivors thanks to a grant from the DuPage Community Foundation. The price of general admission and group tickets has not yet been determined but sales will begin in April.
There is no cost to participate in Voices of Hope. To enroll, visit napervillemensgleeclub.org or call (630) 448-0518.