Rousing performances and spellbinding speeches dominated the sold-out Roy Thompson Hall at the second annual Hope Rising event last week, benefiting the Stephen Lewis Foundation and hosted by CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi.

Grammy award winners Angélique Kidjo, Sarah McLachlan and Annie Lennox poured their hearts into stellar solo sets, topping it off with a jam-packed joint finale of two Eurythmics classics, Sweet Dreams and Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves.

Annie Lennox’s soaring vocals and personal stories of being moved to do something to help subdue the ravages of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa had the audience rapt in their seats.

Sarah McLachlan followed with a set that included a riveting new song, Beautiful Girl, and Bring on The Wonder for which she was accompanied by three dancers from the Alberta Ballet. The charismatic Angélique Kidjo kicked off her set with an energetic rendition of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, accompanied by Toronto’s Soul Influence choir, then worked the crowd into an extended frenzy, getting them dancing, singing and stamping their feet for more.

Stephen Lewis, celebrating his 75th birthday that week, was brought up on stage for a resounding version of Happy Birthday, surrounded by esteemed African advisors Theo Sowa and Sissonke Msimang, a 17-piece band, several South African grandmothers and girls and their creative mentor D’Bi Young. Actor and activist Thandie Newton gave a heartfelt and eloquent introduction to Stephen, speaking of his tireless efforts to shine a light on HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Stephen made a moving speech fueled by the ‘incandescent rage’ he feels at the inadequate international response to the needs of the courageous African grandmothers, their children, and their communities. Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, Executive Director of the Foundation, praised the grassroots movement that has emerged to fill that void in care and compassion while acknowledging the immense generosity of the individuals, organizations and sponsors who made the evening a resounding success, raising over $250,000.

The whole evening was inspiring, energizing and utterly unforgettable. It will be broadcast on CBC Radio One on the eve of World AIDS Day – Friday, November 30. The one-hour, edited concert recording will also be available online at CBC’s Concerts on Demand.

Source: Stephen Lewis Foundation

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