A conversation with Joey Niceforo about “Harmonizing Hearts – Music for a Cause”

Q: Hi! Can you share the inspiration behind the Harmonizing Hearts – Music for a Cause event and how it came to be?

A: The idea of the show came from one of the producers of the album ‘Priceless’ that I recorded at Abbey Road Studios. We were out for dinner and he asked if I had ever performed at Roy Thomson Hall, which is an iconic venue in Toronto. I told him I have never performed there, and he said that he would like to produce a concert at this venue. The concert was not intended only for me, but also for and with people in the community. The idea was to do something for a good cause that would bring in friends and colleagues that I’ve worked with before.

Sharing the Harmonizing Hearts stage with the Casa Loma Symphony Orchestra, the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra, Sara Papini, Jackie Richardson and the members of Singing Out, and having the evening hosted by Jeanne Beker is incredible. Beyond the music, I am equally thrilled to contribute to the vital work of CANFAR.

Q: How do you see your role in supporting CANFAR’s efforts to reach over 1.5 million underserved youth across Canada?

A: Although there are many worthy and wonderful organizations, the first one that came to mind was CANFAR (The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research). We have supported them and their cause for years, and were honoured they agreed to be a part of this concert. Not only do they do amazing work within our communities across Canada for people living with HIV/AIDS they have also contributed invaluable scientific work for prevention and education. We are honoured to partner with them at this event and know that the funds raised will help CANFAR elevate their national youth awareness programming, like continuing to build upon the success of Sexfluent.ca.

Q: How does the event align with the objectives of World AIDS Day, and what message do you hope to convey through it?

A: When we approached CANFAR about holding a benefit concert for the organization, the CEO Alex Filiatrualt suggested that it would be an incredible tribute to align the concert with World AIDS Day. This type of event has been done before and we felt that it would be great to “revive” The World Aids Day concert concept. Harmonizing Hearts is a great lead up to one of the biggest events and fundraisers of the year here in Toronto in support of CANFAR with ‘Bloor Street Entertains’ on November 30th.

Q: Can you talk about the significance of holding this event in recognition of World AIDS Day?

A by CANFAR: World AIDS Day is an important annual recognition of support for people living with HIV, and an opportunity to remember all those we’ve lost from AIDS-related illnesses. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS has retreated from the collective dialogue in the last couple decades, which gives people the impression that it’s no longer an issue. But in Canada, HIV is still an epidemic, with over 1,400 new cases in 2021 which represents an 11.3% increase over 2020. It’s important to draw attention again to HIV, so that we can all work together to normalize HIV testing, treatment and care, and reduce stigma so that the epidemic can be ended.

Q: How do you hope this event will contribute to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrating international solidarity?

A by Joey: I hope this night of incredible music in support of CANFAR, raises awareness of the fact that thousands of people in Canada are living with HIV, and we need to support national and international strategies to increase prevention and care.

A by CANFAR: We hope that people will begin to talk about HIV/AIDS again. It’s an epidemic in Canada and a pandemic globally that has been going on for over 40 years. HIV stigma is still as strong today as it was in the 1980s, and we hope that by bringing together our community we can help eliminate stigma and draw attention to the advances in HIV testing, treatment, and care. HIV is no longer a death sentence, and thanks to medical advancements people living with HIV who are on effective treatment and virally suppressed cannot pass it on. We hope that people will start to learn about HIV again and share that knowledge so that we can support people living with HIV not only here in Canada, but around the world.

Q: Can you share some details about the performances we can expect at the Harmonizing Hearts event?

A: We have the Casa Loma Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Paolo Busato and The Cambridge Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Sabatino Vacca with special guests soprano Sara Papini, Jackie Richardson and Singing Out: Toronto 2SLGBTQIIA+ Choir, and the evening is hosted by Canadian icon and Torontonian, Jeanne Beker.

I was trained as an opera singer but have become more of a “crossover” singer who likes to sing everything (within reason lol). We will showcase many tracks from the album we recorded at Abbey Roads studios which includes songs by ABBA, Elton John, Neil Sedaka, Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey, Sinatra. We will also perform some musical theatre pieces, some operatic pieces sung by Sara and jazz sung by Jackie!

We thought it would be amazing to combine these two great community orchestras as well as add my dear friend and colleague, soprano, Sara Papin, a singer who I have probably sung with the most in my career. Her voice and stage presence are incredible and our friendship and respect for each other brings out a natural dynamic between the two of us on stage.

Jackie Richardson is an award winning singer and actor whose career spans more than five decades. She has been called the reigning queen of Canadian jazz, blues and gospel; not ever thinking she would say yes, we approached her management team and we were thrilled when we were informed she would love to be a part of the show!

Tickets for Harmonizing Hearts can be purchased via the Roy Thomson Hall or Ticketmaster Canada sites.

Q: How does your music and your role as an artist contribute to the cause of HIV/AIDS awareness and research?

A: As an artist, I hope I can use my voice and platform to bring awareness to the HIV/ AIDS epidemic here and around the world, and the work that’s being done by CANFAR to support research and care.

Q: How do you feel about the impact of your music on such a significant cause?

A: I hope the combined efforts from everyone on stage will lift up and hopefully inspire people to support CANFAR or causes important to them. And even though we’re raising awareness and funds for something that’s very serious, I also hope the audience escapes a little and truly immerses themselves in the show and enjoys the experience. If that happens and in the end we’ve also supported CANFAR’s work, then I think we’ve accomplished something beautiful.

Q: What are your future plans in terms of using your platform and music to support causes like CANFAR and HIV/AIDS awareness?

A: This is our first event partnership with CANFAR and we very much hope that we can continue the relationship by bringing local musicians together again for another ‘Harmonizing Hearts’ musical evening.