Sunday, June 21, 2009

Singing for Research

Making their voices heard

Singers raising funds for chronic fatigue syndrome research

Erin McPhee, North Shore News

Published: Sunday, June 21, 2009

- Dreamscape: An Evening of Song, a benefit concert for the Nightingale
Research Foundation, featuring a number of voices, including soprano
Jacqueline Ko and special guest star Heidi Klassen, Sunday, June 28 at 7
p.m. at West Vancouver United Church. Tickets: $25/$20. Info: 604-266-1166.

Music's unique capacity to heal is something countless individuals have long
remarked on.

Whether you're making it or simply listening to it, there's something about
it that just feels good. Acclaimed international soprano and founder of The
Opera Project, Heidi Klassen definitely shares this opinion.

"I think it's one of the most powerful sounds -- the human voice -- that
extension is one of the most powerful healers. . . . It's a bit like when
the dancer dances to their full extension, that kind of inspiration that
happens for the artist that moves as well as the audience member," she says.

Seeing music's positive impact on her own health -- she's rarely been ill a
day in her 30-year career -- as well as her students, Klassen is happy to
throw her support behind related initiatives.

One example is her featured performance at Dreamscape: An Evening of Song,
being held Sunday, June 28, at 7 p.m. at West Vancouver United Church. More
than just a concert, Dreamscape is a benefit put together by Klassen's
student, 17-year-old Jacqueline Ko.

An accomplished singer in her own right, Ko will be taking the stage along
with a number of other singers who have volunteered their time.

Funds raised from the evening will support the Nightingale Research
Foundation, an Ottawa-based organization established to explore and
understand chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis and
fibromyalgia-type illnesses.

The cause is close to Ko's heart as she has suffered with chronic fatigue
syndrome since the age of six.

According to the foundation, chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex,
multi-system group of afflictions, adversely affecting the brain, heart,
neuro-endocrine, immune and circulatory systems.

Those affected can experience a variety of symptoms including: chronic pain;
neurological problems such as memory loss or difficulty with specific types
of mental tasks like reading, spelling and math; and problems with the
automatic nervous system which can cause irregular heart rate, blood
pressure issues, temperature problems and difficulty breathing, says Ko.

"There have been times when I have been completely bed-ridden; but, there
are times, like now, when I'm capable of certain types of activity for a
limited amount of time," she says, adding that she's had to learn to pace
herself and allot for time to recover.

Despite the challenges she has faced in managing her illness, Ko is
continuing to make tremendous strides with her singing.

"Jacquie is an unusually talented girl for her age," says Klassen, adding
that she often tackles difficult repertoire that she wouldn't normally allow
students her age to attempt.

After initially starting out in piano and being forced to give it up due to
muscle pain, Ko says singing is a perfect fit for her. There is a lot of
flexibility in how she can pursue it, and singing helps to build core

At Dreamscape, Ko will be performing Ophelia's mad scene, an "extraordinary
feat" considering it requires 10 minutes of singing and some very high
notes, which according to Klassen, she has no problem hitting. "She always
puts a huge challenge in front of herself and it takes my breath away and
then we go for it," the instructor says.

Klassen adds that she's looking forward to taking the stage with Ko and the
other accomplished singers next weekend in support of such an important
cause. She'll be performing a selection from Verdi's La Forza del Destino
(The Force of Destiny).

"I am personally very gratified to be able to teach (this talent) and
contribute hopefully to (her) health and to mine," she says.

For more information on chronic fatigue syndrome, visit

C North Shore News 2009

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