In keeping with the grand tradition of the Gateway For Cancer Research’s annual Cures Gala, the 26th edition brought together stars of many musical stripes, researchers behind so many miraculous clinical trials and 800 guests to the Grand Ballroom at McCormick Place. Dubbed “Gateway To Oz,” the 2017 edition kicked off on the glitzy green carpet, which featured appearances from disease-combating heroes Richard J Stephenson (founder of Gateway For Cancer Research and Cancer Treatment Centers Of America), Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson (Cancer Treatment Centers Of America Chairman, Functional Medicine) and Teresa Hall Bartels (President, Gateway For Cancer Research), alongside the legendary likes of hometown headliners Earth, Wind & Fire, plus the area debut of Matteo Bocelli (son of Andrea Bocelli), “American Idol” finalist Pia Toscano and many other notables. Here’s more from the microphone of Chicago Concert Reviews on the $3.5 million-raising route between the Yellow Brick Road and Emerald City.
“The Wizard of Oz” is such a magical movie full of so many hopes and dreams. Tell us a bit about the theme “Gateway To Oz.”
Teresa Hall Bartels (President, Gateway for Cancer Research): It’s kind of the whole idea that “There’s No Place Like Home.” We also melded it with the more modern day, Oz-themed musical [“Wicked”] and the idea of “A Brand New Day” for people who are living with cancer. I think just the musicians who are performing tonight and the music that people will hear is incredibly inspiring. It’s going to be quite an event.
What are some of the daily tips you can recommend to everyone that can help keep cancer out of their lives?
Bartels: There are so many things. First of all, all the kinds of things that we all know we should do, like eating healthy foods and getting sleep believe it or not. Getting adequate sleep is important because your body needs to regenerate. Avoiding sugar is also important because we believe sugar is probably one of the bigger culprits for cancer. And don’t smoke. Just don’t start! Things like that that are obvious, but then getting check-ups when you notice that something’s not quite right because early detection makes a huge difference in the ability to treat.
What do you hope to bring to this evening?
Matteo Bocelli: I hope to bring a lot of emotions. I’m singing- that’s what I love to do- and singing and music in general is all about trying to make people feel some reactions and hopefully I’ll be able to do that.
This is your first appearance and performance in Chicago. What are you looking forward to most about this debut?
Bocelli: It’s a very fun and beautiful city. I’ve been here once when I was a little. It’s an amazing city and I hope it’s going to be a good show.
How do you hope to inspire and encourage everyone?
Pia Toscano: Tonight I hope to inspire with my voice. That’s all I can contribute is healing with my voice. Stacie and Dick are two of my favorite people. I met them back in March with David Foster and we just clicked right away. They’re just such incredible, warm, loving people and have contributed to so much to cancer research, it’s actually unbelievable. I’m very honored to be here.
What is it about music that uplifts the soul so much and gives people such a spark to keep pushing forward in the face of adversity?
Toscano: Music heals your soul. Whether or not you are going through a heartbreak, illness, maybe the death [of a loved one] and even the uplifting moments, you have songs that are like the soundtrack of your life.
Considering you lost founding member Maurice White recently, how does an event like this where you’re giving back and helping people through their health struggles honor and preserve his legacy?
Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire): Well you know every day when we perform, we’re preserving his legacy. Every concert is about what he created.
Ralph Johnson (Earth, Wind & Fire): And what he taught us. You know it really was about giving back.
White: And as we show the audience- we won’t do it tonight- but we have films that we show of him, so we’re honoring him every night.
What makes hometown shows so special?
White: Because everybody in the audience they know us, even if I don’t know you!