Music heals with FTC’s benefit concert for the Mederi Foundation
Gino Vannelli signed his first record deal at age 17 when he was graduating from high school in Montreal. He soon had a top 20 hit in Canada.
“It gave me a taste of what it was like to hear myself on the radio,” Vannelli said. “It wasn’t about bathing in my own glory but listening to my art and learning that the next time I needed to do this or mix it that way.”
Eight years later, Vannelli would receive a Grammy nomination for his 1978 smash hit single, “I Just Wanna Stop.”
“When I think about those nights in Montreal, I get the sweetest thoughts of you and me” begins the song that went to Number 4 on the Billboard chart and four decades later still receives regular U.S. radio play.
Vannelli, who has sold 20 million records worldwide, will perform Nov. 22 at the Fairfield Theatre Company’s Warehouse as part of a charity concert for the Mederi Center, a nonprofit clinic, research and educational organization founded by Fairfield County native, Donnie Yance.
Also in the lineup at Mederi’s Together We Heal gala will be Italian jazz singer Roberta Gambarini, a two-time Grammy nominee, and comedian Jeffrey Gurian, who’s appeared on Comedy Central and worked with Rodney Dangerfield and Robin Williams.
Yance, who founded the Mederi Center with his wife Jennifer, will perform with musical friends as part of the show. This will include a rendition of the song “Heaven Awaits Us Here and Now,” written by Yance for the event.
“Music and medicine share a lot in common,” said Yance, who grew up in Stamford.
Yance operated the Food For Thought natural food store in Westport in the 1980s and 1990s, then opened the Center for Natural Healing clinic in Southwestern Connecticut.
He later started the Mederi Center to focus on treating cancer and chronic diseases, combining dietary, botanical, nutritional and lifestyle medications with modern science. The center works closely with many large hospitals and other healthcare institutions in the United States and around the globe to promote holistic health.
“It’s a calling,” said Yance, a certified nutritionist and clinical master herbalist.
Yance is friends with Vannelli, Gambarini and Gurian. He’s known Vannelli for a few years, and he and his wife are assisting Vannelli’s wife with treatment as she battles cancer.
“To me, he’s the greatest living musician in the world,” Yance said of Vannelli. “From the ’70s to now, he’s done every kind of genre — playing with symphonies, writing operas, playing for the pope, having five hit singles. There’s no body of work that compares.”
Vannelli’s diverse career has included acoustic jazz and classical as well as rock, and he performed at the Vatican for Pope John Paul at the pontiff’s request in 2000. He has a large international following.
Yance and Vannelli said they have similar perspectives on life. “We’ve become very close friends,” Vannelli said. “A lot of it is because we share many of the same values and curiosity toward healing, the sciences and the more spiritual aspects of life.”
During the Fairfield concert, Vannelli said he will perform about three dozen songs from throughout his career, including his well-known pop songs. “It will be a real cross-section of songs that date back to 1973 to a couple of songs from my new record,” he said.
Vannelli said the song “I Just Wanna Stop,” his biggest hit, wasn’t necessarily about a specific relationship. “It’s just a memory about someone I knew in Montreal,” he said. “A lot of songs are composites of various people.”
“I just wanna stop and tell you what I feel about you, babe,” went the song’s well-known chorus. “I just wanna stop, I never wanna live without you, babe. I just gotta stop - for your love.”
Other hit singles by Vannelli include “Living Inside Myself,” “People Gotta Move,” “Nightwalker” and “Hurts to Be in Love.”
He’s won numerous Juno Awards for his recordings, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy, and now works as a music teacher in Oregon, where he lives.
Yance said he hopes people will come to the concert for both the music and the charitable cause. “The music alone is worth coming for, with stellar talent,” he said. “And what this center and foundation have accomplished to date is monumental.”
Yance pointed out Vannelli hasn’t performed in this area for a long time. “It may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for his loyal followers,” he said.
The Mederi Center opened in Oregon in 2003 after Yance established a bicoastal practice. “Mederi” means “to heal” in Latin. The center offers natural health and healing approaches in collaboration with modern medicine, especially oncology.
“I started to see how these things could work together, combining the two toolboxes, and created what I call the Unitive Model of Healing,” said Yance, who continues to work with many clients from southwestern Connecticut.