SymphoNYChorus to headline HOPE for mental illness concert

What started as an effort to honor a fellow church member has grown into a concert of musical creativity and passion. Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church has partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Connecticut to sponsor HOPE for Mental Illness, which will take place on Saturday, May 6, at 7 p.m. at East Ridge Middle School.

Headlining the event will be SymphoNYChorus (TSC), a voluntary, non-profit musical ensemble with 35 singers and an 18-piece orchestra based in New York City. The group’s repertoire spans various genres, including spirituals, gospel, contemporary, classical, and Broadway.

“Many years ago, there was a person in Jesse Lee who struggled with schizophrenia, and he was also an extremely talented musician who played a variety of instruments,” TSC founder, conductor and artistic director Henric Idestrom said. “He died at a young age. His mother donated some money to the church, and the church thought it should honor the family by doing concerts and events to bring down the stigma around mental health.”

“I have been personally touched by mental illness, and many people in the church and in the SymphoNYChorus are touched by mental illness,” Idestrom said. “We all thought it was important to raise awareness about how so many people struggle with it without us knowing. If someone breaks his arm, we see that his arm is broken, but we don’t see physically any signs of mental illness. Someone could look fine but be struggling with something deep down, and it’s common to hear, ‘Just deal with it.’ But there is a sickness there, and we need be a conduit to help them to get better.”

“I hope that people will be inspired and connect emotionally with our songs of hope and joy,” he said. “They’ll also be able to hear stories of people coping, managing, and leading full lives with mental illness. We want them to experience testimonies of people who are being successful, and we want people to walk out of the event more aware of how they can be a helping hand in the community.”

Admission to Hope for Mental Illness is free, but seating is limited. Please RSVP at www.namict.org/choral.