Cancer is the second largest killer of women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So surviving cancer is something to celebrate. Hence the Shine for Women Concert and Resource Fair, hosted by Bravo’s Andy Cohen, Saturday at McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square.
The free resource fair, which includes information from local cancer-related organizations, will precede the 7 p.m. concert.
The producer of numerous Bravo series – best known for mediating those dramatic “Real Housewives” season wrap-ups – will share stories of “Bravo-lebrities,” but the evening also features a bill packed with performers with ties to the disease.
Musical acts include Atlanta’s Shades of Pink Breast Cancer Choir, which consists of 25 cancer survivors; N.C.-based country singer Jeanne Jolly, whose mother died of ovarian cancer in 2009; and recent “American Idol” finalist Brian Rittenberry, whose wife Megan is a cancer survivor. Both Jolly and Rittenberry turned to music when faced with their loved ones’ illnesses.
“I realized at an early age that I found solace in music and singing,” says Rittenberry, whose low point was trying to explain to his 5-year-old son about his wife’s illness and mortality. “In any situation I’ve ever been in, music has helped me escape it, if for only three or four (minutes at a time).”
Jolly, who got her big break working with trumpeter Chris Botti, delved into songwriting after her mother’s death.
“Songwriting became my release, and singing has always helped me hold it all together,” says Jolly, who began taking guitar lessons to aid in her writing. “My mom loved it when I’d sing. She would always lean back in her chair and close her eyes. Sometimes she would cry.
“I sang to my mom to relax her and comfort her when she was sick. I feel connected to her when I’m doing it. I feel her every time I open my mouth to sing.”
Both musicians agree performing at an event like Shine for Women is different than your regular gig.
“Obviously, I’m a part of this because cancer has touched my family,” says Jolly. “There is a special unspoken kinship that comes with that. There is a clarity that comes with loss and sacrifice. They all have been inspired, let down, congratulated, disappointed, healed. The roller coaster that is cancer changed me forever and changed the way I sing and what I sing about.”
Adds Rittenberry: “In a normal performance, people are there to be entertained. At events such as Shine, people attend for more than entertainment. They gather to share and fellowship with others that have traveled down the ‘C’ path. They gather to rejoice when another life has been spared.
“There aren’t words to describe how amazing it is to be surrounded by so many people who understand what you’ve been through and what you’re going through.”