Mike Cohen: “An extraordinary benefit concert for our Cat Committee”

Last winter the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee, which I proudly founded two years ago, were having a meeting at City Hall when all of sudden these beautiful sounds started coming from the council chamber. Some of our members walked out, only to see conductor Joseph Milo and The Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra rehearsing. Cognizant of the fact the city has an agreement whereby the orchestra rehearses at City Hall at no cost and in return performs one benefit, we asked Joseph and his wife Lucy Ravinsky, the orchestra's executive director and general manager, whether they would consider doing so for our Committee.

Fast forward to Tuesday, August 21 at the Giovanni Palatucci Facility (former Wagar High School) on Parkhaven Avenue. We filled the auditorium with 360 people for The Best of Broadway: The Cat's Meow.

The Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra was founded in 2006 by Joseph and Lucy, when it was discovered that a great pool of professional musicians, recently immigrated to Montreal, had no opportunity to make use of their valuable talent in their new home. The MWSO was created, not only to provide these new Canadians with the opportunity to engage in their main passion; making beautiful music in an orchestral setting, but to give them back the professional dignity they had enjoyed in their homelands and most especially, to share their wonderful talents with the music lovers of Montreal.

The Orchestra was joined by soprano Jennifer Pyra, who is quickly establishing herself as an artist to watch for. She first came to international attention in 2008 when she was awarded the Encouragement Award at the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Audition Regional Finals in Washington, D.C. The following year, she graduated from the Franz Schubert Institut. Last May she was recognized by the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal, where she graduated with her Masters of Music. This coming fall will see her heading to competitions in France and Spain.

The audience loved every minute of this two set performance. About $2,500 was raised for the CSLCC and Educhat, the organization run by Shelley Schecter, which really spearheads our Trap, Neuter and Release/Adopt efforts. Not everyone on hand was necessarily a cat lover. Some came for the music. What they all got was an education on the lovely feline characters in our community. I wish to applaud our small volunteer committee. It was so nice to see everyone pitch in, selling tickets and getting the word out. When we began this venture, we did not know how many seats we could sell. Truthfully, our goal was 200. Thanks to our wonderful staff – Harold Cammy, Regine Banon, Darryl Levine and the team at our Library headed by Janine West and Lisa Milner – by early August word spread about the concert and it became the hottest ticket in town. We had significant interest from people outside of our community eager to start such committees in their areas. Thank you Fern Collier- Pereira, who was the first person to step forward to work on this project. Kudos also goes to Cynthia Koomas and the Marymount Adult Education Centre for the venue and Norm Zimmerman ad Steve's Music Store for their sponsorship.

Musical Numbers

As for the Orchestra, I could have listened to them all night. Their musical program included 2001: A Space Odyssey 2001; A Tribute to Richard Rodgers; West Side Story Medley; The Sound of Music; Over The Rainbow; Highlights from Harry Potter; Star Wars; I Could Have Danced; Themes from 007; Summertime; The Lion King; Pirates of the Caribbean; "Cats" the musical-overture ; The Waltzing Cats; Memory; Fiddler on the Roof Medley and a surprise concluding piece with Pyra and mezzo soprano Anna Levitina singing by only using cat noises. Hats off as well to pianist Maya Rand and Alexandra Cohen, who began the show with two delightful songs.

D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman joined us and spoke about animal welfare legislation his government adopted. City Councillors Sam Goldbloom and Steven Erdelyi were on hand. Sam became a first-time cat owner last year to Mr. Darcy and subsequently became active with the CSLCC. Sam has a fantastic stage presence, which is one of the reasons why I asked him to be a co-emcee. Mayor Anthony Housefather was away on business, but made a generous personal donation of $118.

My Love For Cats

Eighteen years ago I met my wife Ilana. When I visited her apartment she introduced me to Buddy her cat. I must confess that at that time I never had much of a passion for cats. But Buddy changed that in a hurry. And so did Toonces, Bobbee and now Cleo.

Just more than two years ago Shelley Schecter came to Cote Saint-Luc City Council to ask for support in regard to the many homeless feral cats in our community. As a devoted cat owner myself, I sought a meeting with Shelley and she proceeded to share the benefits with me about the Trap, Neuter and Release Program. I discussed this further with my own Vet, Dr. Marlene Kalin and then the Director of Animal Welfare for the SPCA, Alanna Devine. When I heard about the staggering number of homeless cats in Côte Saint-Luc alone I knew we had to act.

It is estimated that over a period of seven years two unaltered cats can exponentially create over 400,000 offspring.

An information meeting was called at City Hall exactly two years and it exceeded our expectations with a standing room only crowd of well over 100.

A Committee was born that night.

Soon after, with some financial support from Cote Saint-Luc City Council, the CSLCC was established in partnership with Shelley Schecter and Educhat. By no means did all of those people who attended our information meeting sign on; a small fraction did. But what an extraordinary group of people these are. We have devoted most of our attention to Trap, Neuter and Release. This is the only proven humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies. More recently we have expanded to focus on Trap, Neuter and Adopt. Our volunteers go out and trap feral –or community - cats, bring them to the Vet, and have them spayed or neutered. If at all possible, we try to get them adopted. We have better success lately at getting some of the baby kittens we find adopted.

This is no easy task. We need volunteers to do the trapping. In addition, we require volunteers to house the cats when they are released from the Vet and recovering from surgery. A real need is to find families willing to foster cats while they await a permanent home and of course adopt.

Our concert was a celebration about cats and what we do! While we are grateful for city council's contribution and some other donations we have received, more funds are still needed.

I ask people to log on to our website, our blog and our Facebook page. You can also call our Cats Hotline at 514-485-6800 extension CATS.

I am very proud to announce that very soon, Côte Saint- Luc will adopt our first ever cat licensing bylaw, directed towards outdoor cats. Neutering of these animals will now become mandatory.

Honouring the Animal Hospital

We honoured the Côte Saint-Luc Hospital for Animals following intermission. Shelley Schecter made a passionate speech about the need to rescue homeless cats. She cited the hours of devotion Dr. Marlene Kalin and her team at the Animal Hospital put in for this cause. Dr. Kalin, Dr. Melanie Cukierman and staff members Margaret Nadler, Beverly Beach and Judy Walsh were there to accept a plaque and the deserving kind words that came with it.

This was a wonderful evening and I thank everyone who made it happen!

Now it is back to work, trapping cats and getting as many of them adopted as possible. Stay tuned for a video from the concert and a new video by Alexandra Cohen about the committee and Trap, Neuter and Release/Adopt.

Here is a video recording of the event, courtesy of CSL Director of Public Affairs and Communications

Download The English Program Book here.

Telecharger le programme français ici.

Reference: MikeCohen.ca

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