The Birdseye Music Festivaltakes place on Saturday, April 27th in Toronto, and is a fundraiser for bladder cancer. We all know someone with cancer, and I discovered that one of my best pals, Ann, is currently dealing with this type cancer. It’s the fifth most common form of cancer, and 9000 people in Canada will be diagnosed this year alone. As it’s also the most expensive cancer to treat, the proceeds from The Birdseye Music Festival are greatly appreciated.

Co-founders of the festival, Elana Hart and Deb Briggs, met at C’est What in 1997, and became fast friends. Deb was having a difficult time as her parents were not well. At the time my mother was fighting Stage 4 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD as it’s known by many.”  Deb explains,” My father was also fighting his own battle of being in and out of remission with bladder cancer. With my mother spending a large part of her last year of life being in hospitals and then her final days in palliative care, my father would anxiously be waiting for his follow up test results after his last round of treatment to know if he was in remission, or if he required another round of treatment to keep the disease at bay.”

While all this was going on, her dear friend, Elana Hart, was also fighting, after having been diagnosed with bladder cancer.  Elana was absolutely shocked when the doctors found her own tumours. She said, “There had been no indication that anything was wrong, just a shadow on an ultrasound that I had for a totally different reason.”

Elana was lucky, the tumours were small and there was no waiting period to remove them. I had the cystoscopy on the Monday, pre-op on the Tuesday, and underwent the resection on the Wednesday, fully expecting that to be the end of it, and I was told to come back for a follow up in 3 months, which I did.”

That follow up cystoscopy found two more tumours had grown. Nervous and numb, Elana sat down to confer with her urologist. That was the first time he actually said the C word.” Elana confided,”He decided that I needed six rounds of chemo. I had opted for the removal of the second set of tumours while I was still on the table during that cystoscopy – no anesthetic. It was not a pleasant experience, but I didn’t want to wait a second more than was necessary. So, I had six rounds of chemo, on Wednesdays. I was lucky because they just insert a catheter and inject the chemo directly into the bladder  It made me very tired, but minimized the side effects.”

Meanwhile Deb was feeling a weight on her own shoulders as well. She was worrying about the people closest to her, and the feeling of helplessness with not being able to fix them weighed heavy on her psyche.  “There were days that I would come home from work frustrated and depressed and basically had no wind left in my sails.” Deb explains,

One day while driving and listening to music, I realized that I needed to do something to help out.” Deb decided to approach Elana, as in the past they had discussed hosting a music festival, and this point and time it seemed like the right time to do it. So I knocked on Elana’s door, and said, ‘it’s time for that music festival we’ve talked about doing’, as I need something positive to do. She laughed and said, ‘okay, well then let’s do it!’”

It was after a few conversations in the planning stages that Elana suggested that it should be a charity event to raise money for the Mount Sinai Health Foundations Bladder Cancer ResearchAnd this was how Birdseye was formed. All proceeds of the event go direct to the foundation.

I attended the inaugural Birdseye Music Festival in 2017 at The Eton House on Danforth Avenue, and it was definitely a revelation. With many different styles of live music and a silent auction, it was a lot of fun and an example of how musicians can get together on any level to use their platform to create an impact.

One repeat performer this year is R n B songstress Sandra Bouza, who will be performing her tribute to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album. She said “We’ve had some success with it since we first performed it at the Old Nick earlier this year just for a laugh, and since then we’ve been asked to share nights with other tribute acts around Toronto.”

Sandra was delighted to be asked back and said, “It was great to see how many local musicians came together to contribute to the event, it is empowering to see representatives of the great talent in our city.” Also performing on stage this year are Juno Nominee Heather Bambrick, and the rocking 80”s cover band Ricochet.

Being someone who is experiencing this disease I attended the first Birdseye Music Festival, listening to great music for a great cause.”  Anne Hunter observes, “This year features the fabulous Sandra Bouza and the always hysterical Deb Pearce. It’s a great fundraiser, so go and enjoy the music while you support the cure.”

Why is music so hand-in-hand with doing a fundraiser? Elana replies, “Music is a multi-faceted magic. It provides an outlet of expression and passion, can be the ultimate painkiller, and is a veritable connector.” Elana has had personal experience with the healing power of music before. My music performed the same function for me as when Noah (her young son), was diagnosed with liver cancer.” Diagnosed on his first birthday Noah went through those months of treatment and has a clean bill of health now.

Elana concludes, “It (music) provided a solidity, a grounding, a go-to, and a way to share something deeply personal and positive, that wasn’t reflective of the gravity of either situation.”  Elana’s next checkup is May 27 and her prognosis is hopeful. Bladder cancer is treatable as long as it’s caught early and hasn’t yet metastasized. 

And what does she hope for the festival?  I hope it continues to raise money for research and support local music for years to come.”

Birdseye Music FestivalEton House, 710 Danforth Ave, Toronto, 7pm to 1am – Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door, with all proceeds going to Mount Sinai Bladder Cancer Research.




About the Author

Cat Grant OCAD is a multimedia artist. A published poet currently writing a book,she contributes to Hone Life, Jingobox and her blog for theBUZZ Kitty Indacity. Painting, sculpture, photography/video, choreography/dance & costume design also make her days. Cat has worked with Deadmau5, Panasonic, Sony, Konami and volunteers for many queer organizations.