I really had no idea what I was in store for as I took my place in the audience of the 13th annual Commerce & Administration Students Charity Organization (CASCO) charity fashion and dance show last Friday night at Telus Theatre. A quick glance at the McGill student-driven charity’s program informed me I could expect a few speeches—which were kept mercifully short and sweet—a live auction, and a slew of musical performances.
The event also featured a silent auction, as well as a raffle, with all proceeds going to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. According to the program, CASCO aimed to “raise $12,000 to complete [their] pledge” to the Foundation, which has, over the past 13 years, helped to build a new wing for the hospital. The remaining funds would be split between the Tiny Tim Fund and the Music Therapy program, both of which are run through the hospital.
After Effusion A Capella opened the show with an impressive three-song set featuring some refreshingly unexpected rap, the event’s ‘ringleaders,’ Sean Finnell and Daniel Sorek, moved things right along, with opening speeches from CASCO executive directors Majd Steitieh and Ruth Talbot, representatives from CASCO’s University of Ottawa chapter, and a speaker from the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. The “Cirque du CASCO” theme was bolstered by cotton candy and popcorn sales, and circus music. Dance performances from the CASCO committee and the San Tropez Dance Company followed, and then came the live auction, auctioneered by Management Undergraduate Society (MUS) Career Advisor Peg Brunelle.
The level of professionalism of the event had impressed me thus far, but with increased audience interaction came the pointed reminder that we were most certainly at a college event. Many guests had made generous use of the bar, perhaps rightly so; after all, this was a charitable occasion. Nevertheless, a live auction doesn’t work its best when students are bidding on behalf of each other, and the look on a student’s face as someone else volunteers $350 of their money is much less funny when the whole point is to raise funds for a rather serious cause. By and large, however, attendees were extremely generous, and personal commentary by Brunelle kept the whole affair particularly entertaining.
Performances from Mosaica, which were incredibly skilled, and Brosaica, which were cleverly self-aware, wrapped up the first portion of the evening. Intermission featured a vocal performance from first-year McGill student Kat Garcia, who has opened shows for Karl Wolf and Danny Fernandes, among others. The second part of the show featured enjoyable dance performances, including jazz, lyrical, and ballet. Interspersed with these were banter from the hosts, as well as raffle draws and announcements of a few of the silent auction winners. The event lineup, while well-rounded, was also extensive, which made for a bit of a long night. It’s difficult to strike a successful balance between hyping up the crowd and keeping things moving, which Finnell and Sorek, though bursting with energy, fell just short of. Granted, I didn’t visit the bar myself, but there are only so many times I can chant “raffle” before it stops being fun.
Urban Groove finished the show strong, proving they deserve their campus reputation as the dance project to watch. Finally, the thank-yous and final bows brought the focus back to the point of the evening, and reminded us just how much hard work goes into an undertaking like this. The performances were attention-grabbing, and the event was entertaining, if at times slightly informal and on-the-fly. For those who enjoy musical performances, or who appreciate a little bit of pageantry for a good cause, CASCO certainly didn’t disappoint.