Shira Choir

The Shira Choir in action before the pandemic.

With the federal election campaign finally over, it is time for something much more enlightening to make the headlines and I think my choice for Prime Minister, Cantor Daniel Benlolo, hit all the right moves on the campaign trail for his fabulous Shira Choir feature-length documentary.

It has been a few years now since I have been writing stories about the Shira Choir, a group of exceptional singers with special needs and the plan by acclaimed filmmaker Evan Beloff and producer Marvin Rosenblatt to undertake the documentary. Well, the waiting is over and on Thurs. Sept. 23 (7:30 pm) Just As I Am will have its world premiere at the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue in Snowdon ahead of its streaming launch on CBC Gem Friday and its small-screen debut on CBC Television Sat. Sept. 25 (7 p.m.)

Cantor Benlolo, the man behind the Shira Choir, will take part in Q&A with Beloff and Rosenblatt at the free screening.

Formed just before the pandemic, the Shira Choir was forced to cancel concerts and regular rehearsals, until Cantor Benlolo and his volunteers decided to bring members and their families to weekly rehearsals online. The film documents this beautifully and brings viewers deeply into the backstories of some of the members such as Jonah Yanofsky. His dad, the late novelist Joel Yanosky, is featured in several segments including the sad final days of his battle with cancer.

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the film and I was pleasantly surprised to see myself featured at the beginning from a Suburban On Air segment I did with the Choir. Just As I Am shows what a true angel Cantor Benlolo is, a father figure to each member and their family. By the end of this 53 minute masterpiece I was teary-eyed.

For Rosenblatt and Cantor Benlolo, one of the main objectives of this film is to break down barriers imposed by the pandemic as well as barriers that exist in the manner we perceive people living with a disability. It certainly spotlights the lack of outreach resources required to help them as adults – especially in a time when it is needed most. Parents worry about what will happen to their children when they are gone?

You can see the trailer on our website video section.

For ticket information go to:

TEAM FRANK: Kimmy Chedel never intended to be a media star. But the NDG resident was interviewed by news outlets all over the world on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Her husband Frank perished in one of the Twin Towers. Her Foundation , which builds pre-schools and donates school supplies and soccer balls to impoverished communities, held a successful fundraiser at Terrace St. Ambroise in St. Henri. The sprawling open air atmosphere was fantastic. It was nice for me to meet one of Kimmy’s friends, Melanie McGuire. She is the wife of hockey personality Pierre McGuire. NDG Liberal MNA Kathleen Weil was also on hand to support the cause. Everyone feasted on Notre Boeuf de Grace burgers.

COHEN CHATTER: Bravo to Ecksand, which has released its mom and children fine jewelry collection called Little Seasons to raise money for UNICEF Canada and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. The collection is inspired by two children’s books written by Dr. Paul Rossy, renowned Montreal pediatrician, and illustrated by Janique Crépeau. “We’re so proud to be releasing this collection, with net proceeds going to support children and children’s health,” says Erica Bianchini, Creative Director and Co-Founder at Ecksand.... Please tune in to my latest Suburban On Air segment previewing the Montreal General Hospital’s Hockey 9-1-1 event. I spoke to legendary Habs team physician Dr. David Mulder and Hall of Famer Yvan Cournoyer….As CFQR 600 AM gets closer to naming on air personalities, look for gambling expert Sol Boxenbaum to be part of the lineup. See my blog for more.Something to share? Email, follow me on Twitter @mikecohencsl and on our blog section at

Something to share? Email, follow me on Twitter @mikecohencsl and on our blog section at

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