Light The Night – come along and make a difference

 It’s October again, and as usual, Shaun Rennie (pictured, left) is a very busy man. As I discovered this afternoon, reaching the Producer/Artistic Director of the annual charity concert Light The Night, can prove a challenge at this time of the year: he’s most likely on the phone, organising one of the many last minute details for the 2011 Light The Night concert, taking place next Monday, 31 October.  

 Shaun and Adam RennieEditor Erin James speaks with Shaun Rennie about Light The Night 2011 It’s October again, and as usual, Shaun Rennie (pictured, left) is a very busy man. As I discovered this afternoon, reaching the Producer/Artistic Director of the annual charity concert Light The Night, can prove a challenge at this time of the year: he’s most likely on the phone, organising one of the many last minute details for the 2011 Light The Night concert, taking place next Monday, 31 October.  After several encounters with his voicemail, I finally made contact, and the breathless Rennie begins by apologising: “I’m so sorry. I was on the phone about another Light The Night thing!” he laughs.  An indication that this year’s concert, just like the previous six, has been created with dedication and a whole lotta heart.  Rennie assures me that the team at Light The Night are on the homeward stretch, for this year at least.  “It’s all coming together. We are hoping to get to 1000 audience members for Monday night and we are about to hit the 600 mark in ticket sales”, said Rennie. The concert is varied and it’s interesting and it’s definitely going to be a good night.” Light the Night is an annual benefit concert which raises money and awareness for leukaemia research. Since 2005, the event has raised and donated over $200,000 to The Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation – targeting a cure for leukaemia. Each year, the arts community together with members of the public come together at this wonderful concert at Angel Place, City Recital Hall Sydney to support the Rennie family and the the Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation. Shaun Rennie’s younger brother Matthew, whose courageous and determined battle with leukaemia lasted from August 2004 – October 2007, became a driving inspiration for this event. This inspiration helped drive a team of four people to create and produce a benefit concert that is now a mainstay on the Australian entertainment calendar. Shaun Rennie, Monica Smith, Greg Smith, Adam RennieThe team include Shaun Rennie, Monica Smith, Greg Smith and Adam Rennie (Shaun and Matthew’s youngest brother) – all pictured above.  Sadly, at the age of 24, Matthew Rennie lost his battle with leukaemia on 27 October 2007, but his fighting spirit lives on in this event and each year Light The Night continues to inspire hundreds of people through music and song, laughter and pathos.  Rennie explains that this year’s concert is shaping up to be a fabulous night out. While last year’s concert was ‘quite indie’ (Shaun’s words) in its flavour, this year the creative team have gone more for the camp, show biz feel “to keep it interesting”. (Yes, Trevor Ashely will be there in drag).  “Each year the challenge is to try to create a varied, dynamic concert that’s entertaining and that’s also different to the ones we have done before. Being our seventh concert, the challenge for me is to keep finding new and different people to feature in the show, as well as keeping those artists I know will bring the right kind of vibe for the evening. It’s a balancing act”, he said.  
“This year we have got a flamenco guitarist who we have been trying to get for the last few years, and I’m really excited about that. We also have Brian Campau, who was a hit last year, and a wonderful Melbourne singer/songwriter called Ben Abraham”, he said.  Also featured in this year’s concert will be the wonderful Verity Hunt-Ballard (Mary Poppins), Jack Chambers (Hairspary) Emma Pask, Paul Capsis, Debra Byrne and many more including the wonderful hosts Brendan Moar and Jan van de Stool (Queenie van de Zandt).  Brendan MoarBrendan Moar, the host of Channel 10’s The Renovators has been a supporter of Light The Night for many years and has quite a connection with the cause.  “Brendan’s 10 month old niece sadly passed away from leukaemia a few years ago, but even before his niece got sick, he was the first person to put up his hand to help with the event. He co-hosted before with Maggie Kirkpatrick, and this year after making a big impact on channel 10 with the Renovators he was an obvious choice”, said Rennie. “I’ve always had the dream that Queenie would host the show as Jan. What Queenie and Brendan have is a history with the show. They are already connected to the event and they carry that weight with them. I think they strike the right balance between keeping the night light and fun but also knowing how the event started and what it’s all about.” As has become tradition, brothers Shaun and Adam Rennie will perform a duet at the concert. “Yes we are singing a duet again this year. Every year we say ‘I don’t think we’ll do a duet this year’ and we are always drawn towards it. This year our song will close the show”, said Rennie.   Rennie admits that there are challenges which come with Producing a concert of this size every year, but is convinced that the benefits outweigh the difficulties.  “Even 7 years on, we find that the while the event is established, there are a lot of fundraising events nowadays, and the people in our industry have a lot asked of them in this regard. It’s a challenge to figure out what is going to excite the industry – something that’s new and different – but at the same time supportive of the industry itself. Rennie also believes that Light The Night is set apart from a lot of the other more industry focused fundraisers like Twisted Broadway or Hats Off, because they have an interesting cross section of participants and supporters. 
“While the other events are fabulous fundraisers in their own right, we find that Light The Night is not only supported by the musical theatre industry, the independent music industry and the television industry, it’s supported by people who knew my brother, my family, and people who have a connection with leukaemia and have found out about it through ot
her avenues”, he said.  “I love the fact that it’s a night where the arts industry do get together and there is a real sense of community. There’s a feeling in the room each year that I’ve never quite been able to describe. If I could put it in a bottle and capture it, it would be amazing.”  This year over 100 people are involved in the concert, giving up their time to make the event happen. The show features 23 numbers, a cast of over 40, and together with the aid of a sound crew, lighting crew, stage crew, musicians and administrators this year’s Light The Night is sure to be spectacular, as always.  To book tickets to this fabulous event, visit and help make the 2011 Light The Night another event which brings the theatre community together to make a difference.  As Rennie told me today, “it’s my favourite night of the year” – so head along this Monday night, 31 October to the City Recital Hall, Sydney for the best night out since last year’s concert. You won’t see a better one… till next year!
All monies raised from this year’s concert will fund the Light the Night Research Grant that supports a promising new Gene Control in Acute Leukaemia project being undertaken by St Vincent’s Hospital’s Haemotology Research Team.  

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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