JOHNNY NICHOLS JR., artistic director and conductor of Ipswich River Community Singers. (George Delianides Photo)



NORTH READING — After being delayed due to the pandemic, in little more than a week, a very special concert, two years in the making, will finally take place. Ipswich River Community Chorus (IRCC) will perform “Please Stay! A Concert to Support Mental Health Awareness” on Saturday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 22 at 4 p.m. at the Union Congregational Church, 148 Haverhill Street in North Reading.

Organizers say the concert promises to take the audience on an emotional journey filled with light and love and hope as they perform well-known songs from many musical traditions. All of the pieces are written by, for, or about those struggling with mental health issues. Songs will include “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen; “You Raise Me Up,” “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” “In Paradisum” from Faure’s Requiem, a beloved song from Mr. Rogers, and many more. The IRCC is also delighted to have the additional musical depth and magic of a small orchestra and a children’s choir.

“Never has there been a more important moment to come together to strengthen our sense of community, and delight in the pure joy of powerful music,” believes Sarah Ralph, a singer and member of the IRCC board.

According to Ralph, the presentation will include singing, a slide presentation, and printed materials. It is a collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “Our hope is that this concert will help de-stigmatize mental illness and be a source of cultural rejuvenation,” she added.

This concert is under the direction of Johnny Nichols Jr. who is in his sixth year as artistic director and conductor for the chorus. Nichols, a Louisiana native, is a renowned performer, educator and conductor. In addition to working with the chorus, he is the Director of Education at Revels Boston, and Assistant Conductor of the Boston Gay Men’s Choir.

Piano accompaniment will be provided by the distinguished Miles Goldberg, staff pianist at the Boston Conservatory.

When asked what his hope is for this concert, Nichols responded, “Music creates conversations. There’s no song out there that anybody can do that can really address a tough and complex topic such as mental health. So the goal is to start that conversation. People should expect songs that will provide them with opportunity to start that conversation, in a way that is hopeful, in a way that is focused, and in a way that is meaningful and honors those who struggle with a silent illness.”

Tickets are on sale now at The price is $20 for adults and $15 for students ages 6-18. Children under 6 are admitted free.

All audience members will be required to wear N95 or KN95 masks in the building. Some will be available for those who need them. Questions? Email:

Ralph also noted, “We are proud to note that this concert will be funded in part by a Cultural Portfolio Project Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, with additional support from the North Reading and Wilmington Cultural Councils to help ensure the success of this endeavor.”