CLASSICAL CONCERT REACHES OUT – The Coast Reporter – February 6, 2009

Jane Coop and Antonio Lysy perform exquisite music together. She is a distinguished concert pianist who has collaborated with principal orchestras of many countries, and she is a professor of piano and chamber music at Univer-sity of British Columbia. He is a renowned cellist who has collaborated with famous conductors and has taught at McGill University and the International Menuhin Music Academy in Switzerland. Both are down to earth and gracious with their audiences. Neither of them believe that their music must always be performed in a concert hall. So it was that last Saturday Coop sat down to a piano and Lysy tuned up his 300-year-old cello in the main dining room of Christenson Village, a seniors’ care home in Gibsons, in preparation for a free concert for residents and their families. The following Monday they also performed a short concert for grades 8 and 9 students at Chatelech Secondary School.

The musicians were sponsored by the Coast Recital Society (CRS), a classical concert series that usually sells out subscriptions by offering a stellar line up of performers. Directors of the society have made it their focus to reach out into the community and double the audience beyond their Sunday afternoon concert crowd.

“We have sponsored musicians in the schools for many years,” said CRS artistic director Frances Heinsheimer Wainwright.

For example, Suzie Leblanc, soprano, and Robert Kortgaard, pianist, performed at Chatelech and Halfmoon Bay Elementary last October in a program that was also attended by kids from L’Ecole du Pacifique and Sechelt Elementary.

And in addition to the school visits, CRS has added another outreach component — at least three concerts annually in the Coast’s elder care facilities: Christenson, Totem and Shorncliffe.

Last Saturday, Coop and Lysy performed selections from Beethoven. With the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in A Major, the room, packed with over 50 residents, fell silent. For many seniors it was a moment to appreciate fine concert music now that a trip to the theatre is too difficult. For others, lost in gathering clouds of dementia, it is a way to have their senses touched.

Someone from the audience asked whether it was challenging to play in a small room?

Coop nods: “Yes, I’m playing a piano that I don’t know, not a grand piano,” she said. “Really great music survives and says what it’s supposed to say any place.”

Her charm wins many fans; the teacher in her offers comments before each piece so that others can understand, and she seems right at home. In fact, Coop has a cottage in Grantham’s Landing but spends little time there with her busy schedule. This year she has taken time off from UBC to travel with her husband and to perform and teach in Asia.

The duo close with a later Beethoven sonata, then thank the audience. They are asked how they got together as a musical team. Lysy now lives in Los Angeles where he teaches at UCLA but finds the time to play with Coop whenever possible.

“Actually the person who brought us together is in this room today,” he replied. Wainwright, in her former career as CBC producer, met both the musicians in Montreal in 2000 and discerned that they had the right temperament to team up. The combination is a winner. On Monday morning, Coop and Lysy arrived at Chatelech in what Lysy has described as more of a teaching session than at the elder care facility. The kids learned what to listen for in classical music and a bit about another important topic, concert etiquette. You don’t wear a baseball cap and you don’t talk during the performance.

However, Wainwright is sure it is all worthwhile when she overheard one student talking to Coop after the recital.

“I’ve been taking piano, but I was going to quit,” he told the pianist. “After this morning, I’ve decided I’ll go back to it.” That’s outreach at its best.