FAMILY AFFAIR AT CARE HOME - The Coast Reporter - November 27, 2009

It was a family affair. The most recent performer in the Coast Recital Society’s (CRS) stellar season was world renowned baritone Russell Braun from Toronto with his professional accompanist — and wife — Carolyn Maule on piano.

Residents of Sechelt’s Shorncliffe care home enjoyed an informal preview on Saturday of the duo’s concert scheduled for Sunday at the Raven’s Cry Theatre. The couple brought their two sons, Benjamin Braun, 12, who played a classical piece by Schumann, and the youngest member, Gabriel Braun, 8, who jazzed up the proceedings with his selection, Struttin’. Since Russell’s own father was also musical, one can say that talent truly runs in this family.

The Brauns were jet lagged after flying in from Toronto, performing in White Rock on Friday evening and travelling to the Coast on Saturday, but they gave an excellent show. Among the highlights was an aria from the opera Faust, in which the singer’s voice projected gloriously into the dull acoustics of Shorncliffe’s main hall. Braun is noted for his many operatic roles, and he appears regularly with opera companies in Canada, France and Austria.

Braun’s heritage was apparent in what has become a signature selection, German lieder. He also sang an all too short excerpt from Winterreise by Schubert. And a pleasant surprise was his penchant for less familiar songs by Noel Coward and Ivor Novello. While in Toronto, Braun performed with a group called the Aldeburgh Connection that enjoyed the music of Benjamin Britten, and this is where he learned some fine old British favourites. And Her Mother Came Too is a humorous tune from Novello’s repertoire that pokes fun at a courtship in which mother makes three.

“Carolyn’s mother would often come to concerts,” Braun told the residents. “She would turn beet red when I introduced this song.” Braun also shone on Rose of England and a sentimental ballad that he called one of his favourites, We’ll Gather Lilacs.

Frances Heinsheimer Wainwright, artistic director for the CRS, also had a busy weekend. In addition to the two concerts from Braun and Maule and as part of the CRS’s outreach program that brings musicians into the community, they arranged to have popular classical pianist Robert Silverman and his wife Ellen Silverman to play music for piano, four hands, at Totem Extended Care and Shorncliffe on Friday.

One of these events was originally scheduled for Christenson Village, the Gibsons care centre, but because of concerns about flu transmission, Christenson has cancelled all outside events temporarily.

Three more outreach events are scheduled for this season: the Tokyo String Quartet at the end of January will perform at Christenson and two school events are planned in March with young rising star, pianist Avan Yu. For ticket availability, contact Mary Lea Bell at 604-886-8330.

Jan DeGrass - Arts and Entertainment Writer