Barbara Lewis adopts Canadian songbook

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Singer Barbara Lewis heads to the 2017 celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday with a solo exhibition featuring songs by some of Canada’s best-known artists.

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When singer Barbara Lewis was 19, she boarded a train in Vancouver for a four-day trip to Montreal to continue her training as a singer. During these four days on the train, she marveled at the vast and changing landscapes and fell deeply in love with Canada.

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Lewis shares this love of country in his solo show My Canada: Singing the Soul of a Country, as part of St-Columba-by-the-Lake Presbyterian Church’s annual concert series on October 22.

My Canada is Lewis’s personal contribution to Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in 2017. She has previously presented the show in Ottawa and will travel west and east during 2017.

This 63-year-old classically trained man performs songs by Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. No surprise there. But the songs of country music icon Stompin ‘Tom Connors, rockers The Trews and trans-male Métis artist Greyson Gritt push Lewis out of his comfort zone.

“I had to learn to yodel,” she said of Stompin’s song ‘Tom Take Me Back to Old Alberta. “With the (Gritts) song I have the right to get really angry and my husband John asked me to sing the Trews Highway of Heroes song on the Ontario highway section (along from which) the bodies of fallen soldiers are transported. “

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The tracklist was born out of patriotic love, but it’s also very personal, reflecting the emotional ups and downs of Lewis’ life.

Lewis left his beloved Canada to live for several years in Vermont and New York with her first husband Nicholas Regush who wrote for the Montreal Gazette for 12 years and was a health columnist for ABC-TV for six years. The couple were in New York City on September 11, 2001. At 8:46 am that morning, Lewis was on a city bus with an armful of computer equipment on its way to get technical help when a man in the bus stood up. and said “Look, a plane just flew into the tower.” Lewis and the other passengers were still trying to figure out what they were witnessing when the second plane hit. The driver stopped and ordered them to get off the bus.

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Struggling with his load of electronic equipment, Lewis joined hundreds of strangely silent citizens walking along the road. Her husband was supposed to be at a meeting in one of the towers and she was in a panic. Suddenly she saw a man waving an arm at the bottom of the road. It was Regush. The location of the meeting was changed at the last minute and after the attacks he set off to find her.

“It was surreal,” Lewis said. “Fearing the worst, then see that arm flutter and realize that my loved one is safe.”

The attacks of September 11 shook them deeply. Regush was assigned to cover Afghanistan. He didn’t want to go. They packed their bags and returned to Canada. In 2004, Regush died of a heart attack.

Lewis eventually remarried, and it was her husband John Szwaronek who encouraged her to resume singing in her late fifties. She stopped and started along the way, but with the My Canada solo show she feels stronger than ever.

“I walk on stage with 63 years of experience filtering through these wonderful songs,” she said.

Lewis is accompanied by pianist Doug Balfour and bassist Sage Reynolds.

Proceeds from the concert will go to Montreal Jeunesse Illimitée, a non-profit organization that helps underprivileged youth.

Lewis performs at St-Columba-by-the-Lake Presbyterian Church, 11 Rodney Avenue, Pointe-Claire, on October 22 at 7:30 pm Admission is a suggested donation of $ 15. For more information on concerts, call 514-697-2091. For more information on Barbara Lewis, visit www.barbaralewis.com.

kgreenaway@postmedia.com


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