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Celebrating Brenda Lewis's 25 years of singing

Music at the GYMC Series presents Great Jazz in support of the Centre
brenda lewis and margaret stowe1  col crop - photo by ian molesworth
Photo by Ian Molesworth

On Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m. the Music at the Guelph Youth Music Centre (GYMC) Series proudly presents "Great Jazz in Support of The Centre" with versatile Guelph vocalist Brenda Lewis and musical friends, celebrating the first 25 years of Lewis’s singing career.

“We are thrilled to host the musical talents of Brenda Lewis & friends at the GYMC,” commented Gabriella Currie-Ziegler, Executive Director of the Guelph Youth Music Centre. “Expect to enjoy a matinee concert of smooth jazz, with a hint of eclectic.”

In between rehearsals for Sunday's concert, we had a chat with Brenda about her years of singing:

What sparked you to get into singing? Tell me a bit about your history as a musician and performer - how it all evolved?

I had always been an audiophile, soaking up many styles of music even from an early age - and also sang a lot, but privately! In 1990, it took a job posting teaching ESL in Czechoslovakia to almost force me into singing publicly. I taught my classes popular folk songs from here - and lost my inhibitions since students didn't know the lyrics in the first place. Months later, after returning to Canada, I moved from Ottawa to Guelph and found myself getting up to sing at house parties' jam sessions and such. People started urging me to get onstage. So I did. I began with just guesting at supportive events like the Guelph Folk Club open stage and Mel Brown's blues jams, singing R&B. A few years later, I moved into jazz, mainly because whenever I would perform the odd jazzy number, people really responded well to it and started asking me if they could book me to do that - so I took the plunge and have never looked back.

You've performed in many respected concert series and festivals. What do you consider to be the highlights of your years in music?

There were concerts honouring two prominent Canadian artists who have deeply influenced me musically - which I had the joy of singing in - one was for Jackie Washington and the other for Colleen Peterson. There are many highlights ... sometimes I just have to pinch myself to believe some of the musicians I've gotten to share stages with...

What does music mean to you?

For me, music is all about connection; the measure of music is whether or not it reaches me somewhere inside; whether it makes me feel something. When I sing that is my hope - that is connecting to the hearts of listeners. Music is also very much about connecting to the community, the world, to humanity. Sometimes an important message conveyed via lyrics, melodies and arrangements can reach people in a far more meaningful, tangible and accessible way than simply watching the news, for example.

What makes this Sunday's concert such a special one for you?

Well, it is a landmark year for performing which seems to have arrived rather quickly - a quarter century - so I'm thinking of it as a sort of celebration. It's a way of connecting with a community that has been very supportive of my musical endeavours over the years so it is also an opportunity for me to show gratitude. The musicians with me onstage have each played important roles in my musical development.

Where do you see your music career going from here... where would you like it to go in the future?

Creatively, I am hoping to get back to songwriting. The constant working out of interpretations of jazz standards for so long seems to have moved me away from writing. I'm hope to arrange some concert touring to farther-away-places.

Don’t miss this Sunday afternoon’s performance. Save by ordering advance tickets now online. Adults $15 advance ($20 at door); Seniors 60+ $10; Students (high school, grade school & university) $10. or phone Guelph Youth Music Centre at 519.837.1119

Learn more about Brenda Lewis & listen to her music at: http://www.brendalewis.ca/

- By Guelph Arts Council

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