It’s a true story of insecurity, passion, hatred, anger, betrayal, happiness, deceit and perseverance. In other words, it’s a story of love.
The Arrow Lakes Arts Council’s latest in a series of winter concerts featured not one factor, but a multimedia blend of music, song and story-telling in a unique and incredibly moving presentation, known as The Schumann Letters.
The play featured soprano singer Susan Gilmour Bailey, a native of Manitoba with a master of music in vocal performance from the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. Bailey has toured her talents around the world, singing in operas and oratorios from France to the quiet little village of Nakusp. Her beautiful voice carried all the emotion of the characters of this play, often earning applause once she finished each song.
Pianist Michael Kim was a huge hit as well for his work during the performance. His piano playing found not only the literal songs that Robert Schumann himself had created, but also featured music meant to interpret Schumann’s moods during the roller-coaster that was his life. The audience would also roar in applause as Kim finished his set of music.
Finally, actor and narrator Colin Fox, who has been working in the entertainment business for 40 years including performing on Broadway, the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, as well as feature films and television. Fox has narrated not only the Schumann Letters with great passion and reverence, but has lent his voice to numerous documentaries for CBC, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. Along with his long list of accomplishments, his readings of Robert Schumann’s life and letters directed the play along on Sunday. Feb. 6.
It all centred around the man which the play is named after: Robert Schumann. The title, The Schumann Letters, refers to the correspondence Schumann and the love of his life, Clara.
Their tale is not one of easy, summer love. It was full of heartbreak, deception and perseverance to pull together their lives and come out as successful artists and composers.
The story starts with Robert Schumann meeting Clara as a young man. He is 18-years-old, while she is only nine. They started off merely as friends, even developing into a mentor-like relationship where the young Clara would follow Schumann and play with him.
This friendship would grow, and many years down the road, Schumann found himself attracted to her as she blossomed into a young woman.
But her father forbid their courtship violently. Even taking Schumann into court to legally stop them from marrying one another. He also took to defaming his own daughter, sending out libellous letters to composers and employers looking for skilled workers.
Yet none of this could keep them apart. Clara and Robert would still go on writing to each other through thick and thin. They would soon be married, and would be so for many long years before Schumann passed away.
This story was beautifully narrated by Fox, accompanied when appropriate by the Kim on the piano, featuring song by Bailey.
The night ended with a standing ovation for the trio from the packed Bonnington Arts Centre in Nakusp.