Accomplished pianist Sarah Hagen is next up in Lacombe Performing Arts Centre’s 2023/24 Concert Series.
Hailing from Vancouver Island, she now makes her home on Prince Edward Island, and will soon be embarking on a trek across parts of western Canada including a dip into the northwestern U.S.
Her light-hearted Lacombe show ‘Perk up, pianist!’ is coming up on Oct. 8 and tickets are available at www.lacombepac.com or the Mary C. Moore Public Library.
According to her bio’s description of the show, Hagen has, “Transformed her award-winning role as a concert pianist into stand-up, or rather, sit-down comedy.
“Pairing anecdotes from the road with some of her favourite pieces by Chopin, Debussy, and Liszt, Sarah takes audiences deep inside the world of a classical musician as she shares her earnest efforts to keep her spirits up in the midst of troublesome times.”
She also reflects on her dating life and what it’s like to be a single woman on the road, she added with a laugh.
“That’s the first half, and then the second half is like a mini-recital where I share some of my favourite pieces.”
For Hagen, the concept for the show came out of a season of feeling fairly burned out. “I woke up one day and realized that I couldn’t face the stage anymore,” she said.
“So I cancelled all of my concerts, and then a few months later I got one of these coveted invitations from the Toronto Fringe Festival.”
It was a huge turning point. “I took the risk and did it, and I started basically to write the show onstage at the Festival,” she recalled. “So it’s about burnout, coming out of it, and rediscovering optimism. People relate well to it, especially after COVID. I’ve seen a huge shift in audiences, as everyone can now relate to burnout.”
Meanwhile, a passion for music was sparked pretty early for Hagen.
“I’m from a fairly big family — the youngest of five,” she said. “And the family rule was that you had to learn how to swim, and you had to learn how to play the piano.
“Apparently, I was really begging for lessons so I got to jump ahead and start lessons before my next older brother started his.”
She has been told she was also really young when she started playing tunes.
“I don’t remember that at all,” she added with a laugh. But the formal lessons kicked off when she was seven.
“We didn’t have a fancy grand piano. We had one of those big, old upright pianos from my grandmother’s house. They are so big, you can’t see anything over the top of them, and there is so much sound.
“So I think when you grow up in a big house with lots of kids, there’s this appeal to having this secret, sacred space where no one can bother you. I’m kind of convinced that that was it for me at the beginning. It was a way to be alone in a busy house.”
“I also found it so magical that you could read these mysterious symbols on a page, and then find it on the piano. That seemed miraculous to me,” she said.
It wasn’t long before the dream of being a professional musician began to gradually surface.
“I found an old report that I did when I was about nine years old, and I had written that my dream was to play at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, which hasn’t happened yet! So at nine, I had this idea, but I don’t know if I understood what that meant.”
Still, there were moments of doubt.
She recalls that even in her 20s, she would wonder if this was actually the road she should take.
But one day, she got a call to perform with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.
She thought it was a crank call.
”Then my former teacher called and he said I needed to return this call,” she laughed.
She began to realize that music has the power to really inspire people. And to do even more than that.
She played another concert and later received a letter from someone saying that hearing the music had helped to lift him out of a suicidal depression.
“I began to really realize the impact of live music.”
Again, for ticket information for Perk up, pianist, head to www.lacombepac.com or the Mary C. Moore Public Library.