Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Vancouver Adapted Music Society's 25th Anniversary Concert, Nov. 30, 2013

Vancouver, one of the country's centres for research on spinal cord injuries, had two celebrations this November.  ICORD celebrated its 5th anniversary at the Blusson Centre, and VAMS (the Vancouver Adapted Music Society) held a concert in honour of its 25th anniversary.

VAMS was established so that musicians with spinal cord injuries could relearn/learn musical skills.  The "adapted" aspect of the project involves the clever ways musicians and technicians make it possible for disabled people to perform music once again.  The therapeutic value surely must be great--even I find weekly choir rehearsals to be fantastic therapy.  Professionals willingly donate time and talent to working with their friends, sometimes for years.

The concert was held in the Fei & Milton Wong Theatre at SFU (Simon Fraser University) in their Woodward location downtown.  There were ten sets, each staring different performers and being prefaced by a brief video introducing the musicians.  (I should confess that this was my very first rock concert.  The volume of sound was about right when I removed my hearing aids.)

I believe VAMS started with the ensemble Spinal Chord, a quartet of musicians, two of whom have had to use wheelchairs after suffering serious spinal cord injuries (often during a sporting accident).  The gentleman on the left is Sam Sullivan, former Mayor of the City of Vancouver.   I believe a skying accident partially paralyzed him in his late teens.  His pre-injury interests in music were continued post-injury, eventually leading to the formation of VAMS.  His Spinal Chord ensemble disbanded when he entered politics, but they held a reunion to perform once again, after some 25 years, at this celebratory concert.

In the next photo, Richard Quan is seen playing electric guitar.  He had been a virtuoso teenage guitar player, but when he became disabled, he had to figure out how to play it all over again.  He has managed to overcome limited finger control and the impossibility of holding the instrument in the customary fashion.  His ear is uncanny.

The recording vocalist, Joe Coughlin sings classic jazz just wonderfully.  He was accompanied by four pros.  My favourite was the bass player.

The programme brochure said that Gerry "Burner" Burns is also competitive in the world of disabled sailing.  When he came out on stage, he somehow managed to do a 'wheely', roaring out on his motorized wheelchair and then going on just two large wheels.  Great entrance--and I was too stunned to shoot it!

Their song had the refrain, "That's what she said!"  I loved the way the keyboardist joined in with his whole heart.  By the way, his sweater looks like a Cowachin, which is one of the warmest sweaters available in Canada, made by the Cowichan people on the SE part of Vancouver Island.  These First Nations artists combined their ancestral Salish ways of spinning and weaving with what they learned from European settlers.

Rolf Kempf, guitarist-vocalist-harmonica player, has to walk most gingerly as he negotiates with two arm crutches.  He is such a talented musician.

Some rap music was included, with words flying by faster than my hearing aids can comprehend (let alone my brain).  I believe this is Greg "Spokes" Labine with his lyrics writer (standing), Kyprios.

Being a fan of choral singing, I enjoyed hearing this little choir practice in the afternoon and then perform in the concert with backup instrumentalists and vocalists.

Finally, the Grand Finale, "Hello, Hurray" with everybody joining in while Rolf Kempf led the vocals.

You can see about 130 photos of this event on my flickr site: