BWW Review: Stephanie Martin in Concert

BWW Review: Stephanie Martin in Concert

One of the last times I heard Toronto singer-songwriter Stephanie Martin in concert, she brought down the house performing before more than 2,000 people at Toronto's lavish and vast Elgin Theatre at the venue's 100th anniversary celebration. With her customary charisma, she performed a duet as Josephine ("I've long Gorgotten the Guy") from the Canadian musical "Napoleon," co-written by her husband, lyricist Andrew Sabiston with composer Timothy Williams.

It was a far different story last Friday as she charmed a capacity crowd of less than 50 people in the intimate and beautiful Musideum. Sounds strange, doesn't it? But that was indeed the evening's charm. Hearing her sing there, her first of two concerts, was a very special occasion, an early Christmas gift.

These were the bilingual former musical theatre star (Éponine in "LES MISERABLES in Canada and internationally) and now jazz/pop/rock artist's last two concerts of the year.

Friday night was at times retrospective and even sentimental, and at others "pedal to the metal" rock, you might even say gospel, as it was with her joyfully infectious original song "Walk in the Light." That's also the working title of her new CD she will record in the New Year. She previously recorded a version of it with noted director Diane Leah and the Choir of MCC Toronto for their CD "These Old Walls." It remains a favorite of mine, especially since you just want to cut loose and dance when you hear it. It's impossible to be sad listening to it - cheaper than anti-depressants!

What a wonderful evening it was, complete with spiked and plain egg nog "on the house" at intermission. The relaxing, intimate vibe was great as many in the small audience were Stephanie's friends, relatives and acquaintances.

Sensual, playful and above all classy, Martin radiates her love of music, flashing her beautiful smile throughout and performs energetically. She was accompanied by her very talented band of Eric St. Laurent on guitar, special guest Tom Szczesniak on bass and piano, percussionist and expectant father David MacDougall, led by the multi-talented pianist/bass guitarist Chad Irschick who produced her first CD "Shape, Line & Harmony."

She sat informally on a stool with a neon sculpture of a piano over her right shoulder. Its colors of blue, white and purple, gradually shifted as she sang original songs from her first CD such as "Box Canyon," "Come in From the Cold" and her radio single, also from the CD, "Looking for Love."

Two Yuletide highlights were Stephanie's beautiful renditions of Judy Garland's classic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from the film "Meet Me in St. Louis" and a personal favorite of hers, Mel Tormé's classic "The Christmas Song" made even more poignant when she sang the last verse in French. It added such beauty to a classic with which we thought we were familiar. It prompted her to reminisce about how much she loved Québec chanteuse Nicole Martin's (no relation) rendition. Bilingual Mel Tormé - who knew?

Martin's style of music, as she explains in the liner notes to her first CD, is inspired by the music of her youth including "the Motown Sound of the 1970s, the "blue-eyed soul" of singer-songwriters such as Carole King and James Taylor and "the great harmony work of bands out of California like The Eagles and Steely Dan." In addition to the work of various visual artists and photographers, Stephanie is particularly inspired by Joni Mitchell. Hearing Mitchell say once "I sing my sorrow and paint my joy" was the starting point, she wrote, for her own lyric and song "I Paint My Sorrow.'

While attending Stephanie's concert, I enjoyed Musideum's display of rare and exotic musical instruments collected by owner Donald Quan during his years travelling internationally as a musician, playing with such great artists as Loreena McKennitt and bands such as Lighthouse. During the day, it's a museum and certain instruments are for sale.

Musideum is located at 401 Richmond St. W., Suite 133, just east of the SE corner of Richmond St. W. and Spadina Ave. Visit www.musideum.com or call (416) 599-7323.

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From This Author Dennis Kucherawy

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