Wednesday, April 10, 2013
He loves accompanying singers By MARGARET SPEIRS MARGARET SPEIRS PHOTO
JOSE COOSEMANS enjoys accompanying singers on the piano at the music festival and helping them to achieve their goals.
ONE MAN, who has taken part in nearly 40 music festivals here, may not be noticed by spectators even though he’s been on stage all of those times. Jose Coosemans has been one of the accompanists for soloists, choirs and school groups at the Pacific Northwest Music Festival in at least 36 festivals of his 40 years living here. “Because it feels good to help people achieve their goals. That’s what I find and just for the sake of the music too,” said Coosemans about why he enjoys doing it. He taught piano for many years and is semiretired now. It varies from year to year for how many singers and groups ask him to be their accompanist; sometimes he may play up to 100 times at the festival, he said. He also plays for music students taking exams and at recitals too. This year at music festival, he’s doing a lot of chorale and music theatre; the latter of which is challenging, he said. “You really need to keep your eyes and ears open because there’s actions involved and it’s not easy to play for little kids on stage because their voices disappear,” he said, adding he likes playing for all types of music. “It’s hard because you’re so far away from them on the side of the stage.” He does play for the same people from year to year but then they grow up and move on. “And that’s always the sad part,” he added. Music teachers recommend him to their students for accompaniment. “It’s really hard to be the teacher, voice teacher
and accompany at the same time,” he said of why the teachers don’t do it themselves. About 38 years ago, he remembers playing for Rachel Reay here and then also for her when she went to provincials in Victoria, he said. “I remember that being a time I really felt this is what I wanted to do,” he said about accompanying singers on the piano. As far as highlights, he said in his many years, there have been many students and he didn’t want to name names but did say he had played for a couple of singers from here who have become wellknown, such as Ellie Higginson, a lyrical soprano, who sang here, spent a year in Germany with an opera company and has taken a teaching job in Victoria, and opera singer Ambur Braid. “I really love accompanying people,” he said. “To me, I never wanted to be a solo performer, It used to get me really nervous. But when someone you coach and mentor and help, is successful, it gives me a lot of satisfaction. I look forward to this time of year.” He says over the years he’s learned from the vocal, instrumental, chorale and band adjudicators at the festival. Adjudicators will say things that students have heard from their teachers, but students often need to hear it from someone with authority to actually listen to it, he said. Music develops the mind, is a way to connect with people and is important for the well-being of the community, he said. It’s part of brain development and even though people talk about talent, it’s all work ultimately, he said. Plus it’s fun. “People ask what I do for work. I say ‘I play.’ I don’t call it work because it’s what I like to do.”
Renovations target ‘heart’ of centre THE HAPPY Gang Centre kitchen is being renovated thanks in part to a $20,000 donation from local lottery millionaire Bob Erb. Its last day of serving lunch is this Friday and renovations are scheduled to take a week, says Happy Gang Centre kitchen project coordinator Susan Broughton. “The only things that are staying are the grill, the stove and the fridge. The rest is a total gut,” she said. That means new cupboards, a dishwasher that will be rented, new counters and a new and more efficient tea and coffee serving area right outside of the kitchen. Most important will be the installation of a tray rail system so that people with mobility or other issues won’t have to cope with balancing food trays as food is placed on them. “Some of the people have walkers and some are in wheelchairs,” added Broughton. The 40 volunteers who share kitchen duty will also have a rented dishwasher of the kind that dish and cutlery trays can be slid in one side and out the other. “It’ll make for easier and more ef-
ficient handling,” said Broughton. The centre opted to rent a dishwasher so that it can keep up to date with newer models requiring less maintenance and upkeep. Broughton, who is acting as the go-between between contractor Progressive Ventures and the Happy Gang Centre membership, said it was important to include the volunteers in the renovations planning. “They were able to make changes that fit their needs. This is a renovation project right down to the colours,” she said. “This project is important to all of us. The kitchen is the heart of the centre. It makes the money to keep the bills paid. Without the centre, your average person will be sitting and looking at four walls.” Other than replacing flooring and dishwashers when required, Broughton believes this is the first major kitchen project to be undertaken since the centre opened 33 years ago. The last major project at the Happy Gang Centre was the installation two years ago of an elevator, making it easier to use the downstairs for recreational activities.
MARGARET SPEIRS PHOTO
HAPPY GANG Centre kitchen volunteers will soon have a new dishwasher, cupboards and island. That will make the work easier for the 40 volunteers including, from left, Ann Evans, Lisa Zorn, Rita Hensman and J.P. Bourgoin.
Published on Apr 10, 2013