Wendy Bross Stuart leads singers Lisa Milton, Kat Palmer and David Urist in the JSA program With a Song in My Heart, which takes place March 29 at the Peretz Centre. (photo from Wendy Bross Stuart)
This year’s Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver Spring Forum features a concert with music director and pianist Wendy Bross Stuart and singers Lisa Milton, Kat Palmer and David Urist. The program, called With a Song in My Heart, takes place March 29 at the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture.
“We are planning a program of Jewish-related songs all pertaining to our love of music,” Bross Stuart told the Independent. “‘With a Song in My Heart’ is a famous song by Rodgers and Hart (Jewish writers) from the 1929 musical Spring is Here. Very true that, by March 29, spring will indeed be here!
“We will include that song in our program as an ensemble piece,” she said. “We will have duets – in Yiddish – ‘Her Nor Du, Sheyn Meydele’ and ‘Vu Ahin Zol Ikh Geyn’; and many solos from Jewish-themed musicals, for example Rags, Milk and Honey, The Rothschilds and a song that was deleted from Fiddler on the Roof!”
Bross Stuart has contributed to more than a dozen seasons of Theatre Under the Stars, as conductor, music director and pianist, and has been music director and pianist for many other theatre companies, including the Arts Club, the Electric Company, Famous Artists, Touchstone Theatre, Presentation House and Snapshots Collective. She has composed numerous choral arrangements and recorded four CDs of Jewish music with soprano Claire Klein Osipov.
Of the ensemble that will join her on March 29, Bross Stuart said, “These three singers are very accomplished. They must have an opportunity to sing what inspires them, but which also fits into the theme of the program.”
She noted that Milton is Klein Osipov’s younger daughter. “She spent many years observing her mother’s performances and rehearsals. She knows all the arrangements I created for Claire – perfectly. When I accompany Lisa, it’s magic,” said Bross Stuart. “I see and hear Claire! What a delight!”
In addition to being an award-winning musician, Bross Stuart is an ethnomusicologist. She has written two books – Gambling Music of the Coast Salish Indians and, with John Enrico, Northern Haida Songs. She and her husband, Ron Stuart, collaborate in the making of documentary films shot in South Africa.
“Ron and I just returned from two-and-a-half months in Cape Town, where we started working on our eighth documentary there,” said Bross Stuart. “This one is called Gugulethu Warriors – Making Things Right! It’s a documentary based on the grassroots efforts of township residents to cope with the social issues of crime, safety, unemployment and community cohesion.”
The Stuarts established Cultural Odyssey Films, notes the website culturalodysseyfilms.com, “to provide a platform for the production and distribution of documentary films about contemporary cultural groups and individuals committed to social change.”
The Stuarts also formed WRS Productions, which has numerous producing credits, including the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s annual community commemoration of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Bross Stuart said that, while preparing for the JSA Spring Forum, she, Milton, Palmer and Urist are also working on the Yom Hashoah commemoration.
“After that,” she said, “I jump into rehearsals for Theatre Under the Stars’ upcoming production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Perry Ehrlich’s Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! – year 26!
Bross Stuart is a co-founder of the Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! musical theatre program, which is held at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver every summer. The deadline for youth to apply to this year’s sessions is April 1.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Bross Stuart recently adapted an indie pop song. “I just completed a new choral arrangement,” she said. “Of one of my daughter Jessica’s new songs. A first for me!” (The original “Simple Little Song” can be heard at jessicastuartmusic.com.)
As to why she is making the time to perform at the JSA forum, Bross Stuart said, “The JSA is run by a group of very talented, diligent, kind and caring individuals. They provide a wonderful service to the community, where we share with one another. It is my pleasure to contribute to this.”
With a Song in My Heart starts at 2 p.m. on March 29. Refreshments will be served and underground parking is available at the Peretz Centre – cars must enter the alley from 49th Avenue, as 45th is closed to traffic. The nominal cost of the event is $5. For more information and to register, call 604-732-1555 or email [email protected].