The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presents Sarah Slean in Kelowna April 7 and Vernon April 8. (Ivan Otis photography)

Sarah Slean wins over Okanagan with OSO

Slean gave an inspiring two-hour performance in Kelowna April 7, Vernon April 8

She may never be a pop star, her name on everyone’s lips and record on everyone’s shelf, but she’s OK with that.

For her, music is about the artistry, the message and the beauty.

That was one of the many messages Sarah Slean offered to a bustling Vernon audience as she rocked the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Stage alongside the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra Sunday night.

“I like to write songs about the meaning of it all. That’s why I’m not Katy Perry, folks, and I’m 100 per cent OK with that,” the modern-Renaissance woman laughed. “If you know anything about me, you know I like to think about the universe and the ‘G-word,’ which is why I’m not a pop star and why you’ve probably never heard of me. But I’m here now, so all is forgiven.”

Clad in an elegant golden dress, Slean took the keys — which she dubbed as possibly the most exquisite instrument she has ever played — as the OSO added a palpable body to Slean’s impressive repertoire.

Under the baton of maestra Rosemary Thomson, the symphony steamed ahead like a well-oiled train for a performance devoid of sharp, unrefined edges.

“Vernon, it’s my first time here. I love this piano. I love this room. I’m coming back,” Slean said in her classic smooth and well-spoken banter.

With Slean under the primary spotlight and watchful eyes of a captivated Vernon audience, the program focused on Slean’s numbers and weaved in work from the likes of Dimitri Kabalevsky, Giuseppe Verdi and a dark and moody number, I Dreamed a Dream, from Les Misérables — a production Slean was enamoured with at a young age.

However, perhaps the most explosive number came in the form of the classic Cabaret ditty, Mein Herr.

Concertmaster Rachel Kristenson kicked off the track before Slean swept in with her signature pure vocal performance. After Kristenson’s violin solo, Thomson acted as the bellows, sparking the OSO fire to life and adding a warmth to the undefinable flame that is Slean.

The second half of the performance saw Slean clad in an equally beautiful strapless and flowing burgundy dress.

“That’s right, second-half costume change,” Slean laughed as she sauntered in barefooted.

At the start of the performance, Slean said she doesn’t delve into traditional pop topics. In the second half, however, Slean introduced the audience to A Thousand Butterflies.

The classic pop theme of love is felt throughout the number, but it’s delivered in a way that is undeniably Sarah Slean.

And, while some members of the audience may not have known her when the lights dimmed at 7 p.m., everyone loved her when she bowed to a full standing ovation at 9 p.m.

It was a delightful Slean-filled evening that earned the three-time Juno nominee an array of new fans and a bouquet of flowers brought to her by her new No. 1 fan, an adorable girl, in a theatre full of smiling faces.

Related: OSO tackles two performances in one weekend


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