Pride Festivities Include June 22 Concert

In entertainment, Local, Upcoming Events

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
With great delight at being part of Pride celebrations in Northumberland, chanteuse Adi Braun comes to Cobourg’s Victoria Hall Concert Hall June 22 for her own contribution to the festivities, a show called Adi Braun – Night and Day: The Cole Porter Songbook.

Along with all 10 tracks from her new CD Night and Day (the Cole Porter Songbook), her concert will include music from what might be considered an “and friends” contingent – Noel Coward and Kurt Weill.

“It’s so great that there is a Pride Northumberland,” Braun said in a telephone interview from Toronto (where, with Jean Stillwell, she co-hosts the Classical Mornings show on 103.1 FM).

Braun has been a regular Cobourg visitor for 20 years, staying once or twice each year at the Lake Ontario shore on retreat with the Sisters of St. Joseph.

“We know all the little restaurants and cafes,” she said.

While Braun is proudly gay, in a long-term relationship with her wife Linda Ippolito (whom she noted is a lawyer and classical pianist), the successful and fully open life they lead was not possible in the era of the musical icons her concert will salute.

One is apt to hear the term “closeted” when Coward and Cole are discussed, though Braun believes that reference (and the term “out”) are relatively new ones that didn’t exist at the time.

Nevertheless, they established their careers at a time when being gay could have ruined them.

Porter became a timeless composer and songwriter, and his personal life was saved from scandal by his marriage to a well-to-do widow with whom he had a sort of understanding.

“She knew of his proclivities – they were actually best of friends,” Braun said.

“They attended many parties together happily. If they got ill, they were by each other’s side. I find that totally a lovely aspect of his life.”

Coward, a playwright and author as well as a songwriter, was a friend of Porter’s. A closeted gay man from England, his songs often had a sarcastic edge (like the hysterical Why Do The Wrong People Travel) and include such classics as Mad About The Boy (which has been covered by many artists).

The third featured artist, composer Kurt Weill (whose best-known songs were probably Speak Low and Mack The Knife), was not gay but had other challenges as a Jewish man in Germany. He was forced to flee to New York. He is a favourite of Braun’s.

Braun’s own bio begins in Toronto, though she grew up in Europe in a musical family, later training classically at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto Faculty of Music.

Her singing career has included performances around the world, with orchestras as well as in operas and operettas. The music that speaks to her most is what she calls cabarazz, drawing on elements of both cabaret and jazz.

She has always loved Cole Porter for several reasons, one of which is that he wrote both music and lyrics.

“He was really, really in touch with the human condition, in touch with the gamut of human emotions – vulnerable, passionate, sensual to flamboyant. Some of the songs had a political edge, but many of the ballads were risque,” she said.

Consider the lyrics to his timeless I’ve Got You Under My Skin, she pointed out – it might well have come off as quite outrageous at the time.

“He is unparalleled in the ingenuity of his songs, the way they are evocative and sensuous. I am really drawn to that part of the songs – they really go deep into feelings.”

Braun noted that Porter’s lifetime spanned two very different eras.

“The ’20s were very liberal. Alcohol was not a problem, sexuality was not that much of a problem,” she explained.

Then the Depression hit, and war loomed (and eventually broke out). People grew conservative in their outlook. Black entertainer Josephine Baker, who had no hope of success in the US, moved to Europe and had a wildly successful career as an entertainer.

But Porter found his own way forward, producing standards that shine in the many ways they have been covered by various artists, including jazz treatments that have made these songs part of what she called the Great American Songbook. And the fact that it’s almost a century since some of them were written is significant.

“Not only are the lyrics timeless, but the music is timeless in my opinion. They’ve been done in all different styles, from opera singers to rappers and pop artists. Everyone is drawn to something in them.”

Her new CD is her sixth one, but the first on a major label – the Alma label. She will bring along a supply to her concert for sale on-site.

“This is like a dream come true,” she said.

“All the tracks were arranged for orchestra by Don Breithaupt. He will be coming to play for me. He also scored it for orchestra.

“I was supposed to premier this with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony last November.”

The symphony being forced to file for bankruptcy scuttled these plans, but Braun looks forward to performing this with the Rose Orchestra in Brampton next February.

“The CD has beautiful arrangements, which will sound even greater with a 60-piece orchestra,” she said.

The concert comes at a time when, all across Northumberland County, municipal offices are flying the Pride flag. Most of its communities are also planning Pride events throughout the month of June, including a Pride Prom in Cobourg, a Cirque de Slay Youth Pride event in Port Hope, Drag Bingo in Warkworth, a Pride Festival in Campbellford, and even the grand opening of a Home Rainbow Youth Centre in Brighton

“I am a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. I have been with my wife for 35 years,” Braun stated.

These have been smooth, comfortable years for them. She has even entertained the thought that, for the most part, people almost don’t bat an eye any more. Then once in a while something happens, like the incident during her radio work.

“Once or twice I mentioned my wife on the air, and I actually got a very, very homophobic letter that actually took my breath away – in a bad way,” she recalls.

“This kind of vitriol and negativity still exists.”

Events like Pride Northumberland are a force for counteracting this kind of prejudice, and Braun is looking forward to the concert.

“I am so psyched,” she said.

“We are staying with friends overnight, and we are thrilled and honoured to come to this beautiful town.”

The 7 p.m. concert is sponsored by Schmidt Law, a firm that is also a proud supporter of Northumberland Pride. Tickets are available on the Concert Hall website (905-372-2210) and through Experience Cobourg.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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