If Beatriz Boizan had it her way, she would become the Beyonce or Madonna of the classical piano world.
The Cuban-Canadian pianist has the charm and vibrant personality of a mega-superstar and her musicality isn’t too shabby either.
“You always hear people saying they think classical music is boring and I have this dream of touching the hearts of millions of people around the planet. My biggest satisfaction is when I get skeptical people coming to a concert and they leave excited thinking classical is something they enjoy, need and makes them happy,” she said. “I understand classical musicians are not rock stars like Madonna or Beyonce. Could you imagine me on a big stage with a grand piano like that? I guess it is possible, and that is what it is all about: people thinking outside the box who have an idea that it could be possible.”
Born into a musical family in Baracoa, Cuba, Boizan began studying piano with her grandmother, Esclarecida Guilarte. An honours graduate from the National School of Music in Havana, Boizan continued her music studies in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia, getting her masters in music degree at the University of Alberta. Boizan said she has only returned to Cuba once because it brings up difficult memories since her mother passed away when she was just 13.
“Now that I am away from Cuba, the music that comes from there has more meaning. When I left, I hated Cuban music, but I think Canadians were the ones to push me to play it again,” she said. “It means so much more now to play from this perspective.”
Boizan’s grandmother and great-grandmother lived long lives and they were able to share with her some of the most interesting and turbulent times for the small country.
“I heard all this history that was passed through them because they saw Cuba in 1910 up until the 1960s and so on. How music was back in those days. You can read it in a book but it is more interesting to hear the direct stories. My grandmother would travel all the way from Baracoa to Havana to hear these concerts. All of these classical musicians from North America and other places would come and play there in the 50s, it is fascinating,” she said.
While she loves to tell the crowd a little story about each of the pieces she performs, Boizan is excited to play on a piece of history herself using the 103-year-old Bechstein piano that was recently donated to the Shatford Centre.
“It is a delightful instrument, light and bright. I don’t even feel like I am working,” she said. “It sounds beautiful with the combination of the acoustics in the Shatford Centre.”
Boizan will be touching on her range of graceful Baroque sonatas by Soler and Scarlatti to the rhythmically percussive compositions from Spain and Latin America along with the lyrical romantic works from the European standard piano repertoire. As well she will play music from her debut CD Pasion, which features 17 solo pieces.
Saturday’s concert is a fundraiser for Pathways Addictions Resource Centre in Penticton. They promote the well-being of people affected by, or at risk of developing alcohol and drug-related problems. The concert will also hold special meaning for Boizan who is dedicating a song to her friend, Andrea Crouch, who was in a tragic accident in Vancouver.
Crouch died in a freak accident when her car slipped out of gear knocked her over and trapped her underneath.
Boizan become friends with the woman when she first moved to Canada and attended Vancouver Community College. Still trying to get a grasp for English, Crouch would share notes with Boizan.
“I wanted to make sure I would dedicate a piece to her. I’m going to be playing my favourite Cuban composer Cervantes. It is really beautiful music and it is called The Charming One, talking about a charming lady. She was very bubbly and charming,” said Boizan.
Boizan plays at the Shatford Centre on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Her CD will also be available for purchase at the concert.