After six seasons of Mattina Musica

Farewell to Sarah Hagen


Mark Allan

Special to The Record


Sarah Hagen is scaling back. And branching out.

The popular and acclaimed classical pianist from the Comox Valley is stepping back from a demanding tour schedule.

Six seasons of Mattina Musica (Morning Music) concerts will end April 18 at the Sid Williams Theatre as the finale of the 2015 – 2016 Blue Circle Series.

“I actually decided to take next season almost entirely off from performing,” the BC Touring Council’s 2015 Touring Artist of the Year says in an interview.

“I’m playing a handful of concerts up north including Burns Lake and Whitehorse, one concert in Nanaimo,” continues Hagen, sounding like she almost doesn’t believe what she’s saying.

“I tour incessantly. If you look at my website, it’s crazy. I love touring, but if you’re always on the road, you don’t have much time to methodically and calmly create.

“I just felt like I needed time to do that.”

Hagen, daughter of the late Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen and local historian Judy Hagen, has accomplished much as a musician.

As a first-prize winner in the 2013 Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, she earned the right to perform solo at New York City’s storied Carnegie Hall in May 2013.

Her live performances received rave reviews and her debut solo album, Glass House Dancing, was nominated for Classical Recording of the Year at the 2009 Western Canadian Music Awards. She released her second album, Devoted: Music of Robert & Clara Schumann, in December 2013.

As curator and host, she has performed in many concert series in B.C. and Alberta, including Mattina Musica, sharing stages with artists from around the world, and filling a void.

“I saw the need for concerts in the Comox Valley that were in the daytime.”

Of all her Mattina Musica memories, Hagen’s performance with the Bergmann Duo (husband-and-wife pianists Marcel and Elizabeth Bergmann) stands out.

“It built up all the way from a one-hand piece all the way up to six hands. That’s my favourite program of all time, just the fun of it.

“I think we were also surprised when we put the program together how serious it ended up being … you think it’s going to be a total circus, but the music was so beautiful.”

During his Mattina Musica performance a couple of seasons ago, Butterfield reminisced about performing at a Miss Comox Valley pageant in the early 1980s.

“It was so funny to hear him tell this story,” Hagen recalled. “He remembered the old wallpaper at the Sid Williams Theatre.”

Those familiar with Hagen’s irrepressible sense of humour (such as donning a bee costume for a Flight of the Bumblebee encore) might not be totally surprised to hear of a potential new career path.

“I just found out I won a spot in the lottery for the Toronto Fringe Festival, which is very cool. There’s no audition for that; it’s just luck of the draw. I knew I was first on the waitlist but I had kind of forgotten about it.”

Someone dropped out, and suddenly Hagen was in.

“That will be a 45-minute, one-woman show. There will be piano in it.

“I can see that I want to go more into theatre. I had made this decision to take some time out and then I got this call from Toronto Fringe, and I feel like it’s a sign.”

Hagen debuted doing standup comedy March 16 in Duncan during the annual I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff fundraiser for the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society.


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