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Voices Three concert raises funds for hospice

Old sayings usually hang around for a long time for a good reason – there’s some profound wisdom in them.

Old sayings usually hang around for a long time for a good reason – there’s some profound wisdom in them.

For example, let’s say I’m just about to write that Voices Three is greater than the sum of its parts.

That’s not to say Helen Austin, Sue Pyper and Judy Wing are slouches when they’re apart.

Pyper is an award-winning songwriter from London, England, whose debut CD Before You Learn to Fly earned attention on both sides of the Atlantic. She earned best-song honours (notice the u, Sue?) at the Mpower Independent Music Awards in 2003.

Austin, another Brit expatriate, is a former headlining comedian who’s reinvented herself as a singer/songwriter. After implausibly cloistering herself and writing a song per week for a year, which was culled for her CD Song of the Week, Austin released her second album, Treehouse.

Like the other two, Wing sings wonderfully, writes terrific songs and shares her generous heart with her husband Bruce. They host the 1st Tuesday fundraisers at the Mex Pub and co-host the weekly Backstreet Jam in Royston, which I have to get to some Sunday evening.

Judy is not British like Sue and Helen, but she has a great sense of humour like them.

The songs, the singing, the playing, the laughter and the interaction with the audience made a recent Voices Three gig at the Sid Williams Theatre just like a big jeezley house concert.

Or maybe a celebratory family gathering with lots of music and a splash of refreshments — except Uncle Ernie doesn’t pass out in the bathroom with the door locked and there’s no squabbling.

One Voice by Winnipeg singer/songwriter Ruth Moody (who played recently at Joe’s Garage) was a 10-out-of-10 perfect choice to open. Moody wrote the tune for the three-women Wailin’ Jennys before she went solo.

One voice starts, another joins and before you know it, three women are singing in perfect harmony. Voices Three did it every bit as well as the Jennys.

After the opening tune, the Voices Three trio had a hand in writing 17 of the remaining songs in a wonderfully low-key evening.

Heart With No Companion by Leonard Cohen made an appearance, as did a poignant Nanci Griffith tune called Love at the Five and Dime as well as two striking songs by Kate Rusby, a talented tunesmith from Yorkshire.

The remaining songs by Austin, Pyper and the Wing were by turns serious and anything but.

My biggest guffaw of 2011 so far came during a song called Something in the Water. Pyper’s strong voice recounted the story of a big rig loaded with Viagra that wiped out near the end of its journey, spilling its precious cargo into a nearby town’s public water supply. Hilarity ensues, sort of like a Voices Three concert.

Besides the female frontliners playing at least two instruments apiece, Bruce Wing (guitar and an odd five-stringed bass), Trent Freeman (fiddle and mandolin) and Jim Stepan (percussion) provided empathetic support.

As if the evening wasn’t noteworthy enough, Mayor Paul Ives reported during the intermission that Hugh MacKinnon had won the Comox byelection.

And, I must not forget to mention the most important part — the concert raised more than $5,000 for the Comox Valley Hospice Society (CVHS). That’s in line with three previous concerts, raising the total donated to the hospice society by the trio to almost $20,000, Pyper says proudly.

With generous hearts like these in the Comox Valley, how much longer can it be before the CVHS realizes the dream of having its own building to ease the suffering of the dying?

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 24 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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