Gail was my roommate in college way back when. She always loved music and made everybody sing, including me. Here, you can see how she got Diane and me singing at a wedding.
She became a high school biology teacher and then gave that up to teach piano full time because music was her greater joy. She and her husband raised their children to love music and they all became accomplished musicians, actors and teachers.
Gail called me recently to invite us to a musical afternoon on Saturday. She, her daughters, Jenny, and Cari along with opera mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin have started a non-profit performing arts organization called Ohana Arts for the children of Hawaii.
Before the music began I just had to carry Gail's new, beautiful two week old granddaughter (her daughter, Kathy's baby). It felt so wonderful to carry that tiny sleepy baby.
Gail's daughter, Jenny introduced Laurie to the assembled audience and explained the Ohana Program.
Ohana Arts is a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to producing performing arts programs of the highest caliber in Hawaii.
New York-based musicians and Ohana Arts co-founders Laurie Rubin, mezzo-soprano and Jenny Taira, pianist/clarinetist are graduates of the Yale School of Music and have performed together nationally and internationally. Ms. Rubin has performed concerts with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and New York City Opera, and has given recitals at Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall in London, England, and the White House. Jenny Taira is an avid chamber musician, having co-founded the chamber music group, Musique à la Mode in NYC and having won top awards for her solo work. She has also performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, and the French Embassy in Washington D.C.
Laurie began her program with O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini. It's one of my favorite opera pieces and Laurie's performance was absolutely breath taking and flawless. It made me want to cry at the sheer beauty of the music.
Here's a YouTube clip so you can hear what she sounds like.
Laurie's voice is absolute magic and she is such a beautiful, warm person. And yes, people do tell her all the time that she looks like Barbra Streisand. You can't help but be drawn to her. Like my nephew, she is blind and has excelled in a very competitive, challenging field.
Art really loved You'll Never Walk Alone from Carousel and Memory from Cats. I was totally captivated with her Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
Here's a YouTube video of Laurie singing You Raise Me Up. (You'll have to raise the volume of your speakers because the sound is rather low.) She had to retire her guide dog, Mark last year and it was a difficult time for her. This song captures her sorrow and gratitude to her companion of seven and a half years. We were introduced to Popeye, her new poodle guide dog who was friskier (younger) than Mark.
Five minutes before she started the show I mentioned that I loved her rendition of the Josh Groban song on YouTube.
You can imagine my surprise when at the end of the show she sang You Raise Me Up for me as an encore.
Laurie and Jenny are doing these Living Room Concerts to introduce the community to their organization and to fund raise so they can create a place for the children of Hawaii to come and experience the joy of the performing arts.
With all their determination, talent and connections, I know they will be a success. Besides, if Gail could get me to sing on a stage, she and her family can do anything.
POSTSCRIPT: My daughter, Tiffany just wrote to say I should add the Ohanaarts website in case somebody would like to support them. I did put in the link but just in case, here it is again. email@example.com.