An award-winning classical pianist has taken the lens of laughter to her work.
Playing on March 3 at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre in Okotoks, Sarah Hagen’s Perk up, Pianist! incorporates her experiences — both good and bad — from touring on the road in a show rife with musician wit.
“I end up talking about my fantasy of a date with Beethoven,” she said. “Of all the types of music to have a life in, classical music is definitely the stiffest and has the least room for humour, and I think I just ended up revolting against it.”
While primarily a classic pianist, Hagen has always had a penchant for comedy.
“Growing up I watched a lot of Victor Borge and it just seemed like magic to be able to combine piano playing with laughter,” she said. “I started writing little comedic monologues and stories when I was young and kept pursuing laughter.”
Perk up, pianist! came about when Hagen began to burn out from classical performance.
“It’s something everyone relates to, not just performing artists, and especially through COVID a lot of people went through burnout,” she said. “We all feel expectation, this need to be perfect, to be ‘on’ for people.”
Rather than let it get the best of her, the musician makes light of her experiences.
“I’ve always been a fan of laughing at myself and I think that’s a really healthy way to approach things that are difficult,” Hagen said. “I share stories that happen to me on the road that are so ridiculous you either have to cry or you have to laugh.
"These are your options.”
The resultant show is a juxtaposition of comedy monologue and classics.
“In the first half of the show I talk about burnout and all the things that led to that and life on the road and bad dates,” Hagen said.
“The second half is more concert hybrid. I play music that brought me back to life and I talk about love and I talk about optimism and how it’s important to hold onto.”
Along with the tongue-in-cheek look at her craft, Hagen still delivers classical performances, something she said will always be there for her.
“Half of my life is doing this show and half of my life is playing classical,” she said. “It was important to me that there was still a classical music part of it.”
Despite the incorporation of bona fide classical work, the pianist insisted the performance will be accessible to any spectator.
“I was tired of people being so hoighty toighty, and I didn’t write it for them, I wrote it for everyone else,” Hagen said. “I wrote it in a way that I wanted people to feel welcome in classical music.
“This classical music is not so snobbish. This music is about life and love.”
Hagen was awarded Artist of the year by Ontario Contact in 2017 and the BC Touring Council in 2015, and mentioned as the Best Classical Performance of 2014 by The Guardian in Charlottetown.
The show is created, written and performed by Sarah Hagen, with original compositions, and directed by Rick Roberts.
For more information visit the Okotoks.ca events calendar or showpass.com/sarah-hagen-perk-up-pianist.
For more information about Hagen and her other work, visit sarahhagen.com or most major streaming platforms.
The show is scheduled for 7:30-10:00 p.m. at the RPAC with doors open at 7. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.