(See “Articles” and “Listener Comments” below.)
“Lewis is a hugely gifted singer… but more importantly, a born communicator.”
– The Montreal Gazette
“In her hometown of Montreal, Barbara Lewis is praised as a fine singer with a four-octave range — and a commanding communicator.”
– London Free Press, Ontario
“A quintessential musician…Barbara’s music has a very beneficial effect… feeding our inner hungers.”
– All Turnatives Magazine, California
“Wow! Commanding performance by Barbara Lewis. Enthusiastic crowd in awe of tremendous range.”
Barbara Taylor (London Free Press)
“Lewis has the big voice, she drew a spellbinding sense of rapture.”
– The Chronicle, Halifax
“This beautiful exotic sound matrix accentuates a great voice and visionary lyrics.”
– Harry Williams, MP3.com.
“Hara’s Quest is a beautifully conceived, ambitious work that stretches the boundaries of the New Age tradition with its originality and maturity.”
– New Life Magazine, New York City
“Freedom, love, dreams – they may be lofty ideas, but singer/songwriter, Barbara Lewis uses them as inspiration to produce concrete results. She has managed to turn her passion for music and exploring new possibilities into an international career.”
– Canadian Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
“Barbara is a woman with a special voice… and her recordings are made with a strong personal touch. On her latest CD (Hara’s Quest), 11 songs describe a …deep and fantastic journey…Great energy… special sensitivity and emotional rhythm.”
– M. Montes – Amazings Reviews
“Two women who have operatic backgrounds and now offer albums that are both romantic and metaphysical are Sarah Brightman and Barbara Lewis. Lewis, who writes her own material, has performed on stage in shows such as Book of Dreams. (Her CD), Hara’s Quest tells the story of a woman who searches for her true home and on her way meets spirits, dolphins, ET’s and others as she visits both past and future cities. Quite a journey carried by a powerful voice.”
– Aquarius, Atlanta
“Music is Barbara Lewis’s life and she’s got the opera chops to belt it through Club Lambi, down the stairs and into the bustle of St-Laurent. The seasoned performer is heartfelt, sharing tidbits about her youth, living through 9/11 and the loss of her soulmate. The most fun is when she’s a New York agent who proffers a star machine makeover. Crossroads works best, however, when Lewis’s training doesn’t get in the way, letting her drop it down and be natural.”
– Janis Kirshner, The Montreal Mirror
“There is something about Barbara Lewis’s music that immediately touches you and pulls you into its world. It’s not explained only by the fact that her voice is hauntingly beautiful, or that the harmonies and poetry are intimate and lyrical. As she describes her journey and her experiences, it is clear that the power of the music lies in the courage it took to write it and in the daring to produce absolutely authentic work – the driving force behind all art.”
– Kristine Berey, Senior Times
“What’s inspiring about this musical diary is that we see freedom achieved in a 50-minute telling and we go out feeling equally liberated, having gone through a catharsis of our own emotions.”
– Heather Solomon, The Canadian Jewish News
“Of the ‘Fringe For all’ snippets…I saw many which rose above the rest…(including) Crossroads – An Astonishing Musical Journey”
– Gaetan Charlebois, The Gazettee
BARBARA LEWIS CELEBRATES CANADA
By Tracey Arial (Freelance Journalist, Montreal)
MONTREAL – It’s never good to arrive late for a musical performance, but coming in the middle of “My Canada,” the latest show by Montreal singer songwriter Barbara Lewis, was particularly uncomfortable. I somehow felt left out of a pure shared emotion in the room.
“You’ve just missed the best part,” said my seatmate Eric Clark, as I sat down at Montreal’s University Club. “She’s extraordinary.”
My discomfort subsided as the next song began. Within three songs my mood was shifting in time with that of the rest of the audience. Everyone laughed and clapped to her rendition of a fun Stompin’ Tom Connors song. Five minutes later, we all had tears in our eyes listening to Lullaby, a song of healing dedicated to Lewis’ brother who committed suicide.
By the time Lewis began Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, I was as hooked as everyone else. Lewis’ operatic rendition of Mitchell’s classic brings out unusual qualities in the song, which you can hear on her website at http://www.barbaralewis.com/blog/both-sides-now/.
Lewis designed “My Canada, Singing the Soul of a Country” to follow her personal train ride from Vancouver to Montreal as a 20-year-old. During her performance, she explained why she’s chosen each Canadian classic. She included stories that are so personal and heart-felt, I couldn’t help but think about all the important moments in my own life as I listened. From Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, I felt everything that’s good and bad about our diverse extraordinary country.
Lewis’ ability to share her personal successes and disappointments with the audience as she sang made the show more like a hero’s odyssey than a musical performance. She described the repertoire as a sort of “coming home” for her.
For most of her career, Lewis performed her own music. However, she put her music career on hold after her husband died in 2004. Several years later, she began singing again, except now she interprets the work of others. For her latest tour, she’s decided to rediscover her country and herself. Luckily for us, she’s taking audiences across the country on her voyage with her.
Her two-year long journey of discovery with some the best songs by Canada’s most popular songwriters is bound to get better as it goes along. As she tours she plans to incorporate the stories and sentiments she hears along the way.
Her tour is already great. Like Rufus Wainwright, K.D. Lang and Jennifer Warren, Lewis’ versions of popular classics will attract new audiences. Her performances of Both Sides Now and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah were particular crowd favourites during her launch at the University Club. Tunes by Burton Cummings, Gordon Lightfoot, Jane Siberry, Claude Dubois, Buffy St. Marie, Luc Plamondon and Ruth Lowe were also on the repertoire.
“That show could have played in New York and wouldn’t have been out of place,” said Clark, after Lewis’ encore. “She’s an extraordinary talent.” Lewis plans to finish her cross-country tour with a performance celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, 2017. Anyone who wants to enjoy new versions of Canadian favourites should join her.
The Montreal Gazette – by Kathryn Greenaway
Barbara Lewis is a classically trained singer on a quest. She is forever searching for a deeper understanding of her past and of her destiny. Over the years she has expanded her operatic vocals to embrace the texture of world music, the meditative quality of new-age music and the highly creative improvisational quality of jazz.
And now after two years of work with husband Nicholas Regush she presents the latest chapter in her journey of discovery. Hara’s Quest, a Cutting Edge Productions, is at the Geordie Space this weekend.
Lewis wrote the music and lyrics and Regush wrote the narrative Lewis uses to tie the story together. She is accompanied onstage by five musicians, backup singers Beverley McGuire and Beth Katz and dancer Marija Scekic.
“In this madcap world we have lost the ability to wonder and remain curious,” Lewis said recently. “This show is about a willingness to pursue a dream to understand more about life.”
Hara, the story’s heroine, is searching for the meaning of a reoccurring dream. In the dream, Hara visits a mysterious island, which she believes to be her true home. And so Hara embarks on a search and discover adventure during which she encounters friendly spirits, demons and dolphins.
The story is inspired by an actual incident. During a Florida vacation, Lewis and Regush were searching for shells along a beach one evening when they spotted a great blue heron staring intently out to sea. Joining in the stare, they focused on a pod of dolphins floating quietly close to shore and realized the animals were staring right back at them. Time froze.
“It seemed they (the dolphins) were as curious about us as us about them,” Lewis said. “It was a meeting of the ancient past and future.”
Lewis’s songs have a decided new age feel to them. She is particularly drawn to the soothing qualities of the musical style. One of the healing songs included in the show’s repertoire is Lullaby, written by Lewis following the suicide of her brother two years ago.”I wrote it for him and for myself to help the healing process after his death,” she said. “It’s a song that seems to speak to everybody who wants to let go of the things that hurt and move on.”She believes there is an audience out there for her brand of musical journey and denouement.”In the end, Hara understands the meaning of her dream – it’s a surprise ending.” Lewis said.Lewis teaches voice part-time at Concordia University and gives voice workshops and seminars through her company, Cutting Edge Productions. In 1993 Lewis performed her one-woman experimental show Book of Dreams off-Broadway in New York City. The following year the show’s music was released on compact disc.A CD of Hara’s Quest is in the works and a Canadian tour of the show is also in the planning stages.
New Life Magazine, NYC
The songs on this imaginative CD are all like threads that weave together to form a story of fantasy and spiritual discovery. To tell the story, Barbara Lewis sings these songs in the persona of an imaginary character named Hara, who lives 26 years into the future.
In the opening song, entitled Journey Home, Hara tells of a recurring dream she has of an enchanted island she believes to be her true spiritual home. She acts upon this belief and searches for the island. The ensuing songs chart her journey. She sails on a ship past ruins of cities all over the world into the unknown. Along the way, she comes upon an extra-terrestrial who expands her visionary powers, demons who try to seduce her into relinquishing her freedom in exchange for the fulfillment of her desires, and magical dolphins who guide her through enchanted waters to ancient times. Eventually, Hara attains her goal of the quest, and in doing so gains insight, joy and fulfillment.
Lewis’s songs are well-crafted, blending elements of new age, folk, classical, jazz and World music. She uses her classically-trained soprano voice artfully to give them depth and nuance. The musical arrangements are superb, and the musicians and backup singers perform them with gusto and skill. Hara’s Quest is a beautifully conceived, ambitious work that stretches the boundaries of the New Age tradition with its originality and maturity.
Re: My Canada – Singing the Soul of a Country (Launch performance, April 6, 2016)
“Noel Coward was so enchanted…and envious; enchanted with the performance of Barbara Lewis, envious that she belongs to the University Club of Montreal. Last night’s performance was worthy of the Carlyle. No member should have missed it. Hopefully she will do it again. Until then, in the words of one of her songs, “I’ll never smile again, until…..” – Eric Clark