- Voices in the Park: A Concert to Benefit the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. Artists performing: Sarah McLachlan, Bryan Adams, Stevie Nicks, Hedley, Jann Arden, Chin Injeti, The Boom Booms, Hey Ocean! and Whitehorse with a special guest appearance by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Brockton Fields at Stanley Park, Saturday, Sept.15 from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. For more details visit www.voicesinthepark.com.
SARAH McLachlan is wearing a lot of hats these days.
In the lead-up to her benefit concert Voices in the Park, the popular Canadian singer is hands-on with various last-minute details: finishing touches on the venue, preparing for the impressive roster of arriving artists, and much more.
"There are so many balls up in the air, so many moving parts, so many things coming together," she notes.
Just three days before the show in Stanley Park, McLachlan sounds cheery on the phone. When asked how involved she has been with the production of the event, she answers with a laugh: "Quite."
She adds: "I think that maybe next time I'll back off a little bit because I tend to get in there and start to micro-manage or get too involved in the details, and I don't really need to know the details because I've got great people taking care of that. But that being said, I want everything to go perfectly, so I'm asking lots of questions all the time."
However, after years at the helm of the popular Lilith Fair music festivals that toured to great success in the 1990s, McLachlan is no rookie when it comes to putting on this type of show.
"Having been a part of those for so many years I certainly know how it works. I know how to make artists happy and I know how a show should run so, yeah, that's been a great help," she says.
Voices in the Park is a benefit concert for the Sarah McLachlan School of Music in Vancouver, which offers free music education for children in various at-risk or underserved circumstances. McLachlan has arranged an eclectic lineup of favourites for the oneday event, including Bryan Adams, Stevie Nicks, Jann Arden, Hedley, Hey Ocean, and more.
"That was just serendipitous who said yes. It was probably because I have relationships with most of these people," says McLachlan, who admits she started out with "a great long list" of possible performers.
"You always know you're going to get about three per cent," she notes of the final tally, but is happy about the diverse talent.
"Whenever you put together a festival you're looking at a lot of different variables, different musical styles and you want to draw a diverse audience, but you also have to work with who you get, too."
One of the most interesting members of the lineup is former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who will be speaking at the concert.
"I've done a lot of fundraisers for him over the years and I had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with him about eight months ago at one and got to talking about my school and what I was doing and he said, 'You've done so much for me over the years is there anything I can do to help?' and of course the first thing that came to my mind was, come to my event. And he agreed," she explains.
Appearing on the heels of a popular and riveting speech at last week's Democratic National Convention, Clinton is an interesting choice.
"It made sense because our whole conversation had been about how music had fed him and shaped him profoundly as a child and he's one of the most beautiful, eloquent speakers of our time. If he can speak to music education and its importance I think we might have a couple of teary eyes in the house," says McLachlan.
While she won't reveal all the secrets of the show, she admits it is unlikely Clinton will play his saxophone.
"I think the Secret Service has said no to that but you never know," she says with a laugh.
McLachlan will be performing on both the main stage and the park stage at the concert, and has plans to team up with some of the other performers.
"Hopefully with everybody. I've basically put my name in the hat and said whoever wants me to sing with them."
She is particularly pleased about the venue.
"It's wonderful. I love my adopted city. I love Vancouver and I love Stanley Park. And I love playing outdoors, and this is for me sort of a last hurrah of summer although hopefully it will last well into October."
The venue capacity is 20,000 people, and that's a big crowd for some of the less-experienced performers appearing at the concert.
"There are a lot of the kids from the school coming to perform and also just coming to partake in the event. We are a very performance-based school. I think it's really important for kids to get out there in front of their peers, in front of other people to play because it's a chance for them to show what they're doing and to have a sense of that connection that happens when you play music for other people. And the sense of pride and self-worth when you sing and play together," says McLachlan.
Recently, she was speaking to one of the students set to perform at the concert and had this advice to offer about calming her nerves: "Breathe deep. Take some big, deep breaths beforehand."
She also suggested students could imagine the audience naked but, she says, "That just makes everybody laugh."
Throughout her extensive career, McLachlan has often spoken about how music has helped her personally since childhood, and says she is now seeing similar results at her music school.
"I feel it from the kids," she says, adding she also hears it from the parents.
She recounts one parent's story about how her child was turned off the wrong path thanks to the school's music intervention.
"Those kinds of moments are really powerful for me," says McLachlan.
Known for her own powerful voice and powerful lyrics, McLachlan is planning on releasing a new album next year, "If I can get to it and write it," she notes.
She says she would love to talk about her new album material, but she doesn't have anything to tell yet. Still busy with the benefit concert, she says once this event is done she can "hunker down and write."
Her 2010 album Laws of Illusion was her first studio album of new material in seven years since her successful 2003 release, Afterglow.
These days, the creative process looks a little different for McLachlan, mainly because she is now mom to two young daughters.
"I am unable any more to disappear for months at a time and sequester myself away in a cabin in the woods so I basically have to steal moments," she explains.
When asked if her sound has changed over the years she answers quickly: "I hope so."
"I don't consciously sit down and say I have to change my sound, I have to do something different, but I do try to push myself and stretch myself."
This latest project was started three years ago with a concert in Ambleside Park. At that time, McLachlan said she would attempt the benefit concert every three years, but with her focus firmly on the current concert, she can't predict if it will become a regular event.
"We'll see how this goes and see how long it takes to recover," she says with a laugh.
Voices in the Park is at Brockton Fields in Stanley Park on Saturday, Sept. 15. Gates open at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster. For more information about the show, visit www. voicesinthepark.com www.voicesinthepark.com.
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