This week, soprano Zohreh Gervais and pianist Lisa Rumpel open the Skywalk Concert Series with a program inspired by the lasting impression music makes on the mind and the fascinating connection between the two fields.   

For Gervais, the connection is a deeply personal one: her grandfather – her ‘Opa’ – has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she’s witnessed his memory “disintegrate.”  

“Even though he can barely talk anymore, if he sees me and I start to sing to him one of his favourite songs... he will start singing along and then he’s able to talk to me a little bit after,” says Gervais. “It’s absolutely magical.”  

It is an experience shared by Rumpel who also has had grandparents affected by memory loss. 
“(Music) definitely feels like a way to connect with them – or to connect with anyone – when you don’t necessarily have a different way to connect,” says Rumpel, noting that relationship extends even after their passing. “It feels like something that is stored in a deeper place.”  

In a program consisting of some of Gervais’ Opa’s favourites – “incidentally all by Schubert,” she says – the duo will also perform music of Schumann, Strauss, Britten and Copland.   

The poetry in the chosen songs speaks not only to the idea of losing one’s memory but also looks at the profound sense of loss felt by a loved one – and the hope that they might come back.  

“Anyone familiar with Alzheimer’s, there’s these glimpses, right? These little bits of hope where you’re like ‘oh! they’re still in there!’” says Gervais.  

Presented free of charge during the noon hour on Thursday, October 19, Gervais and Rumpel perform at the Millenium Library downtown, beginning at 12:10.