ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
In the intimacy of ‘Tofino’s living room,’ powerhouse jazz and blues singer, Maureen Washington swept the audience up in an emotional journey.
Washington’s soulful Harvest Moon tour kicked off the 18th season of the popular West Coast Winter Music series at Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre on November 4.
If heartbreak is at the root of every great love song, Washington’s poignant confessional shared hers, explaining how the name of her tour and latest CD paid homage to her great love for, and loss of, her husband, Darryl Schultz to cancer. Schultz used to join her to dance onstage, and later, via IPad, from his hospital bed just weeks before he passed away. Her riveting original, “Wait a little longer,” composed with writing partner Daniel Cook about letting her husband go moved the audience to tears. To lean into the lyrics and dance, Washington shucked off her heels in favour of flip-flops – a gesture in keeping with her “relaxed” show’s signature.
While Washington tapped into this deep well of love, the evening was far from sombre and offered surprises with her renditions of Sting’s “Fragile,” Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and a unique twist on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” arranged by pianist, Karel Roessingh. The mood was often playful during her repartee with her band as she held her notes longer and longer and as she described her BC Interior-inspired preference for flannel — despite the bling and bedazzled water bottle punctuating her onstage elegance.
This genuineness enabled Washington to get away with a mock-stern “Mama said” as she urged the crowd to sing-along with the chorus of “To Love Somebody,” to steal a kiss from bassist, Joey Smith and offer teasing instruction to the sound tech to turn all but her own mic down. Instead, the singer’s give and take with her band evidenced respect, especially as she stepped back to let solo spots on the piano, bass and drums shine.
Washington builds that audience bond with honesty. “With most songs there is a piece of my own life that resonates with the song and I’m willing to sing the song from that place.”
Afterwards, Washington could be seen in the lobby enveloping each of her fans in a big hug, like that warm connection in the little Black Box theatre on a drizzly, winter night.
“We’re lucky to have music of this quality in Tofino,” said Mayor Josie Osborne.