In one of the most memorable events ever held at Kitchener's Centre in the Square, the legendary Kurt Browning skated his way through the music that has defined his career. Backed by the K-W Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Lucas Waldin, it was a nostalgic trip for both Browning and the enraptured audience.
One member of the audience in particular was especially thrilled by the concert: Canada's very own World Champion figure skater from 1962, Don Jackson. The encore of the concert featured music from the opera Carmen. In an interview for Sun News Miami, Jackson told me “that's what I danced to in 1962 when I won the World Championship.”
Time was very much in evidence throughout the performance. A rendition of As Time Goes By from the classic movie Cabablanca was met with genuine emotion by Browning. “You took me back in time: you revisited my Casablanca and brought me to tears. Thanks to the KW Symphony for doing that for me.”
As Time Goes By was one of the tunes Browning used in his routines to achieve not one, not two, not three, but four World Championships (1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993). He was also Canadian champion four times. Video of Browning skating to the song in a white tuxedo was visible to the audience on a giant screen above the orchestra, which was used to great effect throughout, thanks to archival photos and footage from Skate Canada.
In an interview for this newspaper, Emery Leger (archivist for Skate Canada) told me the film clips were from the archives in Edmonton. The concert itself “over-passed my expectations. This is all Lucas,” he said, referring to the vision of the conductor in creating this concept, which had been done once before with the late figure skater Toller Cranston as emcee.
Browning described his role as “the conduit. Without me, nothing happens. I am the link between symphony and figure skating.” With panache and more than a dash of sprightly behaviour, Browning made the most of it. “What makes one fantastic piece of music good for a figure skating program?” he asked. “First the inspiration has to come from the skater himself, and second it must have a wide range of appeal. But the secret is: use a hook, something you can hang your choreographic hat on.” The result can be magic.
As usual the excellent KWS delivered what one might expect from a larger orchestra, with selections covering the gamut from Singing in the Rain to Mahler's 5th symphony. The former selection served to end the first half of the concert, with Browning interacting with guest singer Geoffrey Tyler in what for many was the highlight of the evening. Complete with Browning doing jumps on rollerskates to using an umbrella as a prop (a la Gene Kelly) it was a truly terrific performance that brought to the audience to its feet.
Referring to the dedicated audience that attends skating events, Browning said “They may forget what you say or do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” That certainly applies to this music/skating event as well.
If you missed it, the concert has its second and final outing tonight (Sept. 24, 2016) at Center in the Square.
The 2016 Skate Canada International is coming up next month in Mississauga. For details and tickets visit their website: