Where: Mary Winspear Centre, 2243 Beacon Ave.
When: Dec. 5-6, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $78.75 from tickets.marywinspear.ca
Michael Kaeshammer has been touring non-stop for nearly a month, with only two days off since Nov. 9. He clearly deserves a break.
The six-time Juno Award nominee will not get one, however, until after his tour wraps with two performances at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. The singer-pianist has performed in some excellent venues on his 24-city cross-Canada tour — including the Grand Theatre in Kingston and the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg — but the concerts on Monday and Tuesday, in a venue situated only minutes away from his North Saanich residence, will feel like some long-awaited home cooking.
Kaeshammer, 45, moved to Vancouver Island from Offenburg, Germany, more than 25 years ago, and now the Mary Winspear Centre (where he recorded two concerts in 2019 for a PBS concert special) is one of his cherished venues. “Victoria and Vancouver Island are where I learned that it is possible to make a living playing music,” Kaeshammer said, during a tour stop in Oliver.
“Very much from the beginning, I’ve felt like a Canadian. This is my home. When I travel to Germany now, I feel like I am going there as a Canadian — even though I was born there, grew up there, and have family there. Canada has been good to me.”
Kaeshammer’s current tour includes rescheduled dates that were initially postponed due to pandemic restrictions. He was overseas when COVID-19 arrived, and rushed home midway through a tour of Europe in order to make it back to Canada before the border closed. His itinerary in the years that followed has been a jumble of cancellations and postponements.
Recently, some normalcy was restored. He is touring to support his new album, The Warehouse Sessions, a live-off-the-floor recording produced in Vancouver at the Bryan Adams-owned studio of the same name. Kaeshammer said his performances next week will feature songs he recorded for The Warehouse Sessions, in addition to a few tunes from a new album he expects to release in March.
“When you do this many dates [on tour], at the beginning you massage the setlist for the first few shows, just to see what the band sounds like and what the audience reaction is. And then it settles in. By the time we get to Sidney, we’re going to sound good.”
Though the break in touring due to the pandemic gave him times to reflect, he didn’t spend much time rehearsing. He plays mostly classical music when he’s at home (“Those big-sounding Beethoven sonatas, you learn so much from them,” Kaeshammer said), which would likely surprise fans who know him as en elite jazz and pop performer. Another surprise? When he’s not writing or recording music, he’s not thinking much about it, either.
“The piano is one of those things. When I walk by one, I sit down for half and hour or an hour, and then go and do something else,” he said with a laugh.
Kaeshammer spent five weeks in Germany this summer visiting family he had not seen in two years, and said he did not play piano once while he was there.
“That’s fine. I didn’t worry. I’m not going to forget anything, and the muscle memory will be there. Sometimes, it’s actually nice to give the brain a break from all that. Even if I don’t play for five weeks, I’m still a piano player. And I know it. That is so ingrained. It is not going to leave me, and I trust that so much.”