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Near death experience gives Pasternak Poetic Licence

Suzanne Pasternak, left, with fellow musicians Kaitlyn Kiss and John McKinney. Graham Davies photo

A near-death experience took Prince Edward County  singer songwriter Suzanne Pasternak on a rock and roll path to Poetic Licence.

Pasternak released her debut album, Solo Flight, more than 20 years ago. Since, she’s been writing for music theatre, and is best known for her work writing and producing the folk opera Minerva which tells the tale of a heroic young girl who saved a ship’s crew in a storm and steered them safely home.

She began recording her second original album – Poetic Licence – 2009 at the Indie Arts Studio in Picton. By August 2010, all the tracks had been laid down except for Pasternak’s vocals. But the vocals had to wait: On August 11, while in North Carolina, Pasternak had a heart attack. Fortunately, she was only five minutes away from a major medical centre with a cardiac team.

“They did a cardiac catheterization while I was having the heart attack,” says Pasternak. “They opened a major artery that was 100 per cent blocked and saved my life.”

This was a precursor to a second heart attack that required open heart surgery. These events highlighted the need for her to complete her music goals and complete the album quickly.

“Nothing motivates you more than a hard look at your own mortality,” says Pasternak. “There were times I thought I would not live to see the release.”

The title of the album Poetic Licence was derived from the invitation she extended to young rock artists, asking them to interpret several of her songs and add their slant to the music.

She gave them total artistic control over the music. The end product is the exciting new album, a one-of-a-kind accomplishment and a dream come true.

“I have spent the past 20 years writing songs strictly for music theatre, a very specific kind of writing that is quite disciplined,” she said. “You are writing music that needs to follow the storyline of the script and that other people are going to sing. When I was at Mirvish Productions workshopping my folk opera Minerva with Director/Producer Kelly Robinson I was writing eight hours a day. Kelly insisted on perfect rhymes in the lyrics. I was used to writing both perfect and imperfect rhymes. It was hard work doing it his way.”

Fellow musicians/vocalists Katalin Kiss, John McKinney and Pasternak’s daughter, Natasha, took three songs from the Solo Flight album, “stripped them down and breathed new life into them,” says Pasternak, making “gorgeous arrangements I would never have imagined.”

John McKinney and Katalin Kiss, she says, took the song Trouble at The Border from a country song to an epic rock song. The lead guitarist from the Spin Doctors, Eric Shenkman, laid down the guitar part for Trouble at the Border. “He just about burned the studio down with his awesome playing.”

Poetic Licence is available at Books & Company and Hicks General Store and www.reverbnation//suzannepasternak.com
The CD launch for Poetic Licence is scheduled for Aug. 7 at Sweet Folk al[t]ternate 193 Ontario Street, Kingston (RCHA building third floor) at 7:30 p.m.

Filed Under: Arts & Culture

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  1. Suzanne! I had no idea about your heart attacks and surgeries! Glad to know everything is going well now. Congrats on the new album. Stay healthy! :o)
    ~Michelle

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