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Elvis attends presentation of PhD to Diana Krall; Krall sings song co-written with Costello; they have written 6 new songs for her album
Times Colonist, 2003-11-14
- Kim Westad


Darren Stone, Times Colonist / Elvis Costello sits with Diana Krall's father Jim Krall at UVic Wednesday.  
Jazz singer Diana Krall performs at convocation ceremonies at the University of Victoria Wednesday. Krall, a native of Nanaimo, was given an honorary doctorate of fine arts. “It wasn’t about singing some sultry, sexy tune,” she said. “It was about home.”
CREDIT: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

Tears flow as Krall sings of her home
UVic honours star with arts doctorate

Kim Westad
Times Colonist

Becoming Dr. Diana Krall was far more nerve-wracking than playing Carnegie Hall, the Nanaimo-born jazz singer said Wednesday after receiving an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the University of Victoria.

"It's a lot more difficult than a performance," Krall said in a later interview. "It wasn't about getting up there and singing some sexy, sultry tune. It wasn't about that. It was about home."

Krall, in the traditional black-and-red gown and beefeater hat -- it looks like something from Harry Potter -- that doctors of fine arts wear, mouthed "I'm nervous" to university president David Turpin as she was about to be given her degree.

But any nerves appeared gone when the Grammy- and Juno-Award winning songwriter sat down behind a sleek black Steinway on the stage.

The beeps from digital cameras in the audience were steady as the lights dimmed and Krall played a piano solo, The Gravy Waltz, written by one of her favourite teachers, jazz bassist Ray Brown.

But it was her second and final song, from a new album and a song that she's never performed in public before, that had some in the packed University Centre auditorium crying.

The deeply personal Departure Bay refers to many Vancouver Island landmarks -- the Malahat, the ferry, sea planes, salt air and sawmills -- as well as to her mother who died of cancer, and to her fiancé, Elvis Costello, with whom she wrote the song.

"I was on the fence about doing this new tune. I thought, 'Can I go through with it?' because it's very emotional," said Krall.

After her performance, Krall, her ears a bit plugged from a cold, had photos taken in her grad gown with her family, and drank iced tea.

Costello, a longtime icon on the music scene, sat midway up the auditorium with Krall's family during the ceremony. The 49-year-old singer-songwriter was one of the last to stop clapping as the green cape denoting a doctorate was draped over his fiancee's shoulders.

"A degree from this university is particularly special to her," said the gap-toothed Brit who has visited Vancouver Island with Krall before. Krall's mother Adella, who died in May 2002 of cancer, earned her education degree from UVic.

"I love being here. People have made me very welcome. They leave us be, you know," Costello said.

In Departure Bay, Krall sings, "Who knew when I started that I'd find love and bring him home."

Krall, 38, has a home on Vancouver Island that she's trying to keep private. And she's thrilled with her recent purchase of a piece by the late First Nations artist Bill Reid. She's learning about Canadian and First Nations art; her only jewelry Wednesday was a thick silver Haida bracelet -- and an engagement ring with a diamond solitaire so large it made the band look dainty.

She and Costello wrote six songs together for the new album, a record she says deals a lot with "love, loss and hope."

"It's nice to write about home. It is quite lovely to step back from it and then come back," Krall said.

She's had a "bit of a tough year-and-a-half, with a lot of loss."

Her mother, singer and friend Rosemary Clooney and Ray Brown all died within six weeks of each other.

"I think this album is mostly about the things that keep us on the straight and narrow," said Krall, who calls it a "personal portrait of where I am now."

Coming home is a key part of that, she said. She and Costello try to live a regular life here, she said, although the two left right after the ceremony so Costello could do several TV appearances in Los Angeles, including Jay Leno on Friday night.

"We go to Thriftys and buy groceries," she said. "I like to be at my place and wear my boots. It's about family and being in a place where I grew up and am comfortable . . . . I really love it and soak it up when I come here."

Krall didn't attend university, but left home at 17 on a music scholarship and then learned from some of the top jazz musicians, slowly building her career. She said she's still learning.

© Copyright 2003 Times Colonist (Victoria)


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