Dennis Lysack shows his appreciation for clients in a unique way — he sings for them. Lysack, who performs as a bass singer with the Vancouver Bach Choir, likes to give his clients tickets to performances by arts groups, including his own.

“That’s my premier method of client appreciation,” says Lysack, an advisor with Dundee Securities Corp. in Port Coquitlam, B.C., near Vancouver. “I’ll supply them with tickets to concerts.”

Lysack, 60, has built a solid career as a financial advisor while indulging a lifelong passion for singing and performing.

The Vancouver Bach Choir is composed of amateur singers, but their performances are anything but. Members must audition and they must be able to read music. The choir performs regularly with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. It will be performing a concert with the symphony in 2010, along with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Lysack’s 38 years with the Vancouver choir have provided unforgettable experiences. He participated in another collaboration with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in a performance at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto in 1983. It was the Canadian premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8. Also known as the “Symphony of a Thousand,” performing the work typically requires a massive choir of about 700.

“It’s thrilling, singing something like that,” Lysack says. “The ending blows your socks off.”

Another memorable experience for Lysack was a stadium-scale production of Verdi’s Aïda performed in 1989 at B.C. Place. A giant replica of the Sphinx was floated on a barge down Burrard Inlet to the stadium.

“During the famous triumphal scene in the second act,” Lysack recalls, “when the victorious Egyptian army returns from Ethiopia, real elephants, horses and other exotic animals were paraded on stage.”

During the Bach choir’s European tour in 1997, Lysack sang in the cathedral in which Frédéric Chopin’s heart is entombed in one of its pillars. And Lysack had the “awesome experience” of singing in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He has also travelled to England to perform in London, Oxford and Birmingham.

“Singing is just something I’ve done since I was a kid,” Lysack says. While growing up on a farm in Swan River, Man., he started singing in his church choir. He cites his mother, who sang him bedtime songs, as one of his earliest musical influences. He later admired singers such as legendary American baritone Sherrill Milnes and German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Lysack performed at his elementary school and, in high school, briefly pursued the tuba and sousaphone and played in marching band competitions. He continued to sing while studying political science and his-
tory at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

At one point, Lysack was encouraged by his voice coach to audition for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Lysack made it to the second round of tryouts. Although he didn’t make the final cut, the practice leading up to the audition got his voice in such fine shape that he landed a number of solo gigs.

Lysack performed periodically while working in health-care administration in British Columbia. After 20 years in that sector, he lost his job in 1992 and turned to a career as a financial advisor. Since then, Lysack has maintained his hobby and continues to sing with the Bach choir.

Lysack’s son, Chris, is carrying on the family singing tradition. Chris, a tenor, recently earned a doctorate in music performance from the University of Indiana and is now studying at the Manhattan School of Music. This spring, he’ll be performing the role of Baron von Eisenstein in a production of Die Fledermaus, the popular operetta by Johann Strauss Jr., in New York.

These days, the Bach choir normally practises once a week, then ramps up to two weekly rehearsals before a big concert. That’s enough vocal practice for Lysack, who no longer does solo performances; the required time commitment encroaches on the time he devotes to his financial advisory practice, which consists of about 70 families.

“The bulk of my clients tend to be middle-aged and include those who are retired or are approaching retirement,” Lysack says. “This is the population segment on which I tend to focus, although I also have a good number of clients who are single or who are raising families.”

And while Lysack has acquired about a dozen clients through his connections in the music community, he says it is absolutely verboten to prospect for clients at choir practices.

@page_break@“People know what I do and some people have come to me on their own,” he says. “But everyone in that room is there for one purpose only — and that is to sing.” IE