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Vancouver pianist helps raise funds for Eritrean refugee family

Clinton Giovanni Denoni set to perform wide-ranging repertoire in Whistler on Saturday, Aug. 27
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Vancouver concert pianist Clinton Giovanni Denoni is set to perform a benefit concert for an Eritrean refugee family, hosted by the Whistler Community Church, on Saturday, Aug. 27.

Clinton Giovanni Denoni wants classical music to appeal to more young people.

“The classical music industry, in some ways, especially in North America, isn’t growing at the pace I wish it was,” he says. “It’s doing the opposite in some areas. I was trying to think of a way in which I could inspire and create a new idea to bring people into our industry.”

The Vancouver-based concert pianist came up with a concept. He had plenty of videos recorded of his performances, but what if he made a music video? 

He and his wife, Erica, also a pianist, started to brainstorm. 

The result is a dreamy video shot in Cox Bay, Tofino that intersperses images of Denoni methodically wading into the ocean and sitting in a concert hall playing Chopin’s “Ocean Étude (Opus 25 No. 12).”

It was released at the end of May and has since garnered more than 100,000 views on YouTube. 

While the video is stunning, it turns out the shoot itself was a little agruelling. “It got a little scary at times,” says Denoni, who is both a surfer and a strong swimmer. “The tide and undertow was pulling me back out in the ocean. I was fighting coming back—I also had all my clothes on. I had moments when I couldn’t touch the bottom and I was being pulled back out. We shot it in winter, so by the time I got out, I was almost hypothermic. We were trying to get the perfect shot.”

The result, however, “was totally worth it.”

And, in fact, he’s now planning a series of outside-the-box videos. 

But first, Denoni will head to Whistler for his first show since the pandemic, during which the audience will get to see that video incorporated into his performance. 

The Whistler Community Church is hosting the benefit concert in an effort to bring a refugee family from Eritrea to the resort. 

The father of that family has been separated from his wife and children (local sponsors asked the reason be kept private due to safety) and they’ve been living in two separate refugee camps for several years. A similar group in Pemberton sponsored the wife’s sister, along with her family, a few years ago.  

“We’re waiting to find out when they’re coming,” says Karen Demoe, who is part of the refugee sponsorship committee. “So far everything is going, but it’s going at a slow pace. We didn’t imagine it being this slow.”

In the meantime, the group is working to have everything in place to welcome the family to town. 

“We want to support them and raise as much as we can,” says Denoni, whose father-in-law is a pastor at the church. “We do still need a lot more to make sure they’re comfortable.”

The concert will be by donation. To that end, Denoni—who has a Master of Music degree in piano performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and has performed across B.C. and beyond, on top of teaching piano—is planning to pull from an accessible and diverse repertoire to appeal to as many people as possible—whether they’re classical music fans or not. 

It will range from the familiar “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven to the technically impressive “La campanella,” by Franz Liszt, and the more obscure with a sonata by Leo Ornstein. 

“They’re very exciting pieces that are really good crowd pleasers; technically showy and beautiful and famous melodies,” Denoni adds. “I’m trying to provide a well-rounded experience to people.”

The concert takes place Saturday, Aug. 27 at 3 p.m. at 7226 Fitzsimmons Road North. The suggested donation is $20 with all proceeds going to the Eritrean Refugee Fund. 

For more on Denoni, visit

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