Concert Oli's Brave Last Stand

Concert Oli's Brave Last Stand
Acclaimed violinist Oliver Schroer is spending his final days in a Toronto hospital bed but, with remarkable poise, he’s also finishing records and preparing for a farewell performance. After battling leukaemia for over a year with multiple rounds of chemotherapy and treatments, Schroer was recently informed that nothing could save him. "Basically they’ve parked me; they’re out of options so I’m at the end of my life in some kind of way,” Schroer says, a relatively cheerful lilt in his steady voice.

"Elisabeth Kübler-Ross talks about the five stages of dying, the first one being denial, the last one being acceptance. It seems that I’m in denial but it feels more like acceptance. I’m just getting on with living at an accelerated pace; I’ve got a lot of things I want to do and I’m doing them.”

With a laptop full of new songs within reach, Schroer’s music-driven work ethic isn’t surprising. An eclectic session player, he’s composed astonishing albums over the past 20 years, including 2006’s Camino, recorded during a 1000-kilometre walk of the Camino de Santiago. Since his 2007 diagnosis, he’s released two inspirational albums (Hymns and Hers and Smithers), is mixing long-forgotten projects (i.e., a stellar 1998 record by his old band Stewed Tomatoes), and emailing reports to friends and fans. Though day-to-day, his most recent missives detail "Oliver Schroer’s Last Concert on his Tour of this Planet,” scheduled for June 5 at Toronto’s Trinity St. Paul’s Church.

"If there’s one thing I hope people take away from this whole thing, it’s don’t procrastinate; do it now,” Schroer says. "I’ve gotten a lot of communication from people more cognisant of this, partially because of my situation. That means this illness isn’t just a personal thing for me to suffer through but actually a gift for hundreds of people to make something out of [and that] makes me very happy.”