British Columbia

Thief steals singer-songwriter Shari Ulrich's instruments

Singer-songwriter Shari Ulrich is hoping the thief of her precious violins, a mandolin, and her bike finds it in themselves to return the items.

Juno-winning musician lost a violin she'd played for 43 years, a 5-string violin, and a mandolin

Shari Ulrich is reeling after someone made off with two of her prized violins, a mandolin, and a bicycle in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Shari Ulrich was on the way to her vehicle parked near 33rd Avenue and Dunbar Street in Vancouver on Wednesday morning when her cell phone rang.

nearby resident had discovered a big black bag of Ulrich's, its contents pilfered. 

"When she said, 'I found this in the alley by our house,' my heart sank, I just knew what that meant. So while I had her on the phone, I went out to my car and found what I dreaded, which was an empty back of my car," said the 64-year-old Juno-winning folk musician.

Ulrich lives on Bowen Island but often stays with friends in Vancouver. After decades of gigging, usually on the road, she's reluctant to load all her equipment in and out of the car every day.

Instead, Ulrich relied on her dark-tinted windows and a cover over the gear inside to keep her equipment out of sight. But something tempted the thief, or thieves, who may have used a slim jim to get into the car.

"There is a sense of trauma whenever I think about that moment of realization. It's just heartbreaking. It's just like, 'Oh no, please don't let this be true, please let this be a bad dream,' because it's just a horrible sense," she said of the theft.

Ulrich, who has played solo and in groups including The Pied Pumkin, The Hometown Band, and The High Bar Gang, now plays with musicians like Barney Bentall, Tom Taylor, Bill Henderson and Roy Forbes.

The three instruments stolen from Ulrich's vehicle in Vancouver. (Shari Ulrich)

This week in the theft she lost:

  • A five-string Realist violin - Serial # RV5P031.
  • An unnamed German violin.
  • An Eastman 815 Mandolin - Serial # 052 in a bright red hardshell case.
  • A blue Devinci Oslo bicycle.

Ulrich said the two violins were in double black, textured graphite BAM cases.

Treasured violin

The traditional four-string violin that was stolen had been Ulrich's main instrument for 43 years.

"That's a long relationship. It's certainly the longest relationship I've ever had," she said with a laugh.

She bought the German instrument after she had her first quality violin stolen on the way to her inaugural concert with The Hometown Band.

Shari Ulrich plays a rented five-string Realist violin after her main instrument she had played for 43 years was stolen in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"It really does make me very sad. I feel like, 'Is it okay? Is it lonely? Is is sad?'"

"Many people are robbed and everyone shares this sense of violation and it is traumatizing. I think for everyone there's a sense of violation and loss and it's upsetting, and hopefully you get to a place where you reconcile that stuff."

Replacing the items

Ulrich said the stolen items probably had a value of $8,000, but of course she said it's the personal value that makes the theft difficult. She had the instruments insured, and she quickly went out to rent new gear so she wouldn't have to miss her next gig.

After 43 years without having anything stolen from her vehicle, Ulrich said she'll now have to start loading all of her valuables in and out of the car whenever she parks.

She's hoping the thieves are able to change their behaviour too.

Musician Shari Ulrich loads instruments into the back of her vehicle. It was from this vehicle on Tuesday night that somebody stole about $8,000 worth of instruments and a bicycle. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"I tend to think that individuals are ideally making the world just a little bit better, perhaps, by whatever they do or how they carry themselves in the world, and I think thieves are doing just the opposite and there's got to be a better choice for making a living," she said.

Ulrich encourages the thief to do the right thing and find a way to return the instruments, but she's not holding out too much hope.

She's asking anyone who may spot them, or the distinctive carrying cases, to contact Vancouver police.