It’s a homecoming of sorts for soprano Maureen Batt tomorrow night at St. Andrew’s United Church in Halifax. The concert, titled Crossing Borders, features a wide range of contemporary musical styles, including expressions of pop culture phenomena, nostalgia, and North American beauty. Recently we spoke with the Dalhousie University graduate her about what audiences can expect.
What are your own roots?
I’m from Fredericton, NB. My paternal background is English and Canadian; my maternal background is Irish-Canadian.
When and why did you start performing music?
My sister and brother and I all started piano lessons when we were young—I was in grade two. In grade five, I started violin lessons on my mother’s childhood violin. I played in orchestras and went to fiddling camps (I wish I could still fiddle!). In grade six, I joined the Fredericton School Girls Choir. By grade seven I also wanted to join the concert and jazz bands, so I started playing saxophone. In grade nine, I started private singing lessons—I had heard that other girls in the choir were taking them and I wanted to study too! In grade ten I got one of the lead roles in the musical, Carousel, and I never looked back! That’s a long-winded answer to “when”, but the “why” is much simpler: I fell in love with singing and storytelling.
Are they the same reasons you do it today?
Yes - absolutely.
How have you evolved as an artist over that time?
I went to university for 10 years to work on my craft—I did a Bachelor of Arts in languages at St. Thomas University, and then came to Dalhousie for my Bachelor of Music, and completed my MMus at the University of Toronto. I am extremely grateful for the tools I was given in university to become the artist I am today. I am always trying to improve and evolve.
How would you describe your sound and style today?
I’m a classically trained soprano, so I sound like an opera singer. I love to tell stories, so my style is to look for pieces I can perform that are a great story or have beautiful poetry.
What can audiences expect at this Saturday's concert?
The concert features a wide range of contemporary musical styles, including expressions of pop culture phenomena, nostalgia, and North American beauty. All of the music is in English and written by living composers.
Is your creative process more 'inspirational' or 'perspirational'?
When I’m producing an event such as this concert or an opera with my opera company, I would say the bulk of my process is perspirational—there are so many logistics to producing a musical event! My process when I’m preparing the musical material for the concert is a little more inspirational, but still largely perspirational.
What makes a good song?
A good song is one that speaks to people.
What are your thoughts on the state of Canada's music industry?
There are a lot of fabulous things happening in music in Canada—the scene is alive and well across the board. It’s an exciting time to be a musician.
Do you have any advice for younger performers?
Always try to do your very best, and realize that becoming an artist is a very long journey—embrace it! Keep putting yourself out there again and again. Believe in yourself and others will, too! Be a generous colleague and give back to your community. Without art we have nothing!
What else do you have on tap for 2015?
My pianist, Cheryl Duvall, and I are presenting this concert again in March in Philadelphia and Toronto. I will be singing with Opera Nova Scotia in February and in May. I am also performing with my opera company, Essential Opera, in March.
Maureen Batt and Cheryl Duvall
St. Andrew's United Church, Halifax
Saturday, January 24, 730pm