Singing and Horseback riding are two of my favourite things to do. (Okay baking pies is fun too as long as it isn't "Too Darn Hot"). Singing and riding of course take practice and skill but is so good for the soul. I love sharing a new song with an audience (equine or otherwise). Before and after a concert I love to spend time with our horse BJ and donkey Peppe. They seem to like Andrew Lloyd Webber more than Dvorak but maybe it's has more to do with the type of treats I have in my hand at the time while humming. Have you heard Peppe singing to the audience during a concert yet? He needs work on his breath support.
I'm so pumped to come up to Cambellford for a second time this year! The summer Broadway concert was a huge success for me personally and professionally. One doesn't often get a chance to perform great Broadway music with such a diverse and talented cast!
After the concert I left with my girlfriend for a Westcoast cycle trip through the Okanogan's Kettle Valley in BC. We drove through Jasper for some hiking and then started the cycling through the Penticton sections of the KVR and ended up eventually in Hope, BC about 4 days later to finish with a hike to the stunning Bridal Falls.
It's always a treat to come up to Cambellford and look forward to making music with these talented group of musicians!
Campbellford is definitely close to home for me. I've always had family there (my mom's brother and his family have always lived there), so it is so special to be a part of Westben and to be close to home! Balancing teaching and performing, it can be tricky sometimes. Throw a young family in there, and I often wonder how I get things done! Schedules can be crazy, and fatigue often sets in, especially at certain points in the year. However, I couldn't imagine my life being as rich and, quite frankly, as happy without doing both. My performance experience enhances what I do in the classroom, and my classroom experience enhances all aspects of my performing. I am really lucky to have both!
Singing is my true passion but I have a great love for film as well. When not singing I often work in the film industry, doing mostly background, (extra work) or stand-in for some of the leads on various shows eg Suits. Last season, I was fortunate to sing on a Christmas episode of Saving Hope and also in a Hallmark film called Christmas Inc.
Anyway, I grew up (professionally) with the Canadian Opera Company performing Big operas in Big theatres with Big actions, Big gestures. Film is a totally different art form, where a raised eyebrow has a huge impact. My first day on set, I carefully took directions, heard “background action” and made a very obvious, very operatic entrance ahead of the leads. “Cut!” The third AD came running after me saying, “Miss, it’s good but can you dial it down by about 99 percent....?” So embarrassing. At least he called me Miss
"As for prep before Les Miz, (T.O. Production) initially I was drinking a home-made, warm mixture of honey and lemon for my throat, followed by an overzealous vocal warm up, thereby negating most of the positive effect of aforementioned mixture. Then I would eat a much too generous amount of raw garlic, endearing myself to fellow cast members who showed their appreciation by never crowding too near me while on stage. As the run progressed, I became less obsessive with all of the above, to the great relief of the cast, crew, and also my family."
From Brian Finley: "My new (?) idol is Nat King Cole – his singing of Autumn Leaves which I found when researching for this show is just amazing!! (“Unforgettable” you might say!)"
Brian will be performing Autumn Leaves at the Chestnut Cabaret on Sunday, September 25 at 2 pm.
Frank Moore and I crossed paths when I came in to the original Toronto company as an understudy for Javert. Tom Goerz, the original TO Javert tore ligaments in his knee stumbling on the street car tracks and was out for 6 weeks. I remember him playing the Bishop and his Valjean was stellar.
Performing 8 shows a week became the routine then. You live your life like everyone else and you go to theatre when it's time to work. Except, of course, when our son Nick was born... He was in the ICU at Sick Kid's for 2 weeks. They set up cots for Gabrielle and I to sleep on because he needed to nurse every 2 hours. I'd walk to the Royal Alex to do the shows and spend all other time at the hospital. I was so tired that when all of the revolutionaries were sleeping on the barricade during BRING HIM HOME, I would actually fall asleep.
1. Are you a coffee drinker? Where have you been going for your morning fix?
Morning coffee here in Campbellford comes with a beautiful view! My lovely billets Paula and Wayne have a stunning garden and that is where I enjoy some Java in the morning. With chirping birds, a cool breeze, and of course some delicious coffee it is the perfect way to start the day!
1. What does the Pencil Salesman mean to you?
I always look at a piece through the lens of my character. "The only thing constant is change." This show illustrates that point while giving us the opportunity to realize the simple things in our own backyards can be wonderful.
1. What does the Pencil Salesman mean to you?
A few years ago, Brian hinted that he was working on a new project with me in mind. Since then, he has revealed little parts of it and it has built up a lot of anticipation. I have been excited for this opera for a long time now and I'm so glad that it has come together in a way I never imagined.
1. What does the Pencil Salesman mean to you?
That is a great question! The opera itself is a remarkable idea that has come to life. It has been amazing to see it come to fruition over the past couple of years. I feel very grateful to be part of any creative process where I've been involved from the beginning and can bear witness to the evolution of the project. For example, I remember a previous workshop where I sang a different role to my current roles, which Brian tailored to my vocal range. It's wonderful to work so closely with a composer.
1. What does the Pencil Salesman mean to you?
The Pencil Salesman is, for me, a wonderful opportunity to work again with excellent artists in a community I've come to care deeply for. There are many themes in the Pencil Salesman that encourage deep introspection. It is very satisfying to be a part of a new work from its inception, and to see how the input Brian has asked for helps to shape it while still remaining true to his vision.
There is nothing like the sound of young people making music in The Barn, running around the meadow with their friends, having ice cream at the Concession stand, dashing over to the pond to check out the frogs, and seeing the joy on their parents’ faces as they make music. It has always been an important part of Westben that The Barn be a place where community meets and performers get a chance to explore their creative ideas and this opening weekend will overflow with exploration and joy. On Friday, June 3 at 7 pm at The Barn, singer song writer Ken Tizzard, along with Ken Grant on bass, will present a tribute concert to the great Ron Hynes, called Ron Hynes in Hynesight. Ken toured with Ron and has many stories to tell about his fellow Newfoundlander, the Man of A Thousand Songs. Ken’s own albums including his latest, No Dark No Light, tell real stories with such honesty and depth. We are very lucky to have Ken living and performing in our community. On Saturday, June 4 at 7 pm jazz will abound in The Barn (and three fields over) with CDHS Music Night. The award winning junior and senior jazz ensembles will play with the vocal jazz ensemble. Dave Noble continues to inspire these young musicians to perform at such a high level and still keep the joy of music making. It is truly remarkable what he has done for music in this community. If you are counting, we are up to 52 performers but on Sunday, June 5 at 3 pm, the remaining 78 will burst onto the stage with the concert called “Let it Go!” This is a celebration concert of song and concert band music from marches to Disney’s Musical Frozen featuring the Westben Wind Ensemble and Instrumental Foundations bands, the Westben Youth, Teen, B Natural Choruses and the debut of the newly formed Westben Cookie Choir. There are 17 cookies ages 4 to 8 and they are ready to sing Baby Beluga. The Westben Youth cannot wait to share Under the Sea from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the Teens soar in Seasons of Love from the musical Rent. The B Naturals have Bohemian Rhapsody ready to go and the Wind Ensembles have Mission Impossible and Ancient Voices all set! Whether it is Hindsight or Hynesight or Foresight or future professional musicians, the important thing is that these musicians are here now in our community. They are making beautiful and exciting music now, not in the past, not in the future, but now. Let’s celebrate their gifts of storytelling and music making now while we have the chance. Support them because you want to go on the journey with them. Let their music in and change you. I guarantee you will leave feeling more energized. The Barn is open and relaxed and experiencing a performance in nature is a great way to celebrate the joy of music and community. Visit www.westben.ca for details or join in the conversation on Facebook. Connecting is as simple as letting go.
Article for the Community Press May 26, 2016 by Donna Bennett
We at Westben were very honoured to receive the Best use of Information Technology/Social Media Award at the recent Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Evening. I find it fascinating that it coincides with the year that Westben is presenting the world premiere opera by Brian Finley, commissioned and inspired by A.M. Herzberg, called The Pencil Salesman, just two months after this award. The opera takes us through some of the challenges of communication and technology and how sometimes connecting is as simple as letting go. I really enjoy Social Media and the unlimited potential for connecting that it offers. I didn’t grow up with Social Media and I have no formal training in it, except for workshops and seminars attended through tourism partnerships. It has been a lot of trial and error and learning by watching others. I suspect this is how most everyone aged 30 and over have been learning it. Trends seem to change all the time, and it’s a challenge to keep adapting and moving forward without hanging on to past methods. Again, it’s letting go. My education trained me to teach music and perform in concert and opera. But using technology to share the music and experiences at Westben has provided me with a new type of concert hall in a way. Online I am able to share rehearsal moments, backstage fun, performance and post-performance experiences. I can introduce artists before the concerts through videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and E newsletters to many more people that traditional methods would have offered. We are currently looking into live streaming of concerts which again would open up the realm. Recently my husband Brian and I attended our son Ben’s Masters of Music recital in California and it was live streamed so those who weren’t able to attend were able to enjoy it live from their home. Here is the link if you would like a warm up to his performance at Westben July 14 https://music.calarts.edu/wild-beast-webcast (and look for Ben Finley). I also know that technology can get in the way of communicating especially across generations. It can help but it can also be a barrier. Remember a pencil, however, is always simple and direct offering the opportunity for hundreds of shades of gray (as long as your sharpener is handy). Time to get your pencils out now (or your Iphone or Blackberry) and make note that this Sunday, May 1rst at 3 pm there is a Tick Talk at the Clock, where Brian Finley will be introducing Sketches from The Pencil Salesman at the Clock Tower with 3 generation of singers Virginia Hatfield, Olivia Rapos and myself. If you are curious about what this opera is about or if you have never attended an opera, this will be a great introduction to this brand new Canadian work. It is a Pay-What-You-Can event. The following weekend, Mozart’s masterpiece The Requiem will be performed by the Westben Festival Chorus, Barb Hobart conducting, with soloist Virginia Hatfield, Kimberly Dafoe, Joel Allison and Tom Sharpe with Brian Finley at the piano at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Campbellford. Tickets are $25 and available from the Westben Box Office 705-653-5508. So get our pencil out and mark down May 1rst for Finley and May 15 for Mozart and if your pencil isn’t handy check Westben out on Facebook or www.westben.ca.
By Donna Bennett as written
for the Community Press- April 28, 2016
Every week at rehearsal I am in wonder of the young voices of the Westben Youth and Teen Choruses. It's not that the voices are loud or soft or weak or powerful, but it's the joy of discovery in their eyes, their giggles, their squiggles, their energy of life, that takes me to a new place every time. This place is worth pursuing! Music has such transformational power if you let it in and my hope is that Westben is an entrance way for those of all ages to experience it. I am thrilled to welcome Andrew Queen, Karen Stille and the the Campfire Crew to the Clock Tower where they will be presenting new youth programming called Tune Tales . There will be two sessions November 27 starting at 10 and 1 pm. Check out their video and call Nancy at the Clock Tower 705-653-5508 or toll free 1-877-883-5777 if you would to bring a special someone ages 4 to 8.
Mondays and Wednesdays at the Clock Tower are brimming with merry songs as the Westben Festival, Youth, Teen and B Natural choruses prepare for the November 28 and 29 performances at The Barn. These Christmas-time concerts at Westben have become a tradition for many families to get into the seasonal mood but if you have never been, then let me give you a snapshot. After you park your car at Westben, perhaps a light dusting of snow on the ground will set the mood as you make your way down the path, past the red lanterns, to the cozy Barn. Dress warmly with a coat, boots, hat and mittens and bring a blanket as The Barn is not heated. There will be Santa hats everywhere as the volunteers welcome you inside to the glowing Barn decorated with boughs of cedar and ribbon. A free cup of hot cider and homemade cookies will warm you up as you make your way to your reserved seat in one of the movie theatre-style cushion seats. The applause to welcome the 75 performers on stage is often comically muted because everyone has their hands covered. I love the cross generational nature of these concerts with performers ranging in ages from 7 to 80. Stratford actors Chick Reid and Frank Moore will be narrating short stories in between the songs performed by the four choirs (and I have a couple of solos). The music is of course is seasonal including I Saw Three Ships, O Holy Night, Ave Maria, Here We Come Wassailing, Magnificat by John Rutter and several others. The performance is 90 minutes with no intermission, which means on Saturday, November 28, you will have time to go to the concert at 1 pm and still be able to see the Santa Claus parade in Campbellford starting at 3:00 pm. Sunday, November 29 the performance at The Barn starts at 3 pm. Saturday, December 5 Songs of Merry travels to Norwood United Church and on Sunday to Belleville at Bridge Street United Church, both starting at 3 pm. Tickets may be reserved by calling Westben at 705-653-5508 or www.westben.ca. But first join us Saturday, November 7 at 7 pm at the Clock Tower for a House Concert! Christian Hodge, now 17 will be performing with friends in the band called Northern Sound. Northern Sound is an indie band that fuses folk, pop, and rock to introduce a truly happy sound. Hailing from Northumberland County, this young quartet draws influences from the current pop scene as well as early folk music. Acoustic instruments blend with electric, and meld together with a wide array of percussion to create a unique experience. This is a pay-what-you-can event so join us this Saturday at the Clock, 36 Front Street South in Campbellford at 7 pm. If you arrive early at 9 am you can join in the Westben Wind Ensemble and yes we have instruments for you! For more information on the instrumental programs, the House Concert or Songs of Merry, call me at the Westben Box Office 705-653-5508.
written for the Community Press
I know this may sound like a commercial but really I just would like to share that The Barn and the grounds at Westben are beautiful right now! The grass is still green, the leaves are starting to turn colour, but truly it is the air that is special. The weather all week has been 23 degrees and Sunday for the Chestnut Cabaret, fingers crossed, should be the same. The air is crisp and you can smell the earth and the leaves warming in the sun. This Sunday will be a fun event with music that was requested by Westben patrons. The fundraising committee has some really great things planned including an edible Silent Auction, an almost wrapped Silent Auction and a quick 3 unique prized Live Auction. Westben had a good summer at The Barn but fundraising is always crucial to the continuation of the organization. Please consider coming to the Chestnut Cabaret and let us know your Chestnut favourites. Don't forget a free homemade buttertart and hot beverage when you arrive, or if you prefer, the bar will be open! See you Sunday, September 27 at 2 pm.
written for the Community Press, September 2015
The Barn doors at Westben have been closed for a few weeks resting from 30 performances over two months by 220 artists in Classical, Broadway, Jazz, Folk, Celtic, World music including Opera, Musical Theatre, Chamber Music, Choral, Concert Band, Solo piano, Comedy and even a Movie showing. Everyone is now refreshed and with the leaves turning, Fall is in the air. The Barn doors will once again open this month to welcome everyone to two exciting concerts. On September 20, 2 pm the Rotary Club of Campbellford and the Warkworth Community Service Club are once again presenting an At Your Service Concert featuring the Toronto All-Star Big Band at Westben with a pre-concert barbecue starting at 12:30 pm. This is a benefit concert for these two important community clubs who do a great deal to help many youth groups and those in need, in our community. The Toronto All-Star Band will perform music from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, the golden age of big band. This concert is a great chance to hear an amazing big band and support two of your local service clubs who are always ready At Your Service! On September 27, 2 pm Westben presents a fundraising concert called Chestnut Cabaret. This concert will feature only songs requested by patrons attending the concert. The idea of the concert itself was a request from a close friend and volunteer so it is really exciting to now be fulfilling this dream. Song requests have been flowing in all summer and it has been fun putting them together for this concert. Actually we have had so many requests we have enough songs for a 5 hour concert! But not to worry this concert will be just under 2 hours. However, it means we have had to make some tough choices in choosing the requests. Along with myself and Brian Finley performing there will be two favourite Westben artists, Gabrielle Prata and Robert Longo. Gabrielle and Bob have performed in several of the Broadway revue concerts at Westben over the years as well as in the original productions Rapunzel, The Selfish Giant and the Requiem. Gabrielle has sung with opera companies across Canada and the US and Robert’s career included performances of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and Javert in Les Miserables on the US tour. To give you a sneak peak of the program, some of the song requests include Climb Every Mountain, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, On Golden Pond, We’ll Gather Lilacs, It’s a Grand Night for Singing, If Ever I Would Leave You, Edelweiss, Lara’s Theme from Dr Zhivago as well as songs from Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, just to name a few. Along with musical chestnuts and if nature cooperates, there will be roasted chestnuts available as well as homemade pie, a silent auction and other goodies for purchase. Tickets for both concerts can be purchased at the Westben Box Office in Campbellford or by calling 705 653 5508. Tickets for the At Your Service concert are also available at Holmstead Printing, Our Lucky Stars Café and club members. Join us at The Barn this Fall!