Raising his voice: Alex Halliday joins opera group

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NEW GLASGOW — A renowned bass-baritone who graduated from North Nova Education Centre has raised his singing career to a new level.

Local drama and musical leaders are glowing over news that Alex Halliday is one of four emerging artists who have been named members of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, announced in late January.

He received second prize at the 2019 Ensemble Studio Competition.

“My acceptance into the COC ensemble, although a major milestone for me, is only my first real step into the professional world of opera,” Halliday said.

“It is a very important move because it provides all of the necessary technical trainings I am seeking, as well as a consistent pay cheque I can live off of. All of my work will be in one place, which makes time management a little bit simpler, too. That being said, the level of excitement I experienced throughout the audition process and upon learning of my acceptance is the greatest I have felt thus far in my life. It is very important to me.”

Retired North Nova drama director Joel Pratt was astounded with the news, considering that Halliday, now 24, was 16 and in Grade 11 when he realized his previously unknown talent.

Halliday’s parts were Javert in Les Misérables and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.

“He was a hockey player in a family of hockey players,” Pratt said. “We were doing a musical. He came out and blew everyone away. This is a side of him that no one in his family knew about. He was a natural.”

“I am humbled to have left a good impression with them, especially Joel, who I consider to be my first mentor in this field,” Halliday said. “My understanding of the arts in Grade 11 was next to none. Joel taught me the basics of acting for the theatre in his drama class. It was also he who recommended I audition for the school musical. The audition was a success and he cast me as Javert in his production of Les Misérables.”

Halliday said Janice Alocrn helped develop his basics in music, which he said was crucial.

“There was a lot to be taught and not a whole lot of time for me to learn but she was able to get the job done,” he said. “I feel very fortunate and quite a bit lucky to have met them both, most certainly Joel, who was in his last year of teaching at North Nova Education Centre. If it were not for them both believing in me, there is a very high chance my life would look very different right now.”

Halliday has a connection with St. John’s, N.L. His late grandmother Bernadette Smith championed music in the area. He credits his grandmother for his passion for music and his natural talent.

“She was huge into music in St. John’s, N.L.,” said local choir director Monica George Punke. “(Halliday) was late in high school and realized he could sing. He has done extraordinarily well since then.”

Halliday received his bachelor of music in vocal performance from Memorial University in St. John’s and is currently studying for his diploma in opera at the University of Toronto, where he also received a master’s degree in opera performance.

His favourite opera composers are Verdi and Mozart and he enjoys hearing and performing Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

“He captures such real, human love and emotion in this show,” Halliday said. “It is a true masterpiece and I relish every opportunity I get to perform as Figaro.”