Choir to Take Hamilton from Pop to Opera and Back in Concert with Richard Margison
Richard Margison, an internationally renowned operatic tenor, and his talented daughter, Lauren Margison, a versatile soprano and rising star in her own right, will share the main stage at the Dofasco Centre for The Arts (Theatre Aquarius) in Hamilton, with the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir on June 11 at 7pm. Presenting pop, traditional songs, musical hits and opera, the Choir's 39th Annual Concert will be a special celebration, proceeds from which benefit the Spec's Summer Camp Fund for children.
For this concert in which Lauren’s vocals will be a highlight, Hamilton-born Robert Missen is to be the Master of Ceremonies. He has a long and distinguished career in the Canadian music industry, and was inducted into the Burlington Performing Arts Centre’s Hall of Fame this month, joining the ranks of Gordie Tapp and Stuart Laughton honoured for demonstrating the diversity of artistic accomplishment that comprises the rich cultural tapestry of the City of Burlington.
"I am very excited to be part of the COMC's upcoming concert,” said Missen. “As someone who has been involved in the Canadian choral scene for over four decades as singer, agent and concert promoter, I am particularly heartened to witness the resurgence in singing among men and boys.”
Commencing his performing career at the University of Guelph under the guidance of Nicholas Goldschmidt, the founder of the Canadian Opera, Missen went on to establish himself in the fields of opera, symphonic concerts, professional choral music and vocal chamber music. A founding member of Tapestry Singers (now Tapestry New Opera) which toured across Canada, he has worked with such distinguished Canadian artists as Maureen Forrester, Veronica Tennant, Michael Burgess, Stuart McLean, and The Men of the Deeps (the Cape Breton coal miners’ choir that recently completed a successful 50th anniversary tour in Ontario). As a tenor, Missen is featured on over twenty recordings and countless radio and television broadcasts.
A resident of Burlington for the past six years, in 2015, he helped launch the Lowville Festival of the Arts dedicated to creating energizing, enlivening, enlightening, and transformative artistic experiences. Missen’s current performing activities include solo concerts throughout southern Ontario, featuring the music of Gershwin and other American Songbook composers. “Singing is something that all of us can do,” Missen asserts. “The benefits are immense, both for performers and listeners. Come out and discover this for yourself."
When the COMC was founded in 1977 by Lyn Harry, the Welsh tradition of male-voice choirs was highly popular and for about 15 years the COMC was in top form, with some 90 proud Canadians producing CD recordings and going on international concert tours. Things started to change in the mid-1990s, as it grew increasingly challenging for Harry to continue conducting, for health reasons. By the time he retired from COMC, a number of choristers also opted to pack it in. The COMC, a registered charitable organization, carried on, but no longer performing in Welsh -- the glamour of which had worn thin, both for audiences at home and for the middle-aged choristers who wrestled with the pronunciation.
The music scene of southwestern Ontario may have changed, but the "men who love to sing" share a deep camaraderie that keeps them keen. And despite the recent demise of Opera Hamilton, many classical as well as eclectic music buffs remain in the region... people who can understand how a famous opera star like Richard Margison could have debuted in and still feel passionate about an entirely different genre. Hailed for his spine-tingling power, Canadian tenor Richard Margison has performed regularly in many of the world’s leading opera houses, but Margison’s rise to the top of the opera world did not follow a traditional path – his career began in the coffee houses and clubs of Victoria, BC, where he performed with his own rock band.
A much sought-after concert artist today, Margison has appeared with the Royal Philharmonic in London, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. A highlight of his 2009-2010 season was a trip to China for the opening of the new Guangzhou Opera House where he appeared in one of his most celebrated roles -- Calaf, in Puccini's Turandot.
Margison was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001, to honour his contribution to music in Canada, and in recognition of his accomplishments on the international stage. In 2002, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and in 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Margison also holds an Honorary Doctorate from McMaster University (D.Litt), among others. Although he has been in demand on the great opera stages of the world, he supports a number of charitable causes. Margison has generously given of his time and talent at benefits for Leukaemia Research (Ontario), LOFT Community housing (Toronto), the Children's Opera Chorus (Toronto), the Royal Conservatory of Music, and many more.
Performing at fundraisers to support local charities, encouraging musicianship among men, and hosting their own concerts provides a compelling raison d'etre for the members of the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir, and they look forward to sharing their love of music with others again at what promises to be an especially exciting Annual Concert on June 11. Tickets can be purchased on the Theatre Aquarius website or at the Box Office in Hamilton.