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Checking in with Mark DuBois

April 29, 2021   ·   2 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

When your life grinds to a halt, due to an ongoing global battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, Mark DuBois is amazed to see “how resilient the general population has been – not bitching and complaining but making do and getting on. 

“I don’t think we should do the gloom and doom,” said he.

Like so many people, Mark DuBois’ professional life, his musical life of teaching, concert engagements, his roles as music and choir director at St. Andrew Anglican Church in Alliston, are on hold.

“For Christmas, we did go to the church to record some songs which were online. We still had to wear a mask. And we have put together some music here at home,” he explained.

Singing for those occasions with him were his wife, Maria, daughter, Elisabeth and son, Christopher. Elisabeth is a formidable performer herself, having been tutored by her father and done four years at University of Toronto in performing arts and teaching music. Christopher also sings so beautifully and dances, having learned his vocals under his father’s mentorship.

“I got my first contract in the chorus with the Canadian Opera Company when I was 19 and that was a lot of years ago,” Mr. DuBois informed us.

Those early days were followed by years of glorious touring and engagements in glamorous venues around the world.

“In my early twenties,” he related, “I never went anywhere without an opera score in my bag. I sang all the arias – Mozart, Berlioz, all of them – it never stopped. I did some conducting and that was nice. In Italy when I was there, I sang quite a few concerts and performed in operas there. I performed in so many castles, one in Abruzzo. Italy was wonderful; they respected you. I sang with the Giuseppe Verdi orchestra.”

Mr. DuBois toured the USA extensively, garnering wonderful reviews. For a trip down memory lane, here is one: “After An Evening of Lerner and Loewe at the Hollywood Bowl, the Los Angeles Times reported: ‘Only Mark DuBois succeeded in consistently touching the audience [14,014 on Friday; 17,644 on Saturday]…a tenor that was ever fluent and beautifully controlled.’”

Back home in Canada, his career flourished as well. He has performed to sold out audiences in Toronto, at what was once the Sony Centre, The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts doing operetta, especially Gilbert and Sullivan, in Massy Hall and Roy Thompson Hall, where he also appeared regularly; as well as cities across the country.

Thinking back to his Toronto successes, he remarked, “I sang with huge stars – with Joan Sutherland, with Richard Boning conducting. They came to our house for lunch one day. They were the most memorable.”

Over all this career, Mark DuBois has been generous, offering his time and talent to perform for fundraisers for various charities. Amongst these is Relessy Church on County Road 8, in Mono. Architecturally a Revival Gothic, Relessy Church was built in 1870. Charles McQuire, a pioneer from Ireland founded the tiny village of Relessy. The church was the centre of the village but it alone now remains.

Mr. DuBois’ attachment to Relessy Church came about by Mark Nelson, a farmer and a neighbour, living across the road from the DuBois home at the time in Hockley Valley. Mr. Nelson had his grave site at Relessy and persuaded Mr. DuBois to take a multi-grave site for the many ash-bearing urns of his family members, still resting in a closet. 

He uses these concerts and other such volunteer events as a showcase for his students, as, for the last several years, Mark DuBois has been teaching in Orangeville, teaching as only he does. 

His students have gone on to attend, variously, Sheridan, for the performing arts, Randolph School of the Arts in Toronto and Laurier in Waterloo.

At the moment, he is not teaching at all or has been teaching very little at home, with all the appropriate precautions, as the rules of “open” and “close” waned and ebbed. The techniques for teaching singing online are inadequate, he says, due to the fallacies of the connection.

“It can be a bit bleary,” he explained. “And the timing between each side of the exchange is inconsistent.”

He said earlier, “I love that some of the kids that have been through my studio, have been through the Young People Company with Theatre Orangeville too.”

To talk about coping with the inactivity, the loss of chances to perform: “I think people should get out their old recordings to listen to what they have done. I think everybody should call in their memories.”

Thinking it over, he counted his own performing roles; “I’ve done 120 roles over the years of the operas, G&S, musical theatre and that doesn’t include the so many concerts I’ve done. I did many opera festivals.

“I would love to get back to what I was doing before [the pandemic] – teaching, doing the occasional performance, and I’ll be happy. My voice is still as good as it was. I looked after my voice – I haven’t sung the music I shouldn’t have sung. Even if you can reach the notes, it doesn’t mean you should sing the work.”

More advice about dealing with this pandemic after such a long time: “If you need an opera hit, a musical hit, you can find anything you want on YouTube. Put it on the big screen, not just your lap top or whatever. People can control it that way. You can stop it to go and make coffee. Keep yourself entertained – keep singing for yourself and your bubble. Make a little bubble concert and have some fun.

“When I sang in church the whole of last year, I sang with a mask; you can sing with a mask. Make a little fete and enjoy your music. We recently watched the Disney channel – it was just a good day of reminiscing.

“Right now,” he told us, “our only outing is to see our grandson. He’s the sunshine in our lives.

“We visited our grandson on Sunday, Jenson – he’s been a joy for us.”

Readers Comments (2)

  1. Sybille Rentmeister says:

    My gosh, Mark, I cannot believe you are a grandfather! How time flies!

  2. Martin Spencer says:

    Good Lord, Mark. My brother, Tony, sent me a link to this paper in which he is also interviewed. Shades of St. Augustine’s. Best wishes, Martin


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