‘Music For May’ a DuBois treat this Saturday night

May 25, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“Music for May” is this year’s concert to be held Saturday night at Orangeville’s Tweedsmuir Presbyterian Church, featuring the Mark DuBois Studio Singers, along with the church choir and praise team.

The choral groups have performed concerts annually since Mark DuBois took on the position of organist/choir director at the church, where he is now in his third year.

Mark DuBois says that when he was a young man, “I was chosen for a cricket team to do a five-nation tour, starting from Holland but my father insisted I accept an Opera contract instead and, in those days, I did as my father told me…”

Champion cricket player that he was, Mr DuBois was also a rising opera star and who is to say how life would have turned out otherwise when he began his career in earnest in the opera world. He was twenty.

“This year, I’m celebrating my 65th birthday, I’ve been in the music business as a professional singer and teacher for 45 years, since 1973, and I have been performing in the Orangeville area for 20 years.”

Fifty years is his number as a church musician.

Otherwise, as he also reported, “I take pride in doing five or six fundraisers a year [over the 20 years] here whether it’s something I really know about or not. What’s important is that the other people believe in it. I sing for them.”

Mr. DuBois began his career in the chorus in operas with the Canadian Opera Company: “My first contract was with the Canadian Opera Company and symphonies. I was doing chorus and small parts and understudying longer roles. I had to join the unions, which protected me, demanding that we younger singers got paid reasonably.

“I did television too and there were other unions for that: so, there were three unions – Canadian Actors’ Equity, ACTRA and Union des Artists in Quebec.”

“Sometimes, on the radio at Christmas, I’ll hear a Messiah and that’ll be me in it – after  all these years.”

He recalls his youthful self as a Bible-carrying hippy in a long coat, long hair, “a floppy hat” and a guitar ever with him. “I was teaching folk music. I started teaching classical until my career got too heavy.” 

Withal, his church was always his first concern.

“I was doing an opera in Vancouver and I would catch the red eye to conduct the choir at church. I had to give that up but it was still in my mind.

“When I was singing in the O’Keefe Centre on the Saturday night and I had a matinee on Sunday, I would still go to church in the morning.”

Before too long, “I started my own recitals in Toronto, Ottawa, then, touring Canada” Touring led to globe-trotting: “I made my debut concert in Wigmore Hall, London [UK] at 33 years old. My opera debut was in Ireland, still at the time of the IRA. In Belfast, there were armed soldiers on each side of the stage, there to protect us.

“I sang Danny Boy in Londonderry. They taught me the original words and the meaning of them. ”

Further, “I did many concerts in Italy, New Zealand, Australia, and back to Europe in France.”

He went to Eastern Europe, to  Budapest with the Ottawa Choral Society.

“In Milano [Italy], after my aria, the audience wouldn’t let me sit down – they wanted me to sing it again – so, I sang the aria again … they made us sing the [Handel’s] Hallelujah Chorus four times.”

Teaching became a focus once again in his life, at the time he and his family came here to live in 1998. It began in 2003 when Theatre Orangeville Young Company did their first production of Les Miserables, bringing us to the present day, when Mr. DuBois is a well-known, respected and loved teacher to many students over the years.

They have to audition.

“They need that special voice that I recognize right away, that I can mould into something; they should be extremely musical and supported by their family.”

He added an important criteria, “They should be nice people. The students have to have a need to be involved with music. I need them to respect who I am: they walk into my studio and see where I’ve been.”

The details of auditioning: “I ask them what repertoire they’re comfortable with and ask them to bring that. Then, there’s putting them through some exercises so I can hear their voices in their full range. Finally, we talk about what they’re dong in their musical life, if they play another instrument.”

Mr . DuBois talked about the Music in May concert. Several pieces from West Side Story are featured, as there is resurgence of interest in the musical. Phantom of the Opera, the much beloved; Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, too, as well as other great musicals contribute to the program. Gospel music, opera arias, and more surprises are in store for the audience on this evening of music.

Mr. DuBois is adamant about providing his students with performance experience.

“Why are they doing this if they don’t want to perform? We provide wonderful accompaniment; Danny McErlain is playing for them at Tweedsmuir Saturday.

“They need to learn the etiquette of performance, respect for their fellow performers. I give them a snap shot into what they can expect when they go into professional music.”

For the time being: “There’s no star system with my group. With my older students – some of this stuff you see on a big stage – they’re young but they’re old. The younger ones realize how far there is to go. They sit back and say, ‘I want to do that – I want to sing like that.’”

Music in May, is scheduled for 7:00 p.m at Tweedsmuir Church, 6 John Street. Tickets are available at BookLore and Tweedsmuir Church office or by telephone at 519-941-1334.

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