Chloé Hurst and Emma Parkinson will perform On Wings of Song at Knox United Church in Parksville on Oct. 21. (Submitted photo)

Chloé Hurst and Emma Parkinson will perform On Wings of Song at Knox United Church in Parksville on Oct. 21. (Submitted photo)

World-class opera singers will perform in Parksville’s Knox United Oct. 21

Chloé Hurst and Emma Parkinson will sing opera and art song selections

Chloé Hurst and Emma Parkinson will perform music by Mozart, Handel, Brahms and more at Knox United Church in Parksville on Oct. 21.

The two Vancouver-based performers will team up for the debut of On Wings of Song, by Giocoso Productions and will be accompanied by Carol Fetherston on piano. Both are accomplished and classically-trained vocalists and have sung to audiences across Canada and the world.

The production will take the audience on a journey from the Baroque period right up into the modern era, and includes art song and opera pieces in French, Italian, German and English. The concert’s first half will be art songs, with the second focusing on opera pieces, both arias and duets.

Hurst said one of her favourite songs from the production is a lesser-known duet by the French composer, Charles Gounod, which struck her as a female counterpart to the famous ‘Pearl Fishers Duet’ by Georges Bizet.

“It’s just extremely beautiful and the fact that it’s so rare, I’m kind of surprised how rare it is,” Hurst said. “It’s really special to be able to share this with the audience because I feel like it’s a real hidden gem.”

Another highlight, for Parkinson, will be a duet from Handel’s Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar), where she performs a “pants role”, a longstanding opera convention that often sees mezzo sopranos take on a male role.

“It gives you a real chance to find different forms of expression,” Parkinson said. “You’re not confined to your own reality and your own lived experience as one gender. You get to flip into another and its really kind of liberating.”

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Performing in four different languages might sound intimidating, but for a trained opera performer, it just goes with the territory — and is backed up by years of education.

“While it is difficult, personally I much prefer singing in Italian, German and French than English, sometimes,” Parkinson said. “I find it a bit easier, just as far as the vocal line is concerned.”

Hurst’s UBC opera program required a year of German, French and Italian, and she opted to study a year of Spanish and Latin as well. That language background came in handy when she found herself on a concert tour of China and, later that year, the popular Chinese television talent show, Xing Guang Da Dao.

Hurst was contacted by a Vancouver agency that specialized in having Western singers perform Chinese repertoire. She did not know a ton of details before heading to Beijing, but after she arrived she began to realize how popular the TV show was.

She performed a mix of Mandarin opera, folk songs and art songs. Hurst added that thanks to her musician’s ear, she was able to pick up the language relatively quickly, although pronunciation required a lot of practice, since Mandarin is so different from the Western languages she is trained in.

“It was a lot of pressure because some of the songs I was singing were some of the most popular songs in China that everybody knew,” Hurst said.

Parkinson has performed as a soloist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Bach Choir, Kingston Symphony, Orchestre Métropolitain, Alberta Baroque Ensemble and the Slovak State Philharmonic. She has also performed internationally in Germany and China.

Parkinson grew up singing in choirs, but did not always appreciate opera music. She began to study solo voice in a workshop the summer before her first year of university.

“I’ve always loved music,” Parkinson said. “That was always the highlight of my day, when I was going though school and I couldn’t really see myself doing anything else.”

On Wings of Song begins at 7 p.m. at Knox United Church. Tickets are $35 and available at the Port Theatre box office (call 250-754-8550). There will also be a performance at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Nanaimo at 2 p.m. on Oct. 23.


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