The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra is delving into 2013 on a stylish note with Crooner Mania! featuring Calgary singer Michael Hope.
Set for Jan. 19, the concert begins at 8 p.m. on the Arts Centre mainstage.
Classic tunes for Crooner Mania! will run the gamut from In the Still of the Night, Stardust, Begin the Beguine and Mack to Knife to Fever, Send in the Clowns and The Impossible Dream.
“I came up with this idea because I wanted to put together a package of music from the American Songbook,” he explains. He ran the concept past RDSO music director Claude Lapalme and he agreed to arrange the show.
Hope, known for his versatility, is well-suited to this type of music. Some of the cuts he’ll be performing in Red Deer have appeared on past CDs including The Quintessential Cole Porter and Bewitched. Hope explains that melding these songs with orchestra brings a new sense of power and richness to the music.
“An orchestra has such a wide range of colours. You can go from whispers to thundering dynamics. That’s why every singer loves to sing with an orchestra, especially one as great as the RDSO because you have the capacity to have the strings shimmering in the background, or you can have the full impact of everyone playing at the same time.”
Over the years, Hope has captivated audiences in both Canada and the United States. He first gained international recognition as the first prizewinner in the 1988 CMC International Stepping Stones Competition.
His introduction to music came early on, with the proverbial piano lessons at age five. “I rebelled completely and I quit,” he says with a laugh. His mom decided to let him stop after about one year. “My mother decided to put both me and my piano teacher out of our misery.” It’s rather ironic as today, the piano is one of Hope’s favourite instruments.
Later, in Grade 4, he started playing clarinet and loved it. That continued through junior high. Then he took up the bassoon. “I had the good fortune of being able to switch over to it in high school.” He also took a choir course to earn credits more quickly so he could shorten his time in high school.
“Being in that choir, I discovered just how much fun it was to sing. The desire to sing is what kind of drove me along.”
He started exploring all kinds of music that suited him vocally. “The repertoire for the human voice is like 500 times better than that for the bassoon.”
Meanwhile, specializing in the bassoon continued in his post-secondary studies. Hope graduated from the Curtis Institute Of Music in Philadelphia. He currently holds the position of second bassoonist in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
It was also during those years he began singing publically, and it was one of those completely unexpected bends in the road that got him there. He relocated to Calgary in 1982. “I came to Calgary and joined the orchestra. Then I started to explore what had become my side passion, and that was the singing.
“Completely by accident, in 1990, we were doing a Broadway show with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and the singer cancelled. For some reason, the management had known I was a singer and asked if I could help. I said sure, and all of a sudden, just like that, I found the music I was supposed to sing.”
Hope recalls being terrified at that life-changing performance, but there was something special about it, too. “It was the first time I had ever sung with the orchestra, and it was nerve-wracking.
“Up to that point I had been trying to find a niche for myself in opera and art songs. But all of a sudden musical theatre songs come along. Bingo! I found it. I discovered how easy it was to sing this music because it’s in English, and number two, they’re the most beautiful, approachable melodies that I think have ever been written,” he explains.
“They’ve been designed to make people feel a certain way, and to tell a story. It doesn’t take any work to feel great when you are singing this material.”
A distinguished recording artist as well, his CD of inspirational songs called Amazing Grace received a 2009 Covenant Award Nomination for Classical/Traditional Album of the Year. His other hit records What A Wonderful World and the aforementioned The Quintessential Cole Porter and Bewitched have also landed critical acclaim.
Meanwhile, Hope remains passionate about sharing his music, no matter the setting. It’s about connecting. “Sometimes I perform for thousands of people in concert halls, and sometimes I perform for one or two people in a hospital room. It’s always the same. Whether it’s one person or 1,000, it always feels the same for me.”
For tickets, call the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or visit www.bkticketcentre.ca.