News and Events

Looking Through the Opera Glass

April 23, 2018

Love, heartbreak, jealousy, and redemption are just some of the human experiences Sarah Heckbert will be singing about at the Medicine Hat College (MHC) Conservatory’s Through the Opera Glass Alumni Gala on May 12 at Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church.

All 17 gala performers, including Heckbert, are current or former students of local voice programs and many are young professionals and college students preparing to launch music careers.

In addition to featuring local talent, the gala is also an opportunity to remember “giants” in the music community like Adele Armstrong and Glen Harder, says conservatory voice instructor and gala organizer Susan Supeene. With the cooperation of MHC and the Medicine Hat Symphonic Society, donations can be made to their memorial scholarships in support of future voice training for students. A portion of all ticket sales will also be donated to these scholarships.

“Part of the joy of singing, and teaching singing, is the exploration of the drama of human history. The corollary is that, as performers, we get to communicate those worlds to our listeners,” says Supeene.

“My hope for the reception of this concert is that it will introduce the community to the emotional and artistic breadth of opera. Opera is a cultural time machine that opens doors into every possible human drama; and gains its unique power through its union with the world's most beautiful music.”

The event itself was inspired in part by Heckbert’s performance with Calgary Concert Opera in 2016, explains Supeene, her former instructor.

“I went to hear Sarah sing and was very impressed with the high entertainment value of the variety of opera styles. It has been very gratifying to program such an exciting concert for Medicine Hat with our own homegrown students.”

Heckbert’s own music career started with the Medicine Hat College Conservatory Children’s Choir at age five. She continued with voice, dance, and piano lessons and eventually sang with the MHC Girls’ Choir in high school. Since leaving Medicine Hat, Heckbert has studied music at Western University in Ontario and is currently finishing her music degree with Valley City State University (VCSU) in North Dakota. She has also been accepted into a summer intensive program with Opera Kelowna.

“Studying at VCSU gives me the chance to fulfill my music dreams and raise my family at the same time. It’s the best of both worlds,” says Heckbert, who now resides in Calgary and attends classes via video stream.

“I’ve also had the opportunity to sing in the chorus of the Calgary Opera Company. I remember one time in particular being on stage while the soprano was singing an iconic and very famous aria. It was a euphoric feeling sharing the stage with such a renowned and talented singer. I remember thinking to myself that these are the things dreams are made of. It makes all that hard work worth it.”

For her, the alumni gala is a chance to return to the community where her musical career began.

“I am thrilled to be singing in the gala. It feels like coming home and I am excited to show everyone what I’ve been working on since I left Medicine Hat. It’s an honour to be considered alumni and I am pleased that I get to contribute to this gala to help raise funds for local music scholarships. It’s nice to give back to a community that did so much to build me up as a singer and performer.”

Through the Opera Glass will be held at the Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church on May 12 at 7:30 p.m. Other vocalists include Jacqueline Arthur, Britt Booth, Edmund Camphor, Seanachie Clark, Keirdon Dick, Sydney Frelick, Hannah Nickel, Laura McKay, Flannery Salkeld, Faustina Schmid, Samantha Scott, Caleigh Seitz, Christy Sparrow, Olwyn Supeene, Hunter Semrau, and Jocelyn Walters with accompaniment by Elaine Dobek Shandro and Constantine Shandro.

Tickets are on sale now at $25 / $15 (ages 19 & under)