Vivace – Melody Courage: Hardy-born ‘popera’ star take NI Concert Society stage

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by Trish Weatherall

Published in the North Island Eagle newspaper Nov. 24, 2017

One of the stars of an upcoming North Island Concert Society performance has roots in Port Hardy.

Vancouver vocalists Melody Courage, born in Port Hardy, and Tiffany Desrosiers, lead the classical crossover group Vivace (pronounced vi-VAH-chay), which includes male guest artists to round out their brand of ‘popera.’ Vivace highlights include a new interpretation of Lana Del Rey’s “Love”, and a ‘mashup’ of Ellie Goulding’s “Love me like you do”, and Ariana Grande’s “One last time”, sung in both French and English.

“The genre is so cool. It’s a mix of music that makes opera more accessible,” said Courage. “It’s not stuffy or formal. We take a classical piece and put a twist on it. We add personality to the show.”

Courage lived in Port Hardy until relocating to Comox in Grade 2, and is thrilled to be back in the area.

“I love going back to Port Hardy,” she said. “Everything is exactly as it was back then. It feels familiar, like an extension of my home. I just seem to exhale when I get back there.”

She visits her sister’s family at Storey’s Beach once or twice a year, and also once spent five months living there to rejuvenate after a difficult time. “I worked for Pacific Coastal Airlines,” she said. “It was a simple life and gave me the chance to reset.”

Port Hardy also hosted Vivace’s first full-length concert in 2010. “I remember we were all so nervous, but the reception from the audience was so beautiful and warm!”

The group was listed as a favourite by North Island Concert Society members. “It’s such a big honour to be invited back,” said Courage. 

As well as being a Vivace director and performer, Courage is a voice and musical theatre instructor at Caulfield School of Dance in Port Moody, and an artist with the Vancouver Opera since 2003 where she has performed roles in several Mozart operas.   

Her interest in music started young, but took an unusual turn as a pre-teen.

“Mom says I always loved to sing. But I developed a passion for Opera while watching the movie Philadelphia when I was 10 or 11 years old. There’s a scene where Denzel Washington goes to Tom Hanks’ house and he’s listening to opera. The lady singing was so full of emotion – it just pierced me.”

She went on to study music at University of British Columbia (UBC), received her degree and diploma in Opera Performance from the Vancouver Academy of Music, and has worked with opera legends Nico Castel, Judith Forst, Tracy Dahl, as well as Metropolitan Opera coach Carol Isaac.

She is currently performing the part of ‘Native Girl’ in the City Opera Vancouver and Pacific Opera Victoria’s sold-out co-production of “Missing”, a musical story about the more than 1200 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in North America (by playwright Marie Clements, and scored by composer Brian Current). The subject is personal to Courage, who is Métis (Cree on her father’s side). She has also performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Planet Indigenous Festival, and in “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” for the opening of Vancouver’s Inaugural Cultural Olympiad in 2010.

Even with all her performance success, Courage says motherhood is her greatest accomplishment. Her four-year-old son Odin is loving the theatre life. “I’ve been lucky he has been able to travel with me. But he’s a sensitive guy. He gets very emotional listening to opera. So now he gets to hang out in the dressing room and watch shows on his iPad.”

Courage’s collaboration with Saskatoon-born singer/songwriter Tiffany Desrosiers to create and manage Vivace is seven years strong. “Tiffany and I have a relationship like sisters,” said Courage. “We have each other’s back. She’s ridiculously talented, and, also, just such a great person.”

Desrosiers has impressive credentials of her own, collaborating over the years with well-known artists like David Foster, Mark Masri, Ben Harper, Jackson Browne, Colin James, and Loverboy. With a UBC Bachelor of Music degree, she won the BC Provincials in Intermediate, Senior, and National Classic Voice; was a finalist in the Unsigned Only competition; and released her self-titled debut album in 2009.  Her 2010 club version of the 1989 pop classic “When I see you smile” reached the top 10 on the UK pop club charts.

This Vivace tour includes Victoria baritone Gabriel Macdonald, and Vancouver-based performer Frankie Cena.

The North Island concert society presents Vivace Dec. 2 at the Port Hardy Civic Centre, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets (Adults & Seniors: $30, students $10) are available at Cafe Guido, Port Hardy Museum, Flora Borealis in Port McNeill and from Gail Neely in Port Alice at: (250) 284-3927. For more information contact Richard Starr, the Concert Society’s Chairperson at: niconcertsociety@gmail.com or by telephone at (250) 902-7827.