A day in the life of a Canadian mezzo: Vicki St. Pierre

A day in the life of a Canadian mezzo: Vicki St. Pierre

Our guest blogger this month is Vicki St. Pierre who, in addition to being a remarkable mezzo, conducts, teaches, administers a large cathedral chorus, is working on a PhD and is a devoted spouse to a soprano. She chronicles for us February 4, 2012, the day of her performance in Toronto Masque Theatre’s The Masques of Love.

Tonight I am singing one solo, several solo quartets (renaissance madrigals), solo quartet in a newly composed work, and singing some improvised back up for the pop/folk/cabaret singers involved in the show. It is a very busy show for me, but very diverse and interesting.

8am My wife’s alarm goes off. She has to teach at a music school for the morning and part of the afternoon. She is also a classical singer (soprano) and an excellent voice teacher. We get up and slowly make our way downstairs (no coffee yet).

8:30am Coffee and toast. I love cheeze whiz, it’s one of my guilty pleasures, and that’s what I’m having on my toast today! I watch my sports highlights show and my wife catches up on her emails and texts. This is how we wake up almost every morning. I do love my sports!

9am  I’m now sitting down at my computer to get to work. Many emails to reply to, and a schedule to create. I’m the Interim Choral Director at a major cathedral and I have two 16-member choirs to schedule. Those two choirs are made up of professional choristers and soloists and thus, creating a schedule for them is a major challenge. It usually takes about 16-20 hours of work to create a 2 month schedule. Right now, I’m plugging in some availabilities. Another wrinkle in my day is the fact that my doctoral dissertation lab work is finally coming to fruition and I’m in the midst of scheduling my subjects for their respective tests. Printing off some forms, sending the ethics report to my supervisor and setting up phase two of the tests.

I also have several meetings next week, some for the choir for which I’m guest conducting 200km away from my house (that ends in just over two weeks — phew!), one of which is for a concert at the cathedral that is a large annual event, and one more with a colleague at another university in town. I teach a course in oratorio at a degree-granting institution and my colleague and I thought that a collaboration between our two classes (she teaches the same thing) would be beneficial for the students. We have some last minute planning to do. So, now I try to organize my week and fit all those meetings in. The trouble is, I also have private students, many of whom are auditioning for university music programs and really can’t miss any lessons right now. So, the juggling begins!

9:45am …with some of that work done, I look in the kitchen, and it’s a mess! So, I do our weekly big clean-up of the kitchen.

10:15am  I hop in the shower and get dressed in very casual clothes (I love jeans and sweaters — hoodies in particular).

10:45am Back to the computer for more cathedral administrative work.

11am A student arrives for a 45min lesson — she’s 13 years old and very bright.

11:45am My student leaves and I pop some lunch in the microwave. My wife made a cabbage roll casserole last night and it’s fabulous. I have 2 glasses of water (always trying to stay hydrated), and a couple of homemade cookies for dessert.

12:15pm I now clean up the kitchen from lunch and sit down at the computer to pay some bills and do more cathedral work. The mail holder on our front table is making me crazy so I tidy it up. Now would be a good time to tell you that I’m a clean freak!

12:30pm Another student arrives for a 45min lesson. She’s prepping for auditions so it’s a much needed lesson.

1:20pm On Saturdays, I always leave time to review the music I have to conduct on Sunday. As I conduct 3 services every Sunday, I have a fair amount of music to prepare. And, this Sunday’s Evensong is a celebration of the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s accession. Big music! Now I’ll sit down and do some last minute prep.

2:00pm When I got up this morning, I noticed that my upstairs bathroom was a mess. It was making me crazy all day. So, I’m going to clean it now. (I already told you — clean freak!)

2:40pm I just sat down to write down my schedule for the last two days for this very blog, and my wife walked through the door. We chat for a bit, and I write out my last couple of days.

3pm Continue working on cathedral schedule

3:10pm We have to meet some friends for dinner before the concert, so I’d better put some street makeup on. I will bring my concert attire with me in a garment bag. I just wear a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.

4:30pm Our friends pick us up and we head out to the restaurant by car.  It’s a lovely place right near the venue and the food is awesome. I try not to speak too much as it can tire my voice out to be speaking above the din of a restaurant. I had a burger and an excellent green salad and some sparkling water. Not too much food — I don’t sing well when I’m too full. I find it hard to breathe and support well.

7:15pm We arrive at the venue and, before I have my coat off, the artistic director pulls me aside and asks if I would do the pre-show talk with him! So, I quickly change and put my concert make-up on. As I’m doing up the last button on my coat, I’m walking on stage to talk to the audience. By 7:45pm the talk ends, and I have a few minutes to relax and get ready for the show. We laugh a lot and run a couple of problem sections.

8pm Show!

10:20pm Done. I grab a beer from the bar and chat with some audience members and colleagues. Then my wife and I head home.

11:30pm We arrive home, get ready for bed, chatting all the while about the concert. I put together my bag for the next morning. 6:45am is gonna feel early! What a day!

Top photo: Vicki St. Pierre (centre) with Ken Whitely and Patricia O’Callaghan at The Masques of Love. Middle: Spouses Erin Bardua and Vicki St. Pierre at the New Hamburg Live! Festival of the Arts. To the left: Vicki St. Pierre back stage in an Opera Atelier production.


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