Janelle Lucyk has been rising before the sun for weeks.
She gets up at the punishing hour of 5 a.m. to practise her solo for an upcoming performance on Nov. 20 with the University of King’s College Chorus. Lucyk sings for over an hour before heading to her day job — and this on top of regular Chorus practice.
It’s understandable that Lucyk might be nervous. She is the new soloist for the Chorus and this is the first time she will be performing to represent King’s.
But she shouldn’t be, says Chorus coordinator Andrew Griffin.
“Janelle is arguably the best soloist presently living in Nova Scotia,” says Griffin, a student at the University of King’s College. “We’re lucky to have her.”
Lucyk opens her binder, filled with pages of music notes that dictate the sounds of Handel and Mozart.
“The Handel piece just runs,” she says. “It starts here, and you don’t have a breath until…” she pauses, flipping pages. “Here.”
Lucyk, a soloist with the King’s Chorus, has been formally trained with the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and with a private teacher in Durham, U.K. And yet, she says the Handel piece is the most challenging she has ever sung.
Auditions for the Chorus call for musicians of all skill levels, and not all the singers are formally trained in music. However, Chorus director Nick Halley is fearless when it comes to taking on challenging pieces of music.
“I spent four days just figuring out the first three pages,” Lucyk says. The Handel piece is 43 pages long.
Despite the work’s complexity, Lucyk has been thoroughly enjoying working with the Chorus.
“Nick Halley, the chorus director, just has this dynamism,” she says.
“Handel and Mozart were in their early twenties when they wrote this. The music is very alive. He gives us the energy to be able to recognize that and have fun while we’re singing it.”
The energy in the room as the chorus practises is electric.
Halley cracks jokes just as often as he corrects and encourages his singers, and the room is full of laughter. But as soon as the music begins, it absolutely rings out over King’s campus, creating a hauntingly beautiful sound for those leaving late-night classes.
The upcoming concert, named after the patron saint of music, St. Cecilia, will also feature the Chorus director’s father on the organ. Five-time Grammy award winner Paul Halley will play along with the Ensemble Regale Orchestra.
Lucyk describes an improbable concert directed by Paul Halley, in which he’d included someone playing the saxophone, and dragged the organ into the very middle of the room.
“It shouldn’t have worked,” says Lucyk. “But the level of excellence he brings to things . . . that was a moment in music I’ll never forget. That cathedral space is full of colour and light. The saxophone was perfect for it. And he just does stuff like that all the time. He’s a visionary.”
Lucyk’s bright soprano might be just the ticket to get through the dreary month of November.
“This is very warm music,” says Lucyk. “Even while there’s a lot of technique to it. It’s very comforting.”