Spotlight on: Maeve Palmer

Spotlight on: Maeve Palmer

Jenna Simeonov
For Toronto-based soprano Maeve Palmer, learning music is “like a puzzle that you can never quite finish decoding.” Currently a student of Mary Morrison’s, Maeve has a great handle on the concept of patience. She writes articulately about enjoying the process of learning to sing, and the excitement she gets out of singing well. You can hear her this fall with the Orpheus Choir, and in a new project with the Toronto Laptop Orchestra (!).

1. Why do you sing, and why are you pursuing it professionally?

I pursue music professionally because I am in love with the art of singing and everything it encompasses - the process, technique, learning, movement, acting, performing, languages - everything. It really is the “Gesamtkunstwerk.” (Fun word.)

The process of learning holds much of the interest for me. Honing a piece of music is like a puzzle that you can never quite finish decoding. There are always layers to uncover, and that last step when you take a leap of faith and trust that the process is behind you, makes performance so exciting. There’s a kind of electricity that happens when you know you’re making a strong connection with an audience. Despite all the preparation, there’s an element of improvisation in every performance.

2. What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?

To me, good singing is easy singing. It’s amazing how easy it is to sing! It’s also incredible how difficult it is to create that ease in technique and performance. Only when technique becomes automatic and easy can interpretation and character really come through the woodwork. It’s so exhilarating when you finally get past the technique and the meaning and the shape of the line surfaces.

3. What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?

I think younger singers like myself tend to get ahead of themselves, wanting to create a finished product when they’re still building the frame work. It’s easy to work too quickly and then get frustrated when your body can’t yet create what your mind has envisioned. I always try to listen to the wise words of my teacher Mary Morrison - it’s about the process.

4. Do you have a bucket list role that you’d like to sing?

Ever since my dad bought me a CD of Joan Sutherland singing Lucia di Lammermoor, I’ve wanted to sing Lucia - especially if the Mad Scene is accompanied by the glass harmonica -but that’s a role for the future. More recently I’ve been working on Cleopatra, in Giulio Cesare, and I’d like to start learning Queen of the Night in the next few years, and maybe Bellini’s Giulietta.

There are too many works I’d love to learn! My friend Rob Taylor is currently composing an opera for TOLOrk (Toronto Laptop Orchestra) with a role that I’m looking forward to learning, and in August I’ll be pulling together repertoire from the baroque to yesterday afternoon for my masters program at the University of Toronto in the fall.

5. How do you explain your job to non-music folks?

I’m open to suggestions for this one. I grew up in a musical family who have always supported me in my career choice, and I live in Toronto, a hot spot for classical music, so I seldom meet people who are really entirely clueless about opera. Once or twice I’ve been stumped by the odd person who responds to “I study music” with, “Oh, that must be such an easy degree”, or “I’m graduating from music” with “Do you have a real job lined up?.” Maybe I should just say I’m a traveling bard.

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