Avery Lafrentz doubts she would be enjoying so much success in the music world if it weren’t for the opportunities she had in Estevan while growing up.
Lafrentz, a soprano who recently graduated from the University of Toronto, returned home last week to perform her graduation recital Thursday night at St. Paul’s United Church. A large crowd of family, friends and music lovers turned out to listen to her perform.
About half of the audience members were people that she knew, and the people who were strangers are now people she considers to be friends.
“It’s so heartwarming,” she said in an interview with the Mercury. “I had a little tear-up in the back room. I was watching people as they were coming into the church, and I was emotional because it’s just unreal to be supported like this.”
Lafrentz considers herself fortunate to have grown up in Estevan.
“You could say that I couldn’t be anything I am without Estevan,” said Lafrentz. “And that is what I argue. Sometimes I joke that one of the most fun things about me is I am from Estevan.”
There wasn’t a choral program at the Estevan Comprehensive School when she was a student there, but she was part of the band programs, and she performed in the Estevan and District Music Festival.
Lafrentz also studied piano with Cherith Alexander of Weyburn, who was her accompanist for the Estevan recital.
The program in Estevan on Thursday was a collection of songs and arias. She sang in English, French and Italian in a diverse program that not only demonstrated her skills and her powerful voice, but also showcased her sense of humour.
She sang Whatever you say he Sings, about a woman who is married to an opera singer, and Missed Connections, which features several short songs about someone looking for love.
The concert was bookended with two of her favourite arias that she said remind her of the strength of women, but also allowed her to showcase her ability to sing in Italian. A Debussy set of four French songs reminded her of the expansive Saskatchewan sky with harmonies and sound that create an atmosphere of how big the world is.
She also included Canadian and American songs.
Her encore song was Somewhere Over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz.
“I invite you to explore whatever your reaction to this style of music is, be it negative, positive or indifferent. There is no wrong way to participate in this concert tonight,” she wrote in the concert program.
A reception was held following the concert, which allowed her to greet, hug and visit the people in attendance.
Lafrentz had already performed a graduating recital in Toronto. There were only a couple of songs in Estevan that were different from Toronto.
“You have to think about who’s going to be there, and what you’re going to sing well,” she said. “Singing for an hour is no easy feat, so you really have to plan the big songs and the little songs.”
Her experience at the University of Toronto allowed her to grow, and reach a new level with her music. It has also created new opportunities.
Lafrentz attended the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria on the Irma Cooper Memorial Scholarship last summer. She performed in master classes taught by soprano Linda Watson and conductor Lukas Beikircher.
She also participated in multiple concerts hosted throughout the city and was named a semi-finalist in the annual Meistersinger Competition.
Working with European conductors and coaches was a dream come true.
“I sang for a fellow teacher’s friend in Phoenix, Arizona, of all places, and she said you’ve to come to Austria, and she set it in motion for me, and she got me to be part of that whole thing,” said Lafrentz.
This summer will also be memorable, as she is one of 40 singers selected to perform at SongFest in Los Angeles. The concert is put on by the Colburn School of Music.
“It’s about learning how to work under pressure, and how to work with all kinds of people, so I think it’s going to strengthen all of my skills, introduce me to new people, and to sing for new audiences.”
And she has been accepted to McGill University in Montreal for her master’s degree. It will give her the chance to sing the lead in an Italian opera by Mozart, and an English musical/opera hybrid by Kurt Wile.