Published, EAC Communiqué, November 1990
e hear Esther Farrell’s warm lyric mezzosoprano voice blended and woven into the music of the Elora Festival Singers, or the St. John’s Parish Choir, a voice among many. We also hear her as a soloist, standing before us small and eloquent, black eyes shining in the stage light, the intensity of her interpretation of opera and art songs touching us with deep communication. We, the audience, are part of Esther’s every song. We store the memory of this song inside us, knowing she is only with us for a short while, on her way to the major challenges of the professional performing stage.
Esther’s formal training as a singer began when she was 24. She had received a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Toronto, specializing in Psychology, and intended to study Medicine when the path of her life took a sharp turn. After graduation from U. of T., wanting a change of pace, she went to the Canadian Bible College in Regina as music director. There she took some voice lessons and was encouraged to continue studies under Victor Martens at Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo.
As part of her vocal training at WLU she was introduced to Opera and stage performance. “I guess the bug bit me,” Esther says. “I had never sung in another language before. Now my favourites became French Opera and Art songs. But really I love all Opera.” She played the part of Annie, a 16 year old girl, in a production of Porgy and Bess, and enjoyed the sense of family onstage and the opportunity to project into a character, her psychology training complementing her music.
Esther has been singing since she was three or four years old, in the Evangelical tradition of the Wesleyan Church, Toronto. Esther remembers the church as “a great place for young people to grow up in friendship and security”. Through her many church centred activities she developed a calm assurance and sense of sharing reflected in her performances today. She played piano in the church, and was Junior Choir Director and Sanctuary Choir Director, as well as belonging to a small choral group which performed across Canada and the U.S.A.
Singing with the Elora choirs gives Esther the opportunity to explore a wide repertoire of good music. She believes it to be a good transition to a solo career because choral work augments musicality, and makes the singer listen to what the composer is trying to say. She is aware of the body as a musical instrument that must treated with moderation and the care accorded a cello, if it is to perform well. A singer must learn to compensate for changes in temperature and humidity. Esther enjoys performing at St. John’s Church, the choirs’ home in Elora, where excellent acoustics and intimacy of space allow sound to flow, making it possible for the voice to achieve maximum fluidity, nuance and expression. Because of the many rehearsals necessary for the choir, Esther came from Kitchener to live in Elora, but she continues to work part time as Music Librarian at Wilfred Laurier University.
Esther has had two solo recitals, and has appeared as soloist with the Guelph Spring Festival, the Wellington Winds, the Gallery Music Group, and in numbers of church oratorios. Her exciting performance at the Arts Council’s recent Cabaret evening confirmed our perceptions of her as a performer of unusual calibre and warmth. She is grateful to family who are supportive of her singing career, being very musical themselves.
While at present committed to the choirs, Esther has been in contact recently with a Manager in the U.S.A. Hopefully he will help her towards her goal of a career in Opera. She is prepared to live simply, describing her values as more spiritual than material. Her great desire is to find the opportunity to work with dedication, preferably in Opera. “If I can share the music of the composer with the audience and they can be moved by it, then I’ll be content.”
by Beverley Cairns, November 1990
… the intensity of her interpretation of opera and art songs touching us with deep communication
UPDATE – 1997
With the revival of the musical “Show Boat”, Esther’s career took on new dimensions of travel. She performed throughout Canada and the U.S. with this very successful musical production for three years. She travelled from Toronto to Vancouver with stops along the way in St. Paul, Los Angeles, Denver, St. Louis and Minneapolis.
UPDATE – 2005
Since 1997, Esther has regularly performed in New York Harlem Productions’ tours of Gershwin’s opera “Porgy & Bess”. It has taken her to audiences around the world, to such places as Sardinia, Venice, Cologne, Bremen, Leipzig and Oslo; on her most recent tour with the company she performed in Austria, Sweden and Japan.
And closer to home (at the Centre In The Square in Kitchener), she was the featured soloist with the K-W Symphony in a program of George and Ira Gershwin compositions. She continues to perform with local ensembles: the Elora Festival Singers, the Mendelssohn Choir, and the St. John’s Anglican Church Choir. She also sang in the 2004 Guelph Spring Festival concert performance of Glen Buhr’s opera, “Flux”, and the 2003 world premiere of Ruth Fazal’s “Oratorio Terezin.” Esther has recently opened a voice studio in Elora.