One-on-one with Aella is an ongoing series in which Aella members interview one another so that you can learn a bit more about us! We are happy to be back and posting after a very full and busy 2018 :)
A conversation with Kara Morris
By Teri Slade
Through Aella, I have had the great joy of meeting (and now interviewing) Kara. If you ever have the chance to meet her, you will be thoroughly blessed by the experience because she is just the loveliest person, who is also epic at what she does!
Growing up in Nova Scotia, Kara loved acting, and began studying voice so she could do both music and theatre. She ended up really loving the music side of things and going on to do her undergraduate degree in voice. While she only started studying voice later, Kara began singing in choirs in church as a child.
Teri: What are some of your choral highlights?
Kara: One of my favourites was Peter Togni’s consort in Halifax. It was all church music, but because he’s a composer and also the organist the music was always gorgeous and a lot of it was music he composed himself. And it was a small group, maybe 10-12 people.
Teri: Wow, that must have been a really skilled group!
Kara: Yes! And he conducted us from the organ.
Kara sang with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society in Halifax and when she moved here, she immediately auditioned for the Savoy Society because she knew it was a thing she enjoyed (and I imagine also because it’s a thing that she’s fabulous at doing, though she’s perhaps too humble to have said so).
Teri: What was your favourite role?
Kara [with zero hesitation]: Mabel from Pirates of Penzance.
Pirates of Penzance I first saw when I was a kid and I was just in awe of Mabel because she does that aria that goes really high. It’s the first thing you hear when Mabel arrives as a character.
Teri: So that must have been fun to star as her!
Kara: Yes, but even more than getting to do all of the showy vocal stuff, I love being around other people on stage, and in that scene, a lot of the cast is on stage. I don’t like doing arias where you’re all alone on the stage and just singing to the audience. That’s probably the biggest reason that I didn’t try to be a professional singer because I don’t like to just stand by the piano and sing. Although the vocal calisthenics are super fun, it’s not the same as interacting with others on stage. And in that scene, you get to interact with every other character. It’s great!
Isn’t that cool? I’ve always appreciated how much Kara likes to interact and connect with people on stage. So naturally I told her how much I love blending with her (because our voices match quite nicely), and she said:
I love blending with people. That’s something special about choir that you don’t have in operetta. In those roles, you need to sound like a soloist, but there’s something really lovely about everybody’s voices sounding as one. I love it! It’s such a nice way to connect with people.
And then I HAD to ask this question:
Teri: So, in Aella, people know how lovely you are and how easy you are to talk to, but surely you’re aware that you are known particularly for your high notes. How does that make you feel?
Kara: It makes me feel special! That I have something special to contribute. It hasn’t always been the case, at least not in my choir experiences. In university, I was not the one who you looked to for high notes.
In my first year of university, anything above an E at the top of the staff was not comfortable, so they pegged me as a mezzo. I had three different teachers during my music and theatre degree and it was the third one who taught me how to access my upper register. I don’t know how to explain what she taught me, exactly, but she helped me find a whole new register.
Sometimes when we sing things in Aella that is mostly in a mid-high register but pops up to higher notes, I sometimes need to catch myself and change into that higher register so that I don’t strain to make the pitches happen. So, I get it why people, when they are trying to learn to sing high, they stop at that point and say that they can’t go higher. It really does feel like there’s a block there, especially if you don’t know yet how to change into that higher register.
Some other highlights of things Kara does: yoga, spending loads of time outside (she intentionally chose to live in a spot by the transCanada Trail for access to trail walking), raising a most adorable pre-schooler, working as a psychotherapist, and missing Nova Scotia. No wonder she and I get along so well: we both spend lots of time missing our east coast homes. <3
One final quote from our long chat:
I felt that when I joined Aella I immediately had a dozen new friends.
Me too, Kara. Me too.