A voice for the classics

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 15, 2014

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IN the land of reggae, soprano Ana Strachan is determined to hold her own singing the classics.

She first came to the fore as winner of the Miss Ardenne High school pageant in 2001, performing a classical piece — The Laughing Song — during the contest's talent segment.

The following year Strachan represented Jamaica at the Miss Hal Jackson Talented Teen International Competition in New York and it was the aria Habanera, from Bizet's famous opera Carmen, which she chose as her talent piece.

Strachan was just coming to grips with the fact that this type of music suited her voice. She first realised her voice was different as a child and recalls singing with her sister some of Whitney Houston's popular songs. But Strachan soon recognised that while her sibling could carry some notes, when she tried, it just did not
sound right.

"When I performed at Miss Ardenne it was the first time I was performing publicly and it took a lot of convincing from my voice coach and family to earn the confidence to sing the type of music my voice favoured," she said. "Furthermore, opera and the classics were not popular among my peers. It was really a gradual process as I had to become comfortable with myself and my own voice." The petite soprano recalls winning the Tastee Talent Competition and being booed from the stage when her victory was announced. For that event she
performed Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's Somewhere from the Broadway musical and film, West Side Story.

"It just wasn't popular music and nobody liked that kind of music. The Tastee crowd just booed me and there were comments like is because shi brown'."

But Strachan, who admires the great sopranos including Maria Callas, Renee Flemming and Kathleen Battle, was not deterred.

Her next step was the University Singers, where she excelled in the company of like voices under the direction of choir maestro Noel Dexter. Her sojourn with the 'Singers' was interrupted when she moved to Ithaca College in the United States. This took her voice to a new level as she was able to participate in stage work including Mozart's The Magic Flute, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo and L'enfant et les Sortileges by Ravel.

Strachan is back home and sharing her experience with aspiring vocalists. She is chorus teacher for the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica, voice teacher at the Jamaica Theological Seminary and Avant Academy of Music, and she also provides individual, private tutoring.

"I really love the teaching experience. I am both teaching and learning and this informs by own performance," says Strachan.




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