From the Nazko wilderness to the opera stage

From the Nazko wilderness to the opera stage

Morgan Fraser is following his dream of professional opera singer

Morgan Fraser loves soccer, playing guitar and living in the Nazko wilderness; however, his passion is singing opera.

At 16 years old, his voice is effortlessly reaching notes that are often difficult for veteran tenors.

No one can really explain why he has such an amazing voice or where his devotion to such an eclectic career came from, especially not his parents, but they support their son and are among the amazed who are captivated by Morgan’s voice.

Morgan grew up living in his parents’ world of guide/outfitting, with chores and riding in the outback near his home in Nazko.

Morgan wasn’t a singer as a young child. Even into his teens he didn’t like the sound of his own voice and refused to sing, although he did play guitar. Being on stage never occurred to him or his family.

Although he was playing soccer three times a week, Morgan found time to take a few singing lessons from local vocal teacher Melanie McKinnon and slowly he found his voice wasn’t so offensive. He took a workshop in voice and was then asked to join a spring break week-long workshop where, on the fifth day, they performed a version of My Fair Lady, with Morgan playing the role of Henry Higgins. That was the spring of 2015 and a passion was awakening in this teenager.

Voice adjudicator and teacher Katherine Van Kampen from Kelowna heard Morgan during the Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts and invited him to study with her.

She introduced Morgan to opera and his passion blossomed.

“It couldn’t be a more remote location to study opera,” his mother Sabrina said with a wry grin.

Morgan studied with Van Kampen for 10 months.

“She pushed me really, really hard,” he said.

“There were times I was ready to quit, but the opera elf kept clawing to get out.”

As Morgan’s talent was exposed more and more, the family kept hearing the same refrain over and over again.

“Every time he opened his mouth to sing, he drew the attention of people who kept saying, ‘Do you know what you’ve got?’” Sabrina said.

Something else was becoming very apparent. Morgan was a pronounced operatic tenor and he was eager to study with a tenor teacher.

With the emergence of his monumental talent, came the cautions, the fears, the need to protect his gift. Physically he has to avoid screaming, always wear a scarf to protect his vocal chords and most of all have the right teacher, with the right methods and knowledge to best develop Morgan’s opera possibilities.

There was also the risk of the attention and success creating a big ego; however, his mother was never concerned about that. Sabrina knew she and her husband, Stewart, had raised Morgan to be level headed, with a solid character who knew right from wrong.

Professionals in the business began to hear about his abilities and were clambering to work with him, but he was still living in Nazko and still in high school.

When Morgan was approached in March of this year by Blaine Hensbee, an opera professor at Lethbridge University and a opera tenor singer by profession, he knew he’d found his teacher.

This seasoned opera veteran knew how to bring out the best in Morgan, knew when to push, when not to push and how to help this young greenhorn develop his talents and skills. This was, for the most part, all done via the Internet. Morgan even looked to Blaine for advice on how to handle the overwhelming praise already heaped on the young singer.

“My parents taught me right from wrong and the right values,” Morgan added.

Morgan has already debuted as an opera singer. He was invited to perform with the chorus and had a small role with Opera Kelowna this past summer. One of the company’s people had heard Morgan perform in Williams Lake and reached out to him in Nazko.

With the help of Kelowna Rotary, he was able to participate.

“This was my debut and I felt pretty good about it,” he said.

It was also a good opportunity for Morgan to see the inside workings of the career he had chosen, the work that goes into staging an opera.

“But the cast was so supportive, I had about a week to get used to everything,” Morgan said.

He’s now back at the books finishing his Grade 12 year and learning five new languages with hopes of pursuing his passion, but he knows each step of the way is about trust, genuineness and learning – always learning.