New Montrealer is a Julliard-trained Classical and Gospel Powerhouse
On the few occasions that Audrey Du Bois Harris has performed in Montreal, it can best be said with the cliché “she blew the audiences away.”
Granted, she is yet to be showcased on the big stage at the big concert halls, but it’s safe to say that it’s only a matter of time before music lovers come to appreciate the musical dynamo in our midst.
The Miami, Florida-born singer, who recently moved here with her family, has brought a lot of musical heft to complement what has been a spectacular career so far as a performer of opera, classical, jazz and sacred music.
She also comes with a lot of acclaim, having performed on more than four occasions for President Barack Obama, including a full program of sacred and gospel selections as well as an assortment of Christmas carols at a Holiday Event at the White House in 2014.
She also shared the stage with greats such as Pastor Shirley Caesar, the Williams Brothers, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and Reverend Marcia Dyson at the prestigious Aretha Presents the Gospel Legends event held in Detroit, Michigan, last November.
It was there that she was summoned to the dressing room of the iconic Pastor Caesar who assured Du Bois-Harris that she was indeed on a path to becoming “The Voice”, a designation once reserved for the late Whitney Houston.
Her talent and spectacular voice have earned her widespread acclaim on opera stages around the world with a long list of memorable performances, including Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme with The New Britain Symphony Orchestra and Verdi’s Aida with both Opera of the Hamptons and The New Rochelle Opera.
She also masterfully played the role of Betty Shabazz in Anthony Davis X’s opera, The Life and Times of Malcolm X at Harlem’s Schomburg Center, as well as the title role of internationally renowned African-American soprano Ellabelle Davis in The Gentle Lark of New Rochelle and Bess in a United Kingdom tour of Porgy & Bess.
At a sit-down conversation at the offices of The CONTACT, Du Bois Harris accepts the gratification and glory that come with her obvious talent but says she lays it all at the “feet of my Lord and Savior.”
“Every time I perform, it doesn’t matter where or for whom, I see it as an opportunity to share the gift that God has given to me. God is the centre of my life.”
Which of course made it such a heady experience for her to deliver some classic hymns such as ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ to Russian audiences while there as part of a State Department sponsored tour.
Her binding spiritual convictions also explain why she chose to make a gospel album as her first recorded project.
She says The CD, Testimonial, with its repertoire of classic hymns, was an opportunity for her to “plant the seed.”
She tells the story of finding herself stuck in an impassable traffic jam on an easy Sunday morning in New York City only to find out later that a woman who was attempting to commit suicide on the bridge caused it.
“When I heard that, the one thought that came to me was: didn’t this woman ever hear the message of ‘Because He Lived,’ or ‘It is Well…’ or even “Amazing Grace.”
And it reinforced her determination to use her gift “to spread his word,” hoping that it touches someone who might be in turmoil.
Du Bois tells of the simple acts of faith and determination that put her on the path to acclaim as a classical and opera singer, a highly exclusive world where pomp and ceremony and talent collide with every performance.
Her passion for singing and performance was stoked in her pre-teen years by her mother who took her to all types of artsy events across Miami, also at the little Baptist church where her family worshipped and where she sang lustily with friends.
One day her mother took notice of her voice, got her voice teacher, and had her audition at the New World School of the Arts, where many try but very few get in. Du Bois Harris earned entrance with flying colors and it was there that one of her instructors introduced her and compared her to the great Leontyne Price.
Like Price, Du Bois was among the chosen few to gain a full scholarship to The Julliard School in New York city, easily the most famous music school in the world to which the acceptance rate is around eight per cent and tuition around $40,000 per year.
Among it’s many illustrious graduates are concert violinist Yo-Yo Ma and singer Viola Davis.
“At Julliard you’re in an ocean with all big fishes where everyone is insanely talented,” she says. “It forces you to stretch yourself.”
As such, Du Bois comes to Montreal highly decorated and prepared to share her many blessings and her gift with music lovers in this city.
Join her on Saturday, June 11, at Union United Church on Delisle Street for an evening of Gospel Hymns and Spirituals. She will be joined by The Combined Choir under the direction of Kim Sherwood.
For info on her music and her CD, Testimonials check out her website: www.audreyduboisharris.com