Songs From lockdown: Harry Grigg

Harry Grigg (centre) with the 2020 Opera in Schools team

Our Dame Malvina Major Foundation Studio Artists have been busily working on their programme online during this lockdown period, but they also decided to each record a song to share from their homes to yours. The first in this series features Harry Grigg singing ‘Go, Lovely Rose’ by Roger Quilter, accompanied by former Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist David Kelly. Here’s Harry, from the “Royal Cheviot Opera House.”

Q&A with Harry Grigg

Tell us about where you are in lockdown. Where did you come from to be there? Who are you with?

I am currently on the farm in Cheviot with my mum and dad. On the day it was announced we were going to level 4 I booked a flight from Auckland to Christchurch and they came and picked me up! 

Views from gorse spraying

What are you doing with this time in one place?

Half the time is spent working for dad on the farm and the other half is spent working on my singing. I have spent many hours climbing up and down hills spraying gorse. after I have finished  I go home, shower, get into some respectable, clean clothes and pop on to Zoom to have a coaching or lesson. 

I have to give a massive shoutout to Kristin Darragh and Glenn Meade who are helping keep the DMMF Studio Artists busy and connected. We have weekly meetings where we check back in and organise our weeks, as well as other exciting projects for when we are all allowed back in the same room! 

How did the song with David Kelly come about, and why did you pick this particular song?

David is someone who I love collaborating with, so it was a no brainer to ask him to get involved in this project. Go Lovely Rose is one of my favourite art songs. It for sure has some schmultzy poetry, but at its essence asks us to be our best self and show that to world. A pretty important message in such dour times!

How was the Opera in Schools experience for you? What were the highlights?

When I agreed to take part in the Opera in Schools programme I was terrified that it would be too much for me. In short, a day on tour involves arriving at school one, unpacking and putting up the set, performing the show, doing a Q&A, packing the set down and putting it back in the van and repeating that whole process for school number two. In one day. For two and a half weeks. It was crazy and exhausting. 

It’s also the most rewarding, fun and satisfying project that I have ever been a part of. The kids at all of the schools were so engaged and loved the show. Watching their faces as I came out as Monostatos or hearing their gasps of surprise as we revealed the gingerbread house that was part of our set made every show so fresh and fun. Even at schools that maybe weren’t as loud, the specificity of the questions in the Q&A were astounding! Props to the environmentally savvy kid who asked if there was any plastic in the set (I can confirm there wasn’t!). 

In short I loved it. Getting to introduce opera to thousands of kids across the country with our little family of three singers plus director and pianist was such a gift and reinforced the magic and power that storytelling and opera has! 

Day one of the 2020 Opera in Schools tour

Is there something you do to stay focused and relaxed that may be useful for others at a time like this?

To focus I have been paring it back, giving myself small achievable goals to complete each day. Yesterday it was to translate a french art song. Start with one a see how you go! 

As important as staying busy is in a time like this, it’s also so so important to give yourself permission to veg out. Find a new TV show to watch. I started Westworld and holy moly what a ride that is. There has never been a better time for a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movie marathon, and yes I am talking about those extended editions! Also once a week I have been having a games night with friends across the country as a way to stay connected. 

What’s been the highlight of being in the DMMF Studio Artist programme so far?

Easy! It has been the commitment the NZ Opera has had to helping us develop as both performers and as humans. The programme has been so personalised for each of us. In retrospect this is an obvious approach to take as no two singers have the same strengths and weaknesses. I will leave the programme at the end of the year knowing that I am a much more accomplished musician, businessman and resilient person, and for that I am so grateful!

Is there a particular performance you saw, or an experience you remember that made you want to be an opera singer?

One of the first operas I ever saw was NZ Opera’s La Cenerentola in 2015. I had never had so much fun at the theatre and was captivated from overture to finale! Only on writing this did I realise that Andrew Collis, Ashraf Sewailam and John Tessier, three of the principals in this opera, were also in last year’s The Barber of Seville. I was lucky enough to be in the chorus for this so now I guess I can say I have worked with three people who made me love opera! How awesome is that?! 

You can read about all three of our Dame Malvina Major Foundation Studio Artists here.