Saskatoon tenor Spencer McKnight started listening to classical music at the age of 14 and was inspired to start singing it himself when he was 17. “It spoke to me more than any other music. I can have an emotional connection with the different textures you can get from classical music that you can’t get from other music,” he says.
Since then, he has expanded his repertoire to include art song, opera, and oratorio. For the past two years, he has sung the tenor solo in Handel’s Messiah with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and will be singing it again this season. “The Messiah really fits my voice well; and I’ve had a lot of fun working on it each year, putting in new ornaments. It’s amazing how much life you can breathe into a 250-year-old piece of music with a dedicated group of musicians and singers,” he says. McKnight will also be performing with the symphony as the soloist for Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, a Bach cantata, as well as the tenor soloist for the Coronation Mass in C Major by Mozart.
In addition to his symphony gigs and voice lessons, McKnight participates in vocal competitions, which can result in performance opportunities and cash prizes, but most importantly, an opportunity to perform in front of judges and network with them. The high point of his career so far was receiving the Jan Simmons Award for art song performance at the National Music Festival in Waterloo, Ontario, in 2013. This year, he plans to try and compete at the National Music Festival again and explore competition opportunities in the United States.
He recently received an Independent Artists grant from the Arts Board to fund monthly travel to Toronto for extensive voice lessons with his teacher, Mark Daboll. “It means so much to me to be able to go study with Mark, even once a month. It’s keeping my technique in check and helping improve it,” McKnight says. “We have a good rapport and he’s really opened my voice up and brought in a lot of colours that I can now use. It’s hard sometimes to know how to access certain parts of your voice, and it’s great when you find a good fit with a teacher to really help you explore all your voice has to offer.”
Front page: Spencer McKnight performs Handel's Messiah with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.
Photo by Derek Mortensen
Above: McKnight at the Gordon Wallis Opera Competition
Photo by Stephen Nicholson
Photo by Heather Fritz