The Stettler Variety Showcase presents internationally-acclaimed counter-tenor Terry Barber on Jan. 19th for two shows at the Stettler Performing Arts Centre – 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for students and are available at WISH Kitchen & Gift or at the door.
Barber had an early introduction to music, with his mom playing the guitar from the time he was a toddler to his own passion for singing surfacing very early on as well. “I think my mother played guitar and sang to me before I even was born,” he said during a recent chat. “Other people later noticed that I would be singing often – whether when I was just walking around the house or playing with Legos – whatever it was. I’d be singing, even when I was by myself.
“By the time I was seven, I was offered private voice lessons and I jumped at it,” he explained, recalling those formative years growing up in Hanover, New Hampshire.
He also landed a major performance gig with a professional opera company in a Christmas operetta.
“For the first two seasons, I had a role in this operetta – it really opened my eyes and I realized how much I loved this,” he said.
More terrific opportunities and training would of course follow, and Barber’s extraordinary talent flourished as he became increasingly recognized for his mesmerizing counter-tenor vocal power, meaning he sings on the higher end of the tenor range.
“I was just eating it up everywhere I could. I was taking up every opportunity that I could find.”
Barber received his Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance as well as a Musical Theater Certificate and Music Technology Certificate from Northwestern University.
He received his Master of Music degree in historically informed performance from London’s Trinity College of Music where he also received a post-graduate performance certificate with highest distinction.
He also grew to love the production side of things, establishing his own studio where many of his projects have been crafted over the years as well.
Today, besides having been featured on some of the world’s most storied stages, Barber is also a voting member of the Grammy Awards plus he’s on the advisory committee for Nelly’s X’treme Recording Institute.
He’s also rubbed shoulders with plenty of music legends including Madonna, Jewel, Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, and Steve Smith.
His last three self-produced albums have had several considerations for Grammy nominations as well. His most recent recording project, Christmas Presence, was released in 2015.
In terms of his actual voice, his gift is something of a relative rarity – there aren’t a whole lot of counter-tenors performing around the world in general.
“It’s not a specific vocal range, it just (refers) to men who sing higher than tenor,” he explained. That doesn’t mean he’s limited to singing in that range – Barber’s voice covers a wide musical range, and his talent for interpreting both classical and other genres is striking.
And as he pointed out, there really are quite a few stars out there who tend to sing on the higher end, including Justin Timberlake, Sam Smith and Adam Lambert to name a few. “Those people are all singing in what I would call a counter-tenor range,” he explained.
In the meantime, his current programs include ‘The Many Voices of Terry Barber’ – an exploration through light musical theater, classical and popular works and ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ which offers arrangements by Emmy and Grammy-winning composers of the world’s favorite melodies in 10 languages.
In 2009, Barber founded Artist for a Cause Inc., a non-profit which helps visual and performing artists to use their talent for community improvement. “We use our talents to help other people,” he said of the organization’s mandate. “I do it because I want to do something for others.”
It ties in with what fuels his overall interest in performing and sharing his music as well.
“I love people. I will travel three hours from the nearest airport to just go and be able to share art in a different community,” he said. “I get to connect with (people) through my performances. Afterward, they come up and want to say hello, or get a picture, or have a question.
“So I feel like it’s a perk for me to get paid to go and meet people (whether) it’s Moscow or Stettler. Canada is a beautiful country.” He’s also got a natural curiosity about every place he visits, whether it’s a major urban centre or a rural community.
As to braving a Canadian winter during his visit north?
No worries. Growing up in New Hampshire he experienced plenty of snow and chilly temperatures. “Plus, I’m going to Florida first so I’ll get warmed up there,” he joked.
Again, tickets for Barber’s Stettler shows are $30 for adults and $15 for students and are available at WISH Kitchen & Gift or at the door.