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Nick’s Halleyfax: from Bebop to Bach

Singing and conducting King's Chorus.



It’s been an eye opening six years since musician Nick Halley moved to Halifax in 2008. Between swinging jazz and sacred choral music, Halley has found a musical niche in the Maritimes that’s hard to find anywhere else. On Saturday, Halley is conducting the King’s Chorus in their fifth anniversary performance. With the Chorus, Halley works with a wide range of musical talent and experience, from first-time singers to his father, five-time Grammy Award winning composer and organist Paul Halley. The Coast got the chance to chat with Nick about his life in Halifax and the Chorus’ upcoming performance.

How did you end up in Halifax?
I followed my dad after he moved up here from New York. I’m originally a drummer, but I always worked with him because he composes music and is a keyboardist and directs choir. When he moved to Nova Scotia, I went back to my life as simply a drummer, but I missed the choral aspect. So, I moved here in order to steal my dad’s knowledge, conduct some sort of lobotomy and take it all with me. That didn’t work, but I fell in love with Halifax and with Nova Scotia and I discovered a form of a musical life here that I would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

What makes your life as a musician in Halifax so unique?
My musical life here is mostly occupied by choirs. There are four choirs that I direct or perform in, and there’s a self imposed musical education that goes along with that. But I also get to go to the States, where I still have connections as a drummer. I play (drums) locally as well. I feel enormously grateful to go from a chorus rehearsal where we’re learning Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum off to a jazz gig and come back and work on Palestrina’s Magnificat with another choir. It’s amazing, I couldn’t replicate that previously.

How do first-time singers in the chorus handle unfamiliar classical music?
For most people in this choir, this music is extremely fresh and new. They might say “I’m interested, but I don’t have the skills.” What happens over the two months of rehearsals is they fall in love with the music. As an audience member, you get the visceral experience of their passion for the music.

How has the Chorus changed since its inception five years ago?
The Chorus consistently stuns me with how amazing they are as a choir. That’s the great mystery of the Chorus, is that they keep getting better. There’s a whole attitude of “we’re going to make the best music we possibly can all the time.” It’s been a great inspiration to me and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had so many people tell me how life-transforming singing in the Chorus has been for them. It’s sort of like watching a child grow, you raise this child and it might be your son or daughter, but they turn into their own person and they have their own foibles and beauty. That’s the Chorus to me. It’s not me creating the experience for these people; it takes on a life of its own. The people care to make sure that it gets bigger and better all the time.

King’s Chorus’ fifth-anniversary performance, this Sat., November 22 at 7:30 in Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica (5221 Spring Garden Road).

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