Eve Daniell, a Cowichan Valley singer who is pursuing her career dream in England, capped an amazing few months by singing for the Queen during her visit to Canada House on July 19.
Daniell herself still can hardly believe it happened. She’s back on Vancouver Island for a series of concerts and had a chance to chat.
“It’s a surreal thing for me: I was just working. I was there to do a job. I was hired, boom, done. But then you step back and look at it and go, oh, my gosh, the Queen, and it was Canada House, and it was filled with VIPs. And then you see the videos and it almost feels like it was someone else. It was more like, ‘Oh, look what that girl did!’ and you forget you were in that moment and you saw the things that she saw. It was such an honour.”
Daniell has been singing up a storm in England, building a reputation and a career.
“The way it works in the performing arts is that for every success, assume there are two great rejections. But, I’ve had some cool gigs.
On Canada Day, the Canadian government through the Canadian High Commission threw a big party in Trafalgar Square.
“They needed someone to lead the Canadian national anthem and asked me. I went and there was one of my sister’s friends from [Frances Kelsey Secondary], from high school. It was really neat.”
As far as her career goes, Daniell wants to become a classical soprano.
“The way the careers set up right now is that the most stable jobs are in opera. When you get hired in opera, you get hired to do a run. “And then you get paid per show so if you do 10 shows and get X amount per show, all of a sudden you’ve got a livelihood.”
On top of that, of course, it’s opera.
The singer is working hard on building up her repertoire.
“I love Mozart. A company called me up out of the blue, and said, ‘Hey, Eve, both of our Donna Elviras are unavailable next week. Can you learn the opera in four days?’ And I looked at them, and said, ‘Hey, I’ll give it a go. I can’t guarantee it’ll be perfect, but I’ll happily try.”
For a chance at Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, even shower-stall sopranos would happily try.
“And so my Easter weekend was spent cramming an entire opera, in Italian, that I didn’t know yet. It was so much fun.”
But she sings more than just Mozart roles.
“The most successful thing I’ve done in London, the most rave reviews I got were actually for playing a man. I played the Emperor Nero in a production of a Monteverdi opera.”
Monteverdi? That’s going all the way back to the roots of opera.
“It’s almost not opera. You look at the music and think, this is really different. ”But they are fantastic roles, and really fascinating to dig into and wrap one’s head around. It took so much effort. I didn’t realize I was walking down the street in character. It’s not great when you realize you are stomping down the street as a psycopathic male emperor. But you have to get into the character and figure out what it means to you, how you portray it and how you tell the story with the most integrity you can.”
Another highlight for Daniell was performing at the Last Night of the Proms, a season-ending celebration at the last of the popular Prom concerts at the Albert Hall in London.
“Performing at the Proms was amazing: my first international broadcast,” Daniell said, and then shared the cloak-and-dagger secrecy around getting the nod to sing there.
“They handpick 16 young artists who have been studying or recently graduated in London. So I got this mysterious email from this woman I sort of knew saying, ‘Eve, I came and saw your performance recently and I was wondering if I could have a recording of yours to show to someone.’ What does that even mean? I thought. I gave her a recording. And then a few days later I got this email back covered in the words confidential, confidential, confidential.
“It said: ‘My dear Eve, we would like you to come on board for the Last Night of the Proms singing Vaughan Williams.’ I didn’t really know how to take it because I’m not British, I don’t know the significance of everything yet. But this was massive. It’s one of the big events of the year.”
Daniell showed the email to her vocal coach.
“I kind of got the gravitas of it then. He was lost for words. That was when I thought, oh, this is big.”
Her father flew over for the special performance.
“I got two seats, so they were for my dad and my singing teacher. It was just incredible. The Royal Albert Hall was packed to the brim. People in all various states of dress and states of revelry. There was one guy who had a giant inflatable banana that he kept waving in the air. There were people who had air horns, and confetti streamers and poppers. My dad said it felt more like a Canadian hockey game than he would have guessed a British musical event could ever be. It was such a cool experience.”
That night at the Proms was one of those moments that become crystallized in memory for Daniell.
“Since I went off to start my studies in England it’s been five years of work, work, work, work, work. I think my studies, the four years, cost over C$200,000. I was always figuring out how I could get a job and if I couldn’t then what I had to do to make this all possible, like applying for grants. It was just constant.
“But there at the Proms, I reminded myself onstage to just be there in the moment. We’d finished singing and the piece was ending. The sheer roar of the crowd, and looking up at the Royal Albert Hall with all of its different tiers teeming with people. Doing all I could to file away that memory, cherish it after a really long, hard, and rewarding but deeply difficult journey.
It’s been wonderful this year that I’ve had these moments that have been so special,” Daniell concluded.
Now that she’s home, Daniell has a concert tour on the Island.
“It’s my favourite part of the year. Rykie Avenant and I have five concerts on the Island: Victoria, Comox, Qualicum, Cowichan, and then back to Victoria. It’s just wonderful. I’m in London because the work is in London, but my big project in the coming years is to be doing more and more work at home more often than I do. Being able to do concerts at home in the summer is an absolute dream. I’m not just taking time off, I’m not losing a bunch of money being away from work. I’m able to start building this lifestyle of combining what I love to do with who I love to be around and where I love to be. It’s a big, big, slow project. The concerts are a loving step towards that end.”
Daniell is singing at St John’s Church at 3295 Cobble Hill Rd. on Sunday, Aug. 20, starting at 2 p.m. Admission is by donation.
The first half of the afternoon is classical music, then, after the intermission, you’ll hear music from the past 130 years (to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the church).
That means selections will range from Gilbert and Sullivan to Leonard Cohen.
Friends Holly Collis Handford, Anna Roberts, and Stephanie James are all joining Daniell and Avenant for the second half for trios, duets and quartets.
This November, Daniell will be heard for the first time on CD.
“It’s an album of toccata classics, a CD of composer John Pickard’s music. I only sing on one track but I’m with Roderick Williams and Simon Lepper. To be the third in that trio feels like a very, very cool thing. They are very big deals in England.”