Singing Baroque-Jazz: An Interview with Hélène Brunet

We talked with soprano Hélène Brunet, who joins Les Délices for performances of Torchsongs Transformed, March 6-8. Hélène has an amazing stage presence and feels comfortable crossing genres – and centuries – singing music from the 17th Century to today.

Learn more about her perspective and hear her sing live in performance! Info and tickets are available here.

How do you feel that modern audiences can or should relate to 17th C airs de cour? What should they be listening for or understand about them?

I would say that this repertoire really is timeless. If the music doesn’t stir your heart a little, then maybe the lyrics will. I think we can most certainly relate to a text written around the theme of love or loss, if it be from the 17th century or our time. Certain themes are just timeless.

Did you grow up singing popular music? How does pop music influence your interpretations?

Ooh! That’s a great question! Indeed, I’ve grown up listening to A LOT of amazing pop, soul, R&B, jazz, blues and rock music, and can definitely say that my musical background has very much impacted my singing, my energy on stage, and how I approach an aria! Honestly in my case, all those years spent studying the craft of the music icons of our era have ABSOLUTELY shaped my voice and it has in fact taught me how to sing baroque music! Céline and Mariah have essentially taught me how to navigate difficult coloratura, how to use my voice in the most flexible way from my lowest to highest register, and how to use nuances and dynamics as a great tool for expression!

I think the reason why baroque music has always resonated with me is because it’s so similar to pop music! It’s extremely passionate and full of rock ‘n roll moments where you get to use your instrument at its full capacity!

Do you approach singing 17th C love songs and 20th C torchsongs differently? If yes, how?

Perhaps because I’m a pop singer at heart disguised as a classical singer, I’d say that indeed, I do tend to approach 17th century repertoire the way that I would a beautifully written, touching ballad for instance. I let myself be taken by the harmonies, the mood or groove, the words, the way the song builds up or settles. Above all, what’s most special about music making – whatever genre – is finding that magical chemistry among the group (in this case with Mélisande, Eric and Debra; a dream team) where we all sense each other’s musicality so naturally, in the same way a jazz quartet would fuse together organically! It’s sincerely the most enjoyable and the most special!

What are you most looking forward to singing this season?

The project that has occupied my mind and heart the most this season is the recording of my debut solo album with baroque orchestra. I’ll be recording the album this February in Montreal alongside Mélisande Corriveau, Eric Milnes and 19 other instrumentalists! The album comes out in September 2020 under the ATMA Classique label.

What might we find you doing when you’re not singing?

Honestly, more singing! I can’t help it! And somehow, whatever I’m singing, it most likely ends up ‘Célineified’!! I’m also a compulsive dish washer, shoe shopper, I’m an avid puzzle maker and I love book browsing!