“Ecco i giocattoli di Parpignol!”
Did you hear the call of Monsieur Parpignol selling his toys in our March production of La bohème? That was the voice of our own tenor, Harry S. Sink, in his solo operatic debut! “This was the first time I’d sung any opera.” Previously, the closest brush he’d had with opera was when his brother had done lighting for music productions at Julliard back in the 1980’s. Music Director Kelly Crandell asked him if he would like to take on the role, encouraging him by saying, “The main thing is to be loud enough!” He took his small but important part very seriously, and he practiced it quite a bit. “Madeleine Truninger [our March member of the month] was very helpful to me with the Italian, because I wasn’t that familiar with the language.” When asked, “Were you nervous making your debut?” Harry replied, “I was more nervous performing for the group during dress rehearsal. While I knew they would be supportive, I knew that they would know if I messed up.”
Harry began singing at about the same time he began talking. His father, an excellent musician, was the pastor at Ramapo Valley Baptist Church in Oakland, and boy soprano Harry sang in the children’s choir through grade school. The excellent church choir experience set the stage for his ongoing interest in music. Harry sang tenor in high school but proved his versatility by singing bass in his church choir because the choir had too many tenors!
Of course, high school experiences are also important to one’s future interests. As a senior at Indian Hills High School, Harry sang in two shows with director Art Smith, an eager first-year teacher who believed that the students should participate in every aspect of mounting a production. He became involved in building stage sets and scenery – learning carpentry as he went along.
Unimpressed with the theatre department at Gettysburg College (where he majored in religion), Harry became involved with the Gettysburg College Choir. The choir provided an opportunity to see the USA as the group toured extensively during spring break. Upon graduation, Harry worked on a production of Romeo and Juliet at William Paterson University (WPU) at the urging of his friend and mentor, Art Smith, an alumnus. Harry enrolled as a graduate assistant and then became an adjunct instructor teaching stagecraft and building sets for the theatre department productions. While at the school, he also worked with the music department as a stage hand for their concert programs. He left WPU after four years to work at the Whole Theatre Company in Montclair under artistic director Olympia Dukakis. Harry worked as an independent carpenter for some time, but is now employed by Sinke Construction, LLC preferring to leave the paperwork to someone else.
This is Harry’s first season with Ars Musica. He and Rachel Crawford attended our 2012 summer sing in their search for a satisfying choral experience. “Rachel and I had been singing with another community choir, and we wanted something more challenging. Rachel did the research. We were looking for a chorus that had between 40-60 people, because we wanted to get to know the people. Some were too large, others seemed more intimidating. We came to the [Ars Musica] Summer Sing before the season, and we were impressed with Kelly and the group. Also, we knew Olive [Joy Wolfe], who was very familiar with the group.”
Enthusiastically throwing himself into his Ars Musica membership, Harry has helped to set up the rehearsal space, erected the concert risers, and risen to the challenge of the repertoire. While Harry enjoyed singing both the Rachmaninoff Vespers and Handel’s Messiah, it was the Vespers that proved to be especially challenging and therefore most rewarding when the concert was such an exciting success. He is looking forward to singing the Bruckner Mass in our Masterworks Concert on June 8 and, like the rest of the choir, he is anxious to hear and sing Ars Musica’s newly commissioned work by Martha Sullivan. “[We got] a nice taste of it in the most recent open rehearsal.”
The vocal techniques Kelly has been teaching have paid off for Harry. He still sings at the Ramapo Valley Baptist Church, and it made a huge impression to receive a compliment from a fellow church choir member: “There is a very knowledgeable bass who has been singing next to me in church choir for 35 years. He said to me right after I’d sung in the Messiah, ‘That’s the best I’ve ever heard you sing. You must have been doing your homework.’ I was very excited that he noticed change in my voice quality.” Although he enjoys contemporary Christian music and show tunes, listening to classical music has always been a favorite pastime and Harry is looking forward to singing more of the great choral repertoire with Ars Musica.
Author: Robin Kantrowitz; based on an interview with Marjorie Winters