By Chris Brown on August 3, 2017.
Local theatre watchers already know the name Hunter Semrau. By the end of next week national theatre watchers might too.
Semrau, 18, is off to Ottawa soon to compete at the Canadian National Music Festival. It will be the culmination of eight months of work that has seen Semrau win the Medicine Hat Rotary Music Festival in March and then win top spot in the Alberta Music Festival two months later.
At nationals Semrau will perform five musical theatre songs spanning five different periods of Broadway. He’ll perform “If I Didn’t Believe in You” (from “The Last Five Years”),”Her Voice” (“The Little Mermaid”), “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean” (“Brigadoon”), “Easy to Love” (“Anything Goes”) and “Finishing the Hat” (“Sunday in the Park with George”).
Semrau’s favourite to perform is “If I Didn’t Believe in You” and is also the most difficult, he says of the song about a husband and wife fighting.
“At one point I’m full on screaming and yelling, it gets really hyped up,” Semrau explains. “That’s the hardest in terms of getting into character so I really have to get focused before I do it but it’s easily my favourite, the way it all comes together.”
Semrau, who has been seen in Crescent Heights High School productions such as “Bonnie and Clyde,” “All Shook Up” and “The Addams Family,” is in Lethbridge this week at an opera training camp. He’s been going to the Southern Alberta Vocal Experience for the past six years for intensive, week-long training, rehearsal and performance. The camp brings in vocal instructors from across Canada and attendees get private lessons throughout the week before performing on the University of Lethbridge stage in front of a packed house. Semrau will gain a lot from the new set of eyes and ears just before nationals.
“Whenever a new persons sees and critiques your work it’s always beneficial because if you’re always doing it for the same teacher over and over again it can get pretty stale,” he said.
A cousin to the musically-talented Porter family of Medicine Hat, Semrau’s been around music for as long as he can remember, singing while walking through his house before his parents put him in lessons.
“I sounded good but my technique was garbage and I was really hurting my voice,” he recalls.
Those lessons included plenty of opera and classical music, which Semrau remembers thinking at the time was “super lame.”
Eventually his talent grew and so did his affinity for the “lame” music.
“Eventually you get to a point where nothing challenges you enough other than opera because it’s the hardest thing you can do for singing,” he said. “You can’t just continue to do pop songs because they’re so simple. I got to a place where I started doing more classical and eventually opera. It’s great, I love it.”
Not long after nationals Semrau will be back at the U of L to begin his bachelor of music degree with an eye to a career in either opera or musical theatre.
“Classical or new music on Broadway, that would be the dream for me.”
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