When Gabriel Macdonald was 12 years old, performing in the Capitol Theatre Summer Youth production of Les Misérables, he recalls local theatre teacher and director Heather Shippit taking him aside and saying, “Just so you know, you could actually do this for a career.”
“I had been told that before,” Macdonald, 23, says. “But that was the first time it really dropped for me.”
Since then he’s been working on it.
On Dec. 5 he will perform at the Capitol Theatre in Nelson as part of the vocal quartet Vivace, which travels the continent from its base in Vancouver.
Macdonald says the group brings “a pop flair to classical songs and a classical flair to pop songs.”
He has struggled with genre, he says. What kind of singer is he, exactly?
“I would probably say I’m a musical theatre singer. I have a musical theatre voice, specifically directed toward the more classical in the musical theatre genre. It is hard to find a genre that you fit in, but [Vivace] is a crossroads where the two things meet.”
After Les Misérables, while still in high school, he performed in Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Jesus Christ Superstar, Carmina Burana — mostly in lead roles — as well as in big solo spots in Corazón.
Right after high school, Macdonald did three years at the Canadian College of Performing Arts (CCPA) in Victoria, then moved to Vancouver as a freelance actor and singer, then back to Victoria for a stint working with people with disabilities while going to auditions and performing.
A couple of summers during that period he returned to Nelson for theatre productions produced by Richard Rowberry. Then, about a year and a half ago, came a successful audition with Vivace. The group’s trip to Nelson in December will be Macdonald’s first performance in Nelson that was not produced here.
“It’s fantastic, so cool to bring this thing I am very proud of to a town I am very proud of having grown up in. I could not think of a better place to grow up, to foster creativity.
“Having that [Capitol Theatre] summer theatre program as a venue for everything, that was monumental in shaping my love for theatre. I don’t know that I would be in this field to the degree that I am without that program.”
Then there’s the powerful influence of his parents, who just happen to be Allison Girvan and Don Macdonald, luminaries at the centre of music and theatre in Nelson.
“Even after moving away, my two hugest influences are still both my parents,” he says. “I had fantastic teachers at CCPA, but if I ever have a music question or a career advice question, I talk to my mom and dad.”
As for the music Vivace will sing for the Nelson audience, the songs “are a mix of classic Christmas songs done in four-part harmony, with some songs from our upcoming album, one of my favourites being an extremely beautiful arrangement of Ave Maria, and then some classics. We are doing Nessun Dorma, and other classic arias.”
Vivace performs at the Capitol Theatre on Dec. 5 at 7:30 as part of this year’s Nelson Overture Concerts series. Tickets are $27.50 but free for students 18 and under, and can be purchased at the Capitol Theatre box office or online at www.capitoltheatre.bc.ca.