That time Ben Heppner *almost* performed here

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This past Tuesday, March 1, was supposed to be a big day for Memorial University’s School of Music and this first-time reporter. I was tasked with covering a master class put off by the school of music, led by Canada’s finest dramatic tenor — Ben Heppner.

Heppner is both a Grammy and Juno award-winning artist, and he has performed at many prestigious venues such as the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and the Berlin Philharmonie.

The room was filled with excited students and a scattering of musically-inclined civilians such as NDP leader Lorraine Michael. As we sat waiting in anticipation for Heppner’s appearance, Michael told me she is a member of the Philharmonic Choir of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and a long-time fan of Heppner’s work. Michael felt that Tuesday’s master class represented a singular moment for our province and its arts community.

“I’m very proud of our school of music,” Michael said. “I think we have a premiere school of music and it’s wonderful that they take the opportunity to make something like this available, not just to the students, but also to the general public.”

I also spoke with Steven Griffin, a second-year voice major at MUN and one of the class participants.

“Really I’m here for the experience, and to get this opportunity to work with Ben Heppner so it’s pretty amazing to me.” Griffin said.

Sadly, just as I’d finished speaking with Griffin one of his teachers made the announcement that Heppner could not join the class that day. The students and audience were disappointed but understanding, as Heppner is a great supporter of MUN’s School of Music and has established a scholarship for voice majors.

In the end, the students rallied and in the grand tradition of the opera house decided the show must go on. Griffin rose up after the cancellation was announced and took the stage to perform “Ho capito” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. His classmates followed him with their own stellar offerings which sated the audience’s thirst for a first-class performance.

Lorraine Michael
Lorraine Michael waiting for the performance to start. Photo: Anne Barnes
other audience members
Other audience members waiting in anticipation. Photo: Anne Barnes.