Classically contemporary

A peek into the day and life of singer Sophie Morris, plus her wellness tips for staying on top on tour.

Tell us what you’re up to right now

Right now I am getting ready for a number of performances including a Jazz Café at the Dunedin Town Hall, a performance with a group of cellists called “Cellos Go Pop” where we will perform a range of repertoire including Queen, ABBA and U2, a performance with Rhian Sheehan – NZ award winning composer, and a number of events in Auckland including singing the national anthem for the opening of the Halberg Games.

How did you get into singing?

Music was a big part of my upbringing. I was raised with my two older sisters in Dunedin and music was always in the house – whether it was playing instruments, listening to CDs and records, putting on our own stage shows in the living room or recording ourselves talking and singing on a little mini recording machine. I grew up dancing so was always quite comfortable with the idea of performing but never really considered myself a singer. It wasn’t until I was age 10 in form one at school and sitting around the dinner table when my parents encouraged me to audition for the school musical that I had to really think about singing. To all of our surprise I was cast as ‘Gretl’ in ‘The Sound of Music’ and I think that process is what helped me really find my love for singing and being on the stage. After this I asked my parents if I could start taking singing lessons, and my training continued until I ended up gaining a Bachelor of Music (First-Class Honours) in Classical Voice Performance and a Master of Music (Distinction) in Contemporary Voice Performance, as well as a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) from Otago University. Since then I have been very lucky to have a career performing in both the classical and contemporary music worlds, as well as performing as an actor and working as a newsreader.

What are some of your career highlights?

I am so grateful to have had some really special experiences in this somewhat crazy world of performing. A major highlight was this year touring New Zealand with The Ten Tenors on their ‘Wish You Were Here’ tour as part of their 20th Anniversary World Tour.  Another major highlight would definitely have to be singing national anthems for a number of major sporting events and test matches including the Rugby League Four Nations and at the Parker v Ruiz WBO World Heavyweight Championship Title Fight. I think an anthem represents so much for a nation and its people and to be able to stand on the pitch or in the middle of a ring and share that energy and pride with a huge crowd is such an honour.

What are the challenges you face in your chosen career?

It is certainly not a simple career choice, but it is definitely rewarding and fulfilling. Schedules can be difficult, life can be a real balancing act in terms of what work/projects you take on, and your sleep cycle can go a bit out of the window at times! You also deal with a pretty large amount of rejection in terms of auditions and roles. You learn to send up many balloons at once, trust your gut, trust your intuition and the things you are most passionate about, embrace risk and vulnerability, not bank on anything and remain grateful every day for what you have to keep things in perspective. You also learn to keep your eyes very open for opportunities and of course to constantly keep learning and up-skilling. I think the excitement and the unknown is a big part of what draws one into the world of performing.

What are the best parts of your chosen career?

Standing on the stages of beautiful theatres and concert halls, sharing stories, having the opportunity to take an audience on a journey and meeting wonderful people. As performers we get to facilitate expression or a release of emotion for audience members. I don’t believe we perform to try and get an applause – I believe we do it out of an obligation to ourselves and to the others that we want to share with. If you do your job right you can take an audience on a total journey – you might be able to uplift or inspire them, you might be able to take them to a place where they connect with their past, or get excited about the future. Sometimes you might remind them of people they have lost and help them experience a particular memory of aspect of that person, or you might remind them of people they love, but most importantly you let them feel and you try to allow humans to feel human. If you do your job right you are sending out so much energy from yourself to those people, and once they receive it, they might send it back to you. How lucky are we to be able to share stories, ideas and feelings and receive the gift of an audience who shares those back with us.

How do you look after your voice?

You keep your voice fit by using it, and resting it when you need to (sickness or fatigue). I am lucky to work with an amazing coach who keeps me in shape. Your voice is made up of a whole lot of muscles, so you need to keep it fit with warm-ups and daily exercises/practise. It also helps to keep finding amazing repertoire so you are excited to be practising! I steam a lot to keep the vocal folds hydrated, and follow vocal health and common sense e.g. no shouting/yelling, limited alcohol, balanced diet etc.

How do you look after yourself in general?

As a performer your body is your instrument, so you really do need to do your best to look after it. For me it is important that I keep physically fit and try to get enough sleep. Vocal fitness is the same as physical fitness, you need to keep training so that your ability is maintained and you aren’t ever “coming in cold” for an audition or gig. I mainly keep fit with walking, bodyweight exercises, yoga and dance classes. Sleep, especially when touring can be a challenge. I like to make use of lavender oil, chamomile tea and mindfulness/wind -down time to assist with sleep hygiene.

I also enjoy using a Shakti mat at night time and have started doing float tank (sensory deprivation tank) practice which I am really enjoying. I aim to use mainly natural products for skincare and cosmetics to try and keep myself looking presentable for stage and screen! I also try to make time to do the things that “fill up my cup”, especially spending time with family and time in nature, and watching other performances and artists that inspire me. Every day I write down what I am grateful for.

How do you deal with nerves/stagefright?

Nerves get much easier to manage as you go along, though a little bit of adrenaline always helps, and to be honest I would feel concerned that I was too relaxed about a gig if I wasn’t feeling a little bit nervous about it. There are a number of methods I use to feel centred for a performance. The quickest and surest way to tell your body it is safe on a subconscious level is through the breath. I focus on getting it settled and into the body to calm nerves, often breathing in for three seconds, holding for three and out for three. I also like using affirmations and visualisations (as specific as possible), both right before a performance and in the lead up to a performance. Preparation is also your best friend!

Why do you like reading Good Magazine?

Because it is full of all of the good things – art, beauty, style, social issues, ideas, wellness, environment and sustainability. Kiwi-made and Kiwi-focused – plus it’s beautiful, looks great on my coffee table and makes for some lovely evening or Sunday reading. I took a Good Magazine with me on the Ten Tenors tour and after shows would make a bit of a ritual of lighting a candle (hotel room lighting is not always conducive to relaxation!), having a sleepy tea and reading my magazine before going to bed.

For more visit sophie-morris.com

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