Singer Nathan Lay is gearing up to sing in his first Christmas Gift concert, but before singing took over his life Nathan played guitar, tenor horn, drums and trumpet, as he tells Julie Houghton.
When did you start singing?
As a young man growing up in the country, singing wasn’t exactly the coolest thing to do. It was before the days where reality TV singing competitions were prominent, and I was a bit self-conscious about my voice. But my older sister Rebecca convinced me to audition for a junior production of Fiddler on the Roof and I played the role of Tevye, which gave me the theatre bug. Then I played Riff in West Side Story and from there it was all systems go.
I started competing in eisteddfods and I met my first singing teacher, who invited me to come to Melbourne for lessons, so my parents drove me to Melbourne every week. This continued through to Year 12 to help me learn classical repertoire and develop the vocal technique I would need to complete VCE music. I then auditioned for universities in Melbourne to do a Bachelor of Music, ultimately deciding on the Dame Nellie Melba Conservatorium of Music.
At what point did you decide this was going to be your career?
Once I had done West Side Story I knew that singing and acting was something I wanted to do. When I started having lessons, I found things a little challenging at first, mainly because at the time I wasn’t particularly interested in classical music or opera. It took time for me to grow an appreciation of the classical style, but I knew that ultimately it would make me a better all-round singer if I had a strong classical technique, so I persevered.
You are a young married man—how does your wife Alex feel about your career?
Alex is extremely supportive of me and what I do. We’ve been together a long time, so she understands and appreciates the challenges of my career. Things can be frustrating at times with our schedules, as she will often get home from work as I’m walking out the door to do a show, and sometimes I will have to go interstate or on regional tours for weeks at a time. Thankfully, these things don’t happen all the time, but when they do it can be challenging, so I appreciate her support.
Recently I was awarded the Australian International Opera Award, which sent me to the UK for a year to study at the Wales International Academy of Voice with some of the world’s leading opera specialists. This was a wonderful opportunity, which would have been very difficult to do alone, so it was great that Alex could take leave from work and come along to enjoy the experience with me. It’s amazing how this career can send you all over the world.
What have been your most significant singing achievements?
Earlier this year I was featured on an album titled Remembrance, which was the inaugural release on Sony Music’s new Australian Masterworks label. Being a part of this project was an amazing experience so this album would definitely be one of my biggest achievements, along with the Australian International Opera Award. I’m also an Ambassadorial Scholarship holder for the Acclaim Awards and I won a Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Aria competition, was the Australian Music Events’ Opera Scholar of the Year, and came third in a Herald Sun Aria final. I’m currently on a regional tour with Victorian Opera.
How do you feel about being involved in ‘Our Christmas Gift’?
I’m really excited to be involved in the Salvos’ Christmas Gift concert. I love Christmas and the festive spirit of the time, and was brought up listening to all the traditional carols, so I can’t wait!
Our Christmas Gift Concert Spectacular is at Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne on Saturday 2 December at 3 pm and 7.30 pm. Book at salvationarmy.org.au/ourchristmasgift