Peter Gillis, Artist of the Week
Runs Nov. 28-Dec 2nd.
The Cape Breton Tenor is a handle operatic singer Peter Gillis wears with pride. A voice professor and visiting artist at Montclair State University in New Jersey, Gillis debuted at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and at Kennedy Center with the Washington Opera.
A regular at Italy’s renowned Festival dei Due Mondi, he has also performed closer to home playing the lead role in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress with Opera Nova Scotia. He toured internationally and has sung for a pope and a president, but lately he is polishing the songs he grew up with in the Whitney Pier.
Canadian performances, both Celtic and classical, have included a national tour of Canada with folk luminary Rita MacNeil, concerts with Symphony Nova Scotia, the Celtic Colours International Festival, and a debut with Opera Nova Scotia, singing the leading role in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.
His father was a self-taught folk fiddler with a great appreciation of classical music who encouraged his son to explore music as a career while still urging him to perfect the old ballads of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.
“I was directing a girls’ choir in Sydney when I left Cape Breton. I thought I was taking a four year leave of absence when I went off to study. I thought I’d be back to take over the choir again but it didn’t work out that way.”
He studied at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, and went on to do a master’s degree in Indiana before successfully auditioning for Julliard School, going into its opera program and completing a doctorate and postdoctoral diploma.
When home for a visit through the years, he was often in touch with songwriter Allister MacGillivray whose iconic Song for the Mira he frequently performs. He also teamed up with Rita MacNeil and collaborated with the Barra MacNeils and comedian Bette MacDonald. If the timing was feasible, he happily lent his voice to community fundraisers.
In 2002, Gillis recorded 12 of his childhood standards, including Come to the Hills, The Foggy Dew and Cape Breton Lullaby. He also put out a compilation of Christmas tunes called A Cape Breton Tenor Christmas in 2008. This year he released his 4th. CD called Peter Gillis ‘My Island Too’. It was recorded at Lakewind Sound studio in Point Aconi, and the collection takes its name and title track from the pen of the legendary Rita MacNeil.from the pen of the legendary Rita MacNeil, from the pen of the legendary Rita MacNeil,
Peter Gillis has taught at universities throughout the Metro New York area, and maintains a private studio in Great Notch, NJ. Adjudicating activities have included the Nova Scotia Music Festival, the New Glasgow Music Festival, the New York Singing Teachers Association’s Young Professional Competition at Steinway Hall, and the Master Teacher series at Dalhousie University and Acadia University.