It’s been a very busy few years for Wauchope girl Monica Oriel. Whether performing in front of royalty or capacity crowds at major sporting venues, releasing her debut album or rehearsing, this all forms part of the talented performer’s day to day life these days. She takes some time out of her hectic schedule to give us an update …
Hi Monica. With over three years having passed since we last spoke, there have been some huge developments in your performing career. What have been some of the most special moments?
So much has been happening … Singing at Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Coronation Festival was incredible. Having parts of London shut down so that hundreds of Aussie and Kiwi special guests of Australia House could get to Westminster Abbey for a special ANZAC Day service was something I’ll never forget. High fiving Michael Clarke before singing the National Anthem at the Cricket World Cup was cool. And of course, recording my debut album was a really big moment!
You’ve now released your first album, First Love, which was recorded with John Foreman and a 70-piece orchestra. Describe the whole experience of working with John and the other musicians …
We recorded the album in a week, but it took months of planning! It didn’t feel real until I was sitting in the parking lot outside Allan Eaton Studios, and the lady next to me was getting a harp out of her car!
I sat with my producer, Simon Paul, listening to John Foreman conduct 70 incredible young musicians, and felt like I had to keep pinching myself. I spent the next few days recording the vocals, with Stephen Smith popping in on his lunch break to record The Prayer. It was hands down the strangest and best week of my life.
Anyone reading this who knows me will know that I’ve always loved to sing, which is where I got the name of the album. Simon took this album from a dream to a reality, and I’m so thrilled with how First Love turned out!
What are some of the tracks on the album?
I’m classically trained, but I didn’t want to sing just opera. I love singing lots of different music, so I chose some of my favourite popular and musical tunes and recorded them with my classical twist. The album includes What A Wonderful World, Music of the Night, You’ll Never Walk Alone, The Prayer as a duet with Opera Australia tenor Stephen Smith, and Pie Jesu.
I chose all the tracks myself, because each of them are special to me. Summertime and Song To The Moon I used to sing with James Hannah as a teenager, and I sang them in honour of where it all began. I Could Have Danced All Night is from Mum’s favourite musical, and I had to include operatic arias O Mio Babbino Caro and Quando M’en Vo, which I have been singing for many years.
You’ve performed in front of some very high profile public figures over the past couple of years. Tell us about the experience you had performing at HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace in 2013, which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation …
I was the only Australian to perform at the Coronation Festival. The Gala event included a performance by Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Katherine Jenkins, and Russell Watson, so I was in good company!
I sang over two days, including Royal Preview Day, when only special guests were allowed entry and the royal family was in attendance. It was a beautiful day, and I’d drawn quite a crowd in front of the stage to listen. When the crowd started moving to my left, I thought perhaps it was my song choice, and I looked over … Prince Charles and Camilla had arrived to hear me sing!
It’s true what they say about practicing – I had spent hours practicing and so somehow managed to keep singing, even though my mind went completely blank. I remember that I curtseyed, but I couldn’t possibly tell you which song I was singing at the time!
You’re also becoming very well known as the amazing talent who performs national anthems prior to sporting matches. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians about being a versatile performer – someone who can engage an audience from all walks of life?
Engaging an audience can be tricky, but I think it all boils down to resilience and personality. You’re not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, which can be really hard not to take personally. Once you can accept that, you can get on with putting everything you have into your music, and seeing your passion helps people relate to you even if your music isn’t their style.
Forty-five minutes before I was about to sing the Anthem on the NRL Footy Show Fight Night, I was sitting next to the ring and the boxers came right up against the ropes, kicked a promo sign, and suddenly I was covered in a jug of ice cold water from the table in front of me! The Footy Show crew tried to help, and I started laughing – there was just so much water! I dried off as best I could, walked into the middle of the ring, gave the Anthem everything I had, came back and wrung more water out of my skirt, and we all dissolved into laughter again. A sense of humour can go a long way!
What do you like to do in your downtime, when you’re not performing or rehearsing?
That is my downtime! I’m currently self-managed, so when I’m not performing or rehearsing, I’m sending orders all over the world, replying to emails and social media, networking, scouting out gigs, updating my website … and looking for a manager to help!
What performances/activities do you have planned for the next few months?
As of January, First Love will be on the inflight entertainment of 75% of QANTAS aircraft, which is so exciting! There will be a few Anthems coming up, as well as some other projects, but I’d love to get out on the road and give some concerts in 2016, and Port Macquarie will definitely be on that list.
Where can readers find out more about you?
My album is on iTunes, but physical copies are available from www.monicaoriel.com, and I’ll happily sign them or add any special message. I update my blog there as well, so it’s good way to find out what’s happening. I also have Twitter, Facebook and my own YouTube channel, so feel free to say hi!
Thanks Monica. Interview by Jo Atkins.