Hitting the high notes for life under the sea

Soprano Jassy Husk was moved to support marine conservation when she learnt that 80 per cent of corals in some areas of Australia's Great Barrier Reef was destroyed in 2016.
Soprano Jassy Husk was moved to support marine conservation when she learnt that 80 per cent of corals in some areas of Australia's Great Barrier Reef was destroyed in 2016.PHOTO: COURTESY OF JASSY HUSK

Australian soprano Jassy Husk wants to create music in support of marine-conservation efforts

When Australian soprano Jassy Husk learnt that 80 per cent of corals in some areas of Australia's Great Barrier Reef was destroyed in 2016 due to heat stress, she imagined how she would feel if a large portion of the city she lived in was obliterated.

That thought drove the 37-year-old singer to start making music in support of marine conservation.

Husk, who is from Tasmania, has lived in Singapore for the past three years and teaches vocal technique and performance part-time at the Yale-NUS College.

Next weekend, she will make her debut performance here in Faure: Cantique Et Requiem, a concert with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Singapore Symphony Children's Choir.

She will also perform at The Substation next month at a charity gala in which she will sing popular classics such as La Vie En Rose and West Side Story's Somewhere (There's A Place For Us). All proceeds from the ticket sales will go to The Substation.

The Straits Times put some questions to the soprano in an e-mail interview.

Why did you move to Singapore in 2017?

What's not to love about Singapore? The country is vibrant, culturally rich and tech-savvy.

Increasingly, my performance engagements steered me towards a life in Asia and I've enjoyed every moment of my time here.

You have supported reef regeneration efforts in South-east Asia and you are creating a symphony work about coral reef conservation. How does the work reflect your passion for protecting the environment?

The joy of entering the universe beneath the waves and the urgent need to help protect the world's coral reefs motivated me to co-create Reef Chorus, a symphonic seascape to support marine conservation.

I am overjoyed to be working with award-winning British composer Charlotte Harding.

  • BOOK IT /FAURE: CANTIQUE ET REQUIEM

    WHERE: Victoria Concert Hall, 9 Empress Place

    WHEN: March 27 and 28, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $15 to $88 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg) or the SSO website (sso.org.sg).

    Audience members will have their temperatures taken before the concert

  • TRUTH

    WHERE: The Substation Theatre, 45 Armenian Street

    WHEN: April 16, 7.30pm (pre-concert reception begins at 7pm)

    ADMISSION: $148 (inclusive of pre-concert drinks) from jassyhusk-truth.peatix.com. The maximum audience size is 100 people. Audience members will have their temperatures taken before the concert

Our goal is to create music in support of marine-conservation efforts and celebrate the life under the sea. People cannot see the devastating effects of global warming because coral reefs are submerged. We aim to tackle this lack of visibility through music.

Neon City, a single under Reef Chorus, will be released in June. I will be performing an acoustic version of it on April 16 in the Truth concert at The Substation.

I am also setting up a non-profit company with Australian lawyer Victoria Silberbauer and Sally Clarke, the British founder of Singapore-based communications consultancy Asian Art Advisory.

You also teach part-time at the Yale-NUS College.

Teaching and mentoring are pivotal to the success of any artist and I have embraced opportunities to adjudicate and mentor performance and voice students. I have done this across South-east Asia and always make time to give back.

What sparked your interest in classical singing when you were six years old?

Music was played in my family home, but not classical music. What mattered to me was singing and, given that most training is in classical music, that was the path I took. Many artists such as Elton John and Annie Lennox have had a similar trajectory.

I am grateful to my teachers and mentors and for my scholarship programmes. Without them, I would not have been able to study at the Royal College of Music in London and the Wales International Academy of Voice.

You have recorded vocals for films such as Snow White And The Huntsman (2012) and dabbled in popular music through collaborations with bands such as England-based electronic dance music group The Young Punx. How is classical singing different from singing for popular genres?

We have a tendency to pigeonhole styles and put art forms in boxes. For me, there are no differences or similarities. I create music.

My classical training has given me the tools to apply my voice to any genre.

As I studied technique, I can choose to use my voice in a whole host of ways.

What are the highlights of your upcoming concert?

The concert is led by one of the foremost choral conductors today, Briton Stephen Layton, and features a fascinating programme of inspiration, hope, respite and consolation.

French composer Gabriel Faure's Requiem expresses the serene hope of resurrection rather than grief or terror of dying, as was the trend at the time.

He wrote it not in memory of a specific person, but "for the pleasure of it", so the requiem is more joyous than most.

How would you encourage those who are unfamiliar with choral music to attend the concert?

The Faure Requiem is heavenly and hauntingly beautiful.

The work illustrates the composer's bold use of harmonies and exquisite appreciation of the natural world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2020, with the headline 'Hitting the high notes for life under the sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe