© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE
After studying at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Nathan Keoughan is excited to return to UPEI’s Steel Recital Hall for his first guest recital on Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. The Fort Augustus native is the son of Alan and Geraldine Keoughan of Charlottetown.
Nathan Keoughan’s Twitter bio reads: An Islander who happens to sing.
While some music lovers might argue that the description is far too modest for the up-and-coming bass-baritone, Keoughan believes he’s got it right.
After performing opera on Canadian and American stages, where competition is often very fierce, the Fort Augustus, Prince Edward Island, native has learned his place.
“When you’re around as many singers as I am, you start to realize how egotistical things can be, so I try very hard not to be,” says Keoughan, 25, who is returning to UPEI’s Steel Recital Hall for his first recital as a guest artist on Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
The concert, done in collaboration with Fran McBurnie, will also serve as his senior recital for his masters in vocal performance that he is close to completing at the New England Conservatory in Boston.
“This concert happened by chance. Originally, I was supposed to do my senior recital last April in Boston. But, when I went to fly down, the bombs had exploded (during the Boston Marathon) and I couldn’t get into the country. So, we ended up cancelling it,” says Keoughan about the recital that he is now getting the chance to present.
“l will be singing a collection of song cycles by Ibert, Finzi and Wolf. That’s the academic part. Then I will balance it out with a selection of opera arias and show tunes.
“It’s a beautiful program with very interesting music that’s very specific for my voice. And it’s a privilege to sing it on my home turf.
“Actually, I like to take any excuse to come home, really,” says Keoughan, who is fresh from performing La Traviata at the Highlands Opera Studio in Toronto.
The recital is the latest step on the career path for Keoughan, who got his first taste of performance at Charlottetown Rural High School where he starred in musicals like Cinderella and The Wiz.
“The director, Allie McCrady, was the first person who told me I should sing. He said, ‘maybe you should go and take a voice lesson. I kind of hear something there,’” says Koughan, with a laugh.
McCrady remembers his former student well.
“Nathan was performing a Beatles number with a rock band, with some other talented high school Following
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students, when I first heard his voice. He could sing the low notes as well as the higher notes. He had an incredible range,” says the retired Charlottetown Rural band teacher.
So, Keoughan took his advice.
In his last year of high school, he started taking singing lessons with Stephen Bouey. That enabled him to get into the music program at UPEI.
“When I went into the voice program, I wasn’t sure which path I was going to follow. I thought I might go there for a year and then go to Sheridan College for musical theatre training,” says Keoughan, who is also remembered for his portrayal of Roy Gardner in Anne & Gilbert – The Musical and as Edwin Simpson in The Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery.
While musical theatre gave him a taste for performance, opera captured his imagination.
“My wonderful teachers, Stephen and Sung-Ha Shin-Bouey, noticed my voice and pushed me that way,” he says.
As Keoughan’s classical training continued at UPEI, so did his interest in opera.
“The Boueys turned me onto all the great singers and, with the help of YouTube, I became obsessed with it. I would listen to Pavarotti all the time,” he says.
Keoughan continued his studies, under the direction of Maestro Stephen Lord, at the New England Conservatory. While in Boston he studied and performed such roles as Speaker and Sarastro in The Magic Flute, Pangloss/Voltaire in Candide, Figaro in La Nozze de Figaro, the Mayor in Doctor Miracle and Le Viceroy in La Pericholé.
Then, after moving to Toronto, he played Colline in La Bohéme and Sarastro in Die Zaubeflöte at the Highlands Opera Studio.
At UPEI, the music department is excited to welcome him back.
“It’s a real thrill whenever one of our own returns to grace the stage of Steel Hall,” says Andrew Zinck, chair.
“Many people in Charlottetown have followed Nathan’s growth over the years and you can bet that a large, supportive contingent will come out to celebrate some fine, home-grown talent,” says Zinck, who is inviting the community to come out and support him.
“An event, such as this, also serves as a wonderful source of inspiration for our current students, particularly voice majors, who can get a glimpse of what is possible if they continue their studies after UPEI,” he says.
And where will Keoughan’s voice take him in the future?
“After this, I am off to Calgary to do La Bohème with Cowtown Opera. I’m excited to do Bohème again.
“This time they’re doing it in English. So, although I don’t have to relearn it, I have to take the Italian out and put the English in.”