Q&A with soprano Chelsea Mahan

Soprano Chelsea Mahan has been a staple of the SSO’s programming of the last few seasons – she’s regularly featured in oratorio works with the orchestra and has become an audience favorite!

She is a home-grown talent, and we’re thrilled to have her back with the SSO again this season!

We took some time with each of our Messiah soloists for a quick Q&A.

When did you make your SSO debut?

In December of 2013 with Maestro Victor Sawa… singing  the Messiah, of course!

How did you discover you wanted to be a singer?

My family – growing up with 6 sisters we sang all the time. I wanted to be an actor first, but when I realized singing was acting, went that route!


What’s your favourite part of Messiah? (your own part, and a part you don’t get to sing!)

Ooo. That’s a toughy… Well, my favorite part in the soprano solo is in the recit, when you hear the angels descend in the orchestra and I come in with “and suddenly, there was with the angels a multitude of the Heavenly host…” You can hear everything in the orchestra – the angel wings flapping, the stars twinkling…followed by the chorus, who are the angels –  it always excites me!

I also love But who may abide… in the Refiner’s Fire, with the low voice, you really feel the fire burn in the coloratura and it gets pretty toasty.

When was the first time you saw Messiah?

I actually never saw the Messiah until after I performed it with the Greystone Singers a couple of times. (Once with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet!) I guess the first time I saw it was from within the choir.

What do you find challenging about singing Handel’s music?

I suppose the fact that it’s in (older) English. You take for granted that it’s your native language, thus less time goes into “text work.” And everything is easier to sing when you are super connected with the text, inside and out.


Who were your biggest musical influences?

As a kid, Rogers and Hammerstein and Abba…(seriously). They taught me how to tell a story with song.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

Be prepared. Be the colleague you would want to work with and for. Be genuine and kind to others and to yourself.

Do you get nervous before your performances? If so, how do you calm your nerves?

I usually get a healthy dose of nerves that I don’t really want to calm, cause I find them beneficial.
On the odd chance I get bad nerves, I say the first line of my text over and over and trust the rest is so ingrained it will follow.

How do you prepare for a performance with an orchestra?

I like a big early supper, doing my hair, warming up, looking over my score at the venue, followed by sips of water and lipstick!

Do you have special warm ups that you always use before performing?

Lip trills *surprise* …I also like to channel the effortlessness and simplicity of singers I have met in the past -that type of backstage rapport and warming up lets me relax into the confidence of my preparation.

If you had to convince someone who’s never seen Handel’s Messiah before to come to your performance, what would you say to convince them.

The music is so special (perhaps the reason this has been a tradition for hundreds of years…) It is full of light and life and story. If you let go of preconceived notions and let it transport you, I guarantee you will leave uplifted!

See Chelsea as the soprano soloist with the SSO on December 15th and 16th.
Visit www.chelseamahan.com for more information!