Stacey Nattrass (Peter Huck)
When Stacey Nattrass went to Jets games as a little girl she wished she could be the anthem singer. Now she is!
Stacey is a Winnipegger with years of experience in musical theatre, jazz and classical music. And she comes from a very musical family. Both her parents sang at the Hollow Mug dinner theatre and her dad is an accomplished accordionist...plus her aunt is opera singer Tracy Dahl.
Stacey was performing and studying in the University of Manitoba's music program, when she landed an audition for the Manitoba Moose. She was the regular anthem singer for the Moose, at the old Winnipeg arena and MTS Centre, for 14 years.
In August, Stacey got an e-mail in August from True North asking if she could sing the anthem for the Jets. There was no hesitation in her reply.
By day Stacey gets classrooms of kids singing as a choral teacher in the Seven Oaks School. Division. And she will have thousands of fans on their feet at the MTS Centre Monday, October 17, when the Jets take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
SCENE gets behind-the-scenes with Stacey.
What was it like singing the anthems at the very first exhibition game with the Jets? Exciting, incredible, exhilarating, frightening, humbling, intimidating, and one of my favourite moments ever! It was so loud in the moments before the anthem when the Jets stepped out onto the ice. The building was literally vibrating. I was very nervous, so much so that for the U.S. anthem I had to hold on to the microphone with two hands. I was pretty shaky. But when I started O Canada, and the crowd sang with me so loudly, I relaxed and had so much fun!
What's the hardest thing about singing the anthems?
I find the hardest part is that if I've been sick, my voice might not be in tiptop shape. In fact, I sang the first three games through a cold. Singing the anthem is so exposed it can be very nerve wracking to wonder if you might have to cough or if you might get a catch in your throat.
How do you change up the anthems to make it interesting for yourself after performing them so many times?
Well, I pretty much always start in the same key give or take a semitone or two. I sometimes try subtle variations on how I approach a part of the melody.
But my personal stance on anthems is that they should be sung like anthems, not pop songs. So while it might be fun to bust out and show off some tricks I don't think it is all that appropriate.
I think of that Simpsons episode where the anthem goes on for twenty or more minutes. That would be bad. Also, people want to sing along. It's hard for them to do that if you change up the melody or go off on some tangent.
Do you get recognized out on the street as the anthem singer?
I don't really get recognized. However, with all of the attention focused on the Jets these days I am starting to feel some of that attention. The day after one of the pre-season games I was grocery shopping and two kids came up to me to tell me I had done a good job at the Jets game last night. I also have a lot more Facebook friend requests all of a sudden.
How is singing the anthems different than doing musical theatre?
Well, in singing the anthems there is no hiding behind a character and no orchestra for support like you would have in a big production. It's all you!
Secondly, in musical theatre I am afforded the opportunity to really change up my voice stylistically depending on the style of show and the mood of the character. When I sing the anthems I just try to sing in a powerful, straight ahead way.
Do you get any perks for singing the anthems?
I guess you could say so. I have multiple Moose jerseys from past seasons and I am picking up my Jets jersey this weekend. They like me to wear jerseys when I sing so I get one for free. When my son was born the Moose/True North staff sent us a lovely collection of gifts including Moose clothes for Max. Also, I have been able stay for games. We have introduced our son to hockey by bringing him to games when I sing. It will be harder to do that now with the demand for Jets tickets though.
What kinds of connections do you make with the players, if any?
Sadly I don't really make any connections with players. I have passed some of the Jets in the event level corridors and I shared an elevator with Dustin Byfuglien and Derek Meech a few games ago but I am afraid that's as close as I get. There is no insiders club.
What was your best and worst experience singing the anthems?
Worst one was in the old Arena. I fell on the ice after finishing the anthems. Full on wipe out. The mic was still live and you could hear me yelp.
Bests? If you had asked me a month ago I would have said it was a tie between the last game played at the Winnipeg Arena or the first game played at MTS Centre, I was honoured to sing the anthems for both of those milestones. Also the playoff run to the Calder Cup final a few years ago was spectacular. But Tuesday September 20th of this year takes the cake! That first pre-season Jets game. It was absolutely thrilling!
Video of Stacey Nattrass singing the Canadian anthem at the first exhibition game.