J. Parry Moore: Singing with power and the power of singing

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2002

Micaela Fowler remembers when Joyce Parry Moore moved to Juneau to be Lady Lou eight years ago.

"She's a little piece of New York in Juneau," said Fowler, who has studied voice with Parry Moore for four years. Now 16, Fowler shared the stage with Parry Moore in the mid 1990s in Perseverance Theatre's summer tourist show, "Lady Lou Revue."

These days, Parry Moore looks more like Xena the Warrior Princess than Lady Lou. She's dyed her hair jet black for her role as Cio Cio San, and this weekend she delivers the two final performances of "Madama Butterfly." In addition to singing in the lead role, Parry Moore produced and directed Puccini's classic opera.

"One of the most exciting things that Joyce brings to the community that is unique is her experience as an opera singer. It's incredibly cool," said Peter DuBois, artistic director of Perseverance.

Parry Moore juggles her responsibilities as a producer, director, singer, mother and teacher. She teaches voice to about 35 private students and has acted in Perseverance plays. She founded and runs the Juneau nonprofit group Opera to Go!, which is dedicated to making opera accessible to Southeast audiences. The group is taking "Madama Butterfly" to Haines for a performance next week.

"Opera culture can be incredibly 'insy' - high brow and full of trivia," she said. "I want to teach people that these stories are just stories, and they are great stories."

Parry Moore grew up in the small western Washington town of Auburn. She went to rock concerts, sang in musicals and idolized Barbra Streisand. She was Sandy in "Grease" and dreamed of being a Broadway singer.

When she got to college in Bellingham, Wash., her voice teacher spent the first year teaching her to not sound like Streisand. She was introduced to art songs and contemporary classical music and one night at a recital she heard a classically trained Dutch soprano named Elly Ameling.

"Her mastery was compelling, and she had a generosity and openheartedness," Parry Moore said. "I thought 'This is more than singing some ingenue in 'Guys and Dolls.' This is worth pursuing.' "

She continued to study voice and acting and entered an opera program in Santa Barbara, Calif., then a graduate program in Boston. She had a son, Chris, and moved to New York to pursue a career and raise a family.

She supported herself as a paid soloist singing in churches and synagogues while building her resume as an opera singer. She sang in Europe and lived in Germany. As a classically trained singer, she could use her voice in a variety of ways. She said a trained singer develops a well-supported, resonant voice and then puts the style on the voice.

"I can chose to sing in a pop or jazz style," she said.

She said a powerful, unamplified voice can have a physical effect on people that is more profound than simply hearing, causing a physical reaction that enhances the emotional impact of the material.

"Singing is a superhuman power that resides in all of us," she said. "Our voice is a major expression of who we are. When people learn to use their voices more fully and strongly, their confidence improves so much."

Perseverance founder Molly Smith met Parry Moore's brother in Seattle in the early 1990s, and that led to a job offer in Juneau. Parry Moore left New York for what turned into a new life in Alaska. She married teacher and actor Patrick Moore several years ago and had a daughter, Ariana.

"Some of my friends in New York have become very successful," she said. "Some are still waiting tables, singing and building their resumes. Here I've been able to direct, sing, teach, act and be a mother."

"I grew up in a small town but I never really learned the meaning of community until I moved here," she said.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.

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