Arts Profile

Garry: Mainstay in Juneau musicals and opera

Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000

Mainstay of Juneau music: Singer Bill Garry has been a key player in Juneau's theatrical music scene for 10 years.

"He's been a real mainstay of the operatic stuff we've done," said Tom Melville of Juneau Lyric Opera.

Garry, a bass baritone, has performed in Juneau musicals, operettas and operas, ranging from "The Pirates of Penzance," "The Mikado," "Desert Song" and "Carmen," to "The Music Man" and "Susannah." He has the part of Marcello, the artist, in the upcoming production of "La Boheme."

Marriage of drama and music: "No matter what you say about opera, it's a very powerful way to communicate. To have drama and music put together so well is a great achievement," Garry said.

Garry said when many people think about opera, they usually picture Wagner's works. Wagner wrote great operas, but unfortunately they aren't particularly accessible. Works such as "La Boheme" or "Les Miserables" are much easier to relate to.

"Wagner used archetypes and heroes more than people," Garry said. "And big philosophical concepts. 'La Boheme' is real people in real situations dealing with life and love. You can identify with it."

Baritone ranger: Garry, 53, grew up in Yellowstone National Park. His dad worked for the National Park Service, and Garry later worked as a park ranger himself. He rode a horse patrol in Yosemite in the early 1970s. A seasonal job in Glacier Bay first brought him to Alaska in 1971, and a permanent position in Mount McKinley National Park brought him back to stay in 1973.

He spent a few years in the McKinley area, then bounced between the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage areas for about 15 years before moving to Juneau in 1989. He currently manages the Alaska State Parks in Southeast.

Epiphany: Garry said he has been fascinated with science and technology since he was a boy. He entered Stanford University as a pre-med student, but also studied voice and music. One day in 1969 he realized he'd be better served in life with an education in arts and humanities. He switched majors and graduated from Stanford with a degree in opera and vocal performance.

"I still love science," he said. "But as I grow older, I appreciate that broad education even more."

He said music ties people together in many ways, and music has really helped him connect with people.

Ghost Rider: Garry also plays guitar, and several years ago took a detour from operatic singing to do a country and western set at the Alaska Folk Festival. He sang "T for Texas," "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

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