Written by Julia Day
After completing his #UNELaw degree Christopher led a double life. During the day he worked as a community legal practitioner. At night he was an opera star on stage. Eventually though he needed to make a clear choice about what avenue he would like to pursue- and much to everyone’s amazement- he chose opera!
When Christopher was completing his Arts/Law degree at UNE, he stumbled on a love for opera and the stage. I would like to say this came about as a result of his law degree- but I would be lying!! Instead Christopher’s love of the stage and music started when he was a resident at UNE’s Earle Page College. Apparently he was coerced into participating in the college musical West Side Story. This started a fire in Christopher’ heart which never abated!
His debut operatic solo performance was at EPC’s Performing Arts Competition which was held during Parents’ Weekend. He sang the Prologue Aria from ‘The Clowns.’ As it happens Peta Blythe, a Principal Soprano for Opera Australia was in the audience. She was the mum of another EPC student. The professional singer offered to give Christopher lessons. Later, in the course of founding and running Felt Tip Theatre Company (established with friend, colleague, and fellow UNE student and resident of Earle Page, Alex Robson), with the encouragement of another Opera Australia Principal and Armidale local, Ruth Strutt, Christopher decided to pursue a career in opera.
Christopher then decided to move from Armidale after securing a place in the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Whilst studying Christopher also worked at a Community Legal Service in Western Australia known as Tenancy WA. This was an ideal position for Christopher after working at the New England Tenancy Advocacy Service whilst living in Armidale.
Perhaps sadly for the legal world, it came to the point where Christopher had to make a choice between opera and practising law. He was offered the unique opportunity of singing in an operatic production in Bulgaria for several months. As I am sure you can understand Christopher quickly resigned from his legal job and took the next plane out of the country!!
Christopher describes the best moment of his operatic career as follows. ‘In 2017 I was given the opportunity to perform the bass solo in Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ at the Concert Hall in Sydney. There was a 60 piece orchestra, a 300 strong choir and a packed concert hall. Simon Kenway, who coached me on the work described the orchestra within this piece as the world falling into chaos. Then after a moment of silence, the bass voice serves to reunite the world and remind us to remember joy. Of course this is so relevant to our lives today. I remember looking down at the conductor who is a ‘big deal’ by anyone’s standards and him directing me to take centre stage. It was a spiritual experience and the peak of my professional singing career so far!’
Christopher is now living in Texas in the United States. Funnily enough, during the current crisis he is again working in the law during the day at the University of North Texas Office of General Counsel. He can currently only work as a paralegal as he is not registered as a lawyer in the US. He is hoping to get registration as a foreign legal consultant in the foreseeable future though. Of course, Christopher is still following his passion in opera. Whilst the performing arts are having a hiatus during the Covid 19 period, Christopher is taking full advantage and completing a Doctorate in Musical Arts specialising in Vocal Performance. Christopher has worked with several opera companies in the US; he is currently a Studio Artist with Fort Worth Opera and will be an Emerging Artist with the Nashville Opera in 2021. Instead of performing onstage though, Christopher is currently rehearsing online!
Christopher has never regretted completing his law degree. His original passion for one of the world’s oldest professions was piqued by American TV shows such as Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Boston Legal. Since completing his law degree Christopher has found it is relevant to everything he does. ‘My law degree always comes in handy. People often comment that my points and arguments are concise, well thought out and logical- no matter the context!! This is a great skill to have!’
When I asked Christopher what his favourite law units were he quipped ‘do you want me to say torts?’ After some quiet reassurance, Christopher highlighted the units he really did love. These included Constitutional Law with Dr Imtiaz Omar and Administrative Law and Jurisprudence with Dr Eric Ghosh. He also loved LAW480 (Research, Writing and Advocacy) with Bryan Pape. Christopher noted that Bryan ‘was intimidating but a fabulous educator with a wealth of experience.’ He liked these units as they ‘were the perfect combination of logic, philosophy, words, structure and systems. The perfect marriage between the left and right brains. They allowed me to explore broader philosophical concepts with logic and reason.’
We can’t wait to see what you do next Christopher- thank you for sharing your story!