Ron de Jager was a proud Canadian when he sang before a royal audience.
The associate professor of music and voice at Briercrest College and Seminary was asked to sing God Save the Queen/O Canada at an event held in the Legislative Assembly which was attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during their recent visit to Saskatchewan commemorating the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Y“I was thinking as I was preparing to go into the Legislative Assembly . . . how I feel as a Canadian to sing these words,” de Jager said. “How it is an honour to do this – and a privilege to be able to represent your country like this. I actually felt very proud to be a Canadian.”
The venue made it necessary for the national and royal anthems to be sung without musical accompaniment.
“(It was held) in the Legislative Building in the Legislative Assembly,” de Jager explained. “So there’s no instrument – no piano or anything in there. So I just had a pitch pipe. Just blow the pitch and sing a cappella and away you go!”
The voice professor admits that the situation stirred his nerves up a bit.
“I think I always get a little bit of nerves,” he admitted. “I think a little bit of nerves are good. It just gives you a certain amount of energy.”
For a vocal performer, singing something as familiar as the national anthem brings its own unique set of fears.
“It’s a big responsibility,” de Jager said emphatically. “Because you get one shot at it. You can’t stop and say, ‘Oh, I want to do it again.’ One of the worst case scenarios is you forget the words. You cannot forget the words to God Save the Queen and O Canada! So thank the Lord, I remembered all the words and I thought it went well.”
After he received the invitation to sing, de Jager phoned Janette Ogg, his advisor from his doctoral studies at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.
“She’s an incredible teacher and mentor and a friend,” he said. “I called her and told her what I was doing and she said, ‘you know, you just get up there and you just do what you’re trained to do.’”
De Jager found himself following the advice he so often gives to his own voice students.
“Just make sure you get a nice low breath,” he said. “Just stay focused on the task at hand.” De Jager had no idea how many people were actually watching him sing until after his performance.
“At the time I wasn’t aware that it was going to be broadcast nationally,” he said. “They were streaming it live across the country. So when I got home I called family back in Nova Scotia and they had already seen me –the whole thing live. And then I have family in Peru and they had watched on the internet. My own wife and my daughter – they watched it on the internet as well.”
Although de Jager didn’t get to personally meet the Prince of Wales, he was pleased by what he saw.
“When I watched the prince come in with his wife he just seemed very gentle,” he recalled. “And when I watched him talk to people he seemed like a very caring person – very amiable. I just thought it was a wonderful experience. I felt very honoured to be asked (to sing). It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”