MONTREAL – The singing of the Canadian and American national anthems on game nights at the Bell Centre has always been something special.
That was confirmed once again on Tuesday, as amateur and professional singers and vocalists of all ages and experience levels turned out in droves to showcase their musical chops before panels of judges in the Canadiens’ inaugural Talent Wanted national anthem singing auditions for the 2014-15 campaign.
Hundreds of participants took part in a pre-audition by performing parts of both anthems, and those selected to move on to the next round earned a second audition during the afternoon in the arena's bowl.
“The response was astounding, and the talent our judges have the challenge of trying to sort through is incredible. We’re the lucky recipients of having such talented Montrealers who are interested and excited about performing at Habs games,” offered Dave McGinnis, the Canadiens’ manager of business development and events. “We were overwhelmed by all of the people that came out to sing. They’re all massive Habs fans, and this is a chance to put their talent on display. It’s a lot of fun to see.”
Vocalist Nadine Denis was one of a myriad of candidates that made the trek to Montreal from out of town for the chance to vie for the unique singing opportunity.
“I wasn’t going to miss this for anything. I had to try my luck at it. I’m well aware of the responsibility that comes with singing the national anthem on behalf of the organization. The anthem is important. It’s a privilege,” stressed Denis, a resident of Gatineau, who has been singing professionally for the last seven years. “I have goose bumps just being here. If I get through, I’m hoping my performances can transmit energy and enthusiasm to the fans and the players, too. I’d get a special feeling out of it, kind of like a tsunami of emotion. It would be an honor to represent Montreal with my voice. It would be the highlight of my career.”
That was the consensus among candidates aplenty that waited patiently outside the Bell Centre for their chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“I’ve been singing along with Charles Prevost-Linton’s renditions of the national anthem since I was a kid. I kind of still do it, so I figured it would be the ultimate experience to be in his spot and do what he does. It would be awesome to sing in front of 21,273 passionate people right before puck drop,” confided Phil Bellefeuille, a 24-year-old firefighter in Saint-Lazare. “The anthem gets people so riled up. You even feel it through the TV screen. It’s such an amazing tradition. It’s really what starts the game off and gets people pumped. I can only imagine the feedback you get from the crowd when you’ve finished singing. That high must be unreal.”
Seventeen-year-old Brandon Schwartz, a second-year jazz voice student at Marianopolis College and musical theatre actor, shared similar sentiments while standing in line awaiting his turn at the microphone.
“Every time I come to a Habs game, the lighting of the ice on fire, the anthem, those are the most exciting and electric parts for me. It’s all about Montreal pride and Canadiens pride. I’d love to be a part of that,” mentioned Schwartz, who has been singing since the age of 5. “As much as the fans feel the energy that comes with any national anthem, I’m sure the Habs really feel it, too. To help the team start a game with that type of energy would be exciting. I’d feel like I’d done something to help them along.”
For some of the younger participants in attendance, many of whom boasted rather impressive resumes for their age, the prospect of potentially strutting their stuff in front of the Bell Centre faithful – and their hockey idols – made Talent Wanted a can’t-miss event.
“It would be really, really awesome if I got the chance to sing at the Bell Centre. I really love singing and I love the Habs. It’s kind of my dad’s dream. He loves the team, too. It would work for the entire family. Carey Price is my favorite player. He’s just the best goalie ever,” offered 10-year-old Davis Dewan, an Ottawa native, whose musical idols include Patsy Cline, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and Guns N’ Roses.
“Singing brings me to a happy place. When I’m singing, I don’t worry about anything else. I just focus on that,” concluded the budding country singer, who is headed to Nashville next year to try her luck on Music Row. “This would mean everything to me. I can’t stress that enough.”
It’s safe to say each and every one of the auditioners felt exactly the same way.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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