WOLFVILLE – It’s as simple as this – Ellen Torrie loves music.
She’s been living and breathing the art since the age of four and, after years of singing in choirs and solo performances in YouTube videos and at recitals, Torrie is studying music therapy at Acadia.
She’s set to graduate and is ready to embark on a new journey that will be completely her own – combining classical voice with a folk-pop songwriting style, by pursuing classical performance and keeping her lyrics in mind along the way.
“Music, especially singing, is a huge part of my life, and is in every little thing that I do. Finding a way to combine these two loves of mine is the next step, for now,” says Torrie.
Being busy pairs well with being a musician
Back home in Cobourg, Ont., Torrie began piano lessons at age four, and choral singing at age seven. But it wasn’t a love of music or singing that got her interested, but rather the prospect of traveling to England.
“I heard they had a trip planned to the England, and it was the trip that made me want to join,” she laughs.
Despite hating piano lessons and thinking she’d quit choir, Torrie persisted, finding instead she really loved singing the classical music with her choir, and went on to direct junior choir, become a choral scholar and then eventually head chorister.
Since arriving at Acadia, Torrie has become known across Wolfville within three communities that have a habit of blending.
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She is an active student on campus, participating in choir singing with the Manning Memorial Chapel Choir and also hosts a monthly Shape Note singing in the Acadia Art Gallery.
Torrie is a choral scholar at St. John’s Anglican Church, and sings at several open mics across the town, including both T.A.N. Coffee’s Open Mike and Donna and the Monday Open Mic with Mike Milne at Paddy’s Brewpub in Wolfville.
Her final vocal recital is also on deck, and will be held March 18 at the university’s Denton Hall.
On top of the performances, Torrie has regular university classes, voice and instrumental lessons and has to make time to study.
She says working hard and staying busy is a quintessential part of being a musician who intends on pursuing the craft at a professional level.
“It’s such a competitive field. You have to hone your craft, and that’s where practice and time management come in,” she says.
Chorister moves toward songwriting
Torrie also developed a passion for songwriting, with her earliest attempts at drafting lyrics at 12 or 13 resulting in what she has since dubbed questionable rhymes.
Soon after, she created her own YouTube channel and started uploading her songs. She even set the recording camera at an angle to make it look like she was accompanying herself on the guitar, though she couldn’t yet play the instrument.
“It was kind of a scam,” she laughs, “but that’s how much I wanted it.”
Her songwriting grew as she made her way through high school, and the highs and lows of being an adolescent, and says writing helped her navigate the turbulent period.
And now, as she’s found her sound as both a classical singer and songwriting musician, she sees herself as a performer with a split personality.
“It’s funny, because I love them both, but they’re so different. Classical performance is you against all the other singers, while jamming creates a community,” she says.
“Music is so communal on the East Coast compared to where I grew up, where it’s more of a dichotomy between performer and listener. When I moved here, songwriting became more of a tool in connecting with people.”
Combining two passions into one sound
As she sets her sights on combining her two passions, Torrie looks to her biggest influence for inspiration – Joni Mitchell.
Her soft soprano voice and musical evolution both serve as food for thought for Torrie, who admires the legendary folk musician for more than just her music.
“Joni evolved and did it all – folk, jazz, always her own thing. The way she tells stories is mesmerizing, and you feel that classical influence in her voice. She’s so unique, as a person and artist,” she says.
First, Torrie wants to focus on that classical voice she feels so at home with, despite the fact that her dream will come with some steep competition, with many vocalists competing for few jobs.
But as she pursues classical voice performance after graduating from Acadia, Torrie will aim to keep writing songs and creating a particular sound in the back of her mind.
She looks to groups like Goldfrapp, who’ve also come from classical backgrounds, as proof that a unique sound not only works but can resonate.
She’s eager to pen music that can bring her split musical personalities together – folk-pop songwriting, and classical singing.
“My sound will incorporate all the aspects of music that I love and will turn into something that’s distinctly mine. I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but I’m really excited to find out,” she says.
This is the first story in a new series titled “Tuning In,” which will feature a different musician each week. To submit a musician, contact Sara Ericsson at Sara.Ericsson@kingscountynews.ca.