When talking with Niagara soprano vocalist Melissa-Marie Shriner, she brought up two defining memories that really resonated with me. Her memory of hearing Judy Garland sing ‘Over the Rainbow’ at eight-years-old and realizing that she wanted to be a singer: “It was as clear as day, and I can still remember it in detail”; and how “singing Christmas music in my early days inspired my decision to become a singer.”
These two inspired moments are the two musical experiences that I have had the pleasure of seeing Shriner perform in the past year – last November’s release performance for her holiday album A Christmas Love Song at St. Thomas Church, and her show-stealing performance of ‘Over the Rainbow’ at the 2018 St. Catharines Arts Awards in Cairns Recital Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (of which she was nominated in the Established Artist category and was then also nominated as Female Vocalist of the Year at the Niagara Music Awards) this past August.
“That performance was a full-circle-life-changing experience for me. Being on the stage that day in Cairns Recital Hall, singing that song, really stoked a fire in my belly,” she reminisced.
“It reignited my passion and reminded me of my calling, which I have always felt is to ‘allow my voice to be a healing balm for the soul’.”
It would be easy to assume that following this moment — the roar of the crowd and heart-warming standing ovation — would have convinced her to book the hall for her eighth ‘official’ annual Christmas show. But, confident and ambitious, Shriner had already set those goals in place last December.
“While I was doing the second concert promoting A Christmas Love Song at Mahtay Café […] I started daydreaming about performing my show in the FOPAC next year,” she explained. “So, I spontaneously announced at the end of a song, that, ‘I love this concert so much, and feel like it deserves to be in that world-class theatre across the street! I am going to do my show at the PAC next year!’, to which everyone cheered for the idea.”
Shriner studied at Brock University and received a Bachelor of Music Honours in Voice Performance and then received years of private training. She also studied classical singing in Italy several times, whilst participating in opera workshops. Most recently, Shriner has been studying with master vocal coach Carol Baggott-Forte.
“I am inspired by her and my life is enriched greatly by our work together,” she stated.
She has grown her Christmas concert over the years, both in scope and size, utilizing her skills developed from being an Artistic Director, Producer and Performer. Modestly starting in a little country church for 50-60 people, she has performed to sold out audiences of 200+ over the past eight years.
“For me, this concert is my heartbeat as a singer, and the concert I look forward to the most,” she said. “These concerts are for the audience. They allow people an opportunity to step out of the regular world for two hours, into the world of great music, melody and lyrics, sung from the heart. Through the concert, I feel I can use my gifts to share my heart with others, using the music I have loved since childhood.”