Hugh and Jane Fraser’s move from selling knitwear to running an opera company may seem lateral to some.
In 2014 the couple, who live on the land near Armidale, travelled to Sydney to hear their youngest daughter, then a student at the Sydney Conservatorium perform with her cohort. Mrs Fraser says they were blown away by the skill and artistry of the young performers.
“I said ‘wow, why don’t we hold a concert? You guys are amazing!’” says Mrs Fraser, “from that we organised the first concert in Armidale.” They held three concerts in June, and “everybody just adored them,” says Mrs Fraser, so they held two more in November.
Mr and Mrs Fraser are cattle and sheep breeders by trade, and at the time they had a side business selling knitwear.
From the first few concerts, the idea grew. Their daughter has now flown the coop to study in Italy, but Mrs Fraser goes every year to listen to the young singers at the conservatorium.
“The project has encompassed more than forty singers,” says Mrs Fraser. The group aims to develop the talents of young singers, while giving rural audiences the chance to experience works for which they would normally have to travel to a major city.
“We just started this as a project, because we felt that it was a good thing to do,” says Mrs Fraser, “we felt like we were filling a hole in the market that needed to be filled.” The group was incorporated as a non-for-profit organisation in 2014.
“It’s a win win situation basically,” says Mrs Fraser. The singers perform to a diverse audience, while people living in rural areas get the chance to hear high quality operatic performances.
The group is composed of six singers, an accompanist and an MC, who perform a range of works selected by Mrs Fraser. Works are chosen for balance, giving audiences the chance to hear a range of well known and unfamiliar pieces.
The singers are students or recent graduates of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. “They are actually extremely well trained as musical individuals,” says Mrs Fraser. The experience performing and travelling with Voci Stupende is invaluable for the young performers, developing their professional skills. “Our singers are extremely well received in Europe because of it,” says Mrs Fraser.
While the Frasers’ background is in farming sheep and cattle, classical music has always been a passion of theirs. “I’ve always been interested in classical music” says Mrs Fraser, who comes from a musical family.
Their background on the road selling knitwear with Frasers of Arran (the name is a coincidence) has set the couple up well for life in a travelling troupe. Friends made on the road love to come to Voci Stupende’s concerts.
The Frasers love the experience of bringing opera to rural Australians. “Country audiences are often very warm and very grateful that you’ve come to their area,” says Mrs Fraser.
Voci Stupende will be performing at St Andrew’s Anglican Church on Sunday April 30 at 2:30pm. Tickets can be purchased at trybooking.com/259703