Helen was born in Toronto, Canada, of Danish immigrant parents and began
voice lessons at age 15, studying with Jean Innes at the Royal
Conservatory of that city. She was a frequent competitor in local
festivals, earning enough through scholarships to pay for her music
lessons. In two consecutive years, she won both the Junior and Senior
Rose Bowls for best female vocal performance at the Kiwanis Music
Festival. Further studies took her to Det Kongelige Musikkonservatorium
However, she felt no strong desire for the life of a classical musician and, although she continued to perform, her enthusiasm waned. She moved to Vancouver and didn't resume her singing until the late 1990's. It was at this time that Helen’s musical focus completely changed, and she turned to jazz. As she has written:
“What especially captivates me about this music is how liberating it is to the artist, how much creativity it demands of its performers."
“I loved the music I was trained to sing early on in my life, such as the French and German art songs of Faure and Mahler, which required both vocal and physical stamina and daily practice. But the classical performer is expected, indeed required, to play or sing the composer's score exactly as written. For me, something was missing, and now I know that it was the improvisational spirit of jazz."
“Like classical music, jazz contains lovely melodic lines, poetic lyrics and complex rhythms; but the score is just the starting point. One may vary instrumentation, alter the melody or the rhythm, and come in early or late. Improvisation is the key element and necessitates performer invention, while always respecting the composer's intent. It's an endlessly appealing challenge."
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