World traveled opera singer performs at Wesley Village

Published 1:38 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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By Carrie Hudson

Intern Reporter

For some, the applause after the performance is the best part; for others, it is the opportunity to travel and witness some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.

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When asked about his performances, opera tenor Gregory Turay stated the best part was seeing how his music affected people.

He revealed after a recent performance at Wesley Village Senior Living that one of the aspects that motivated him to pursue singing was how it can “move people- that is why I got into singing. I wanted to be an entertainer and to touch people’s souls.”

Turay has been performing opera for the past few decades and was cited as “One of the brightest natural talents to have emerged from the U.S. in recent years” by the London Times.

He has performed at the Metropolitan Center, Symphony Hall in Boston, Cleveland Symphony Hall and numerous concert and opera houses across Europe.

His most recent performance was at Wesley Village last Thursday as a surprise for residents.

While describing his performance at Wesley Village, he noted seeing everyone’s faces and how, “the music just moves them…That is the most fulfilling part; it is better than singing in a 5,000 seat audience where you can’t interact or talk to them or see them. So, this is very special. I like the smaller, more intimate crowds, where you get to interact.”

Over the years, singing was not always Turay’s plan in terms of a career. Going into college at the University of Kentucky, Turay wanted to play baseball in hopes of one day managing a team.

However, his music teacher, Everett McCovey, had another vision.

“I wanted to major in business and minor in voice. I was going to study business, so I could manage the baseball team when I was done. I had it all figured out. But Everett McCorvey said ‘You need to sing opera and you need to major in voice,” Turay said.

Turay’s career grew at a breakneck pace in a fairly short amount of time. For many, breaking into the arts is something they spend decades achieving, but for Turay, his singing career began taking off following his sophomore year of college.

“I had a really fortunate path. A lot of singers go through college, do summer programs and they’ll have to go to graduate school and try another teacher- it takes them a lot longer. But with my career, I was singing at the Met when I was 22,” Turay said.

Handling large success at a young age can be overwhelming. Turay recalled performing at the Met as a “very heavy experience.”

Moving forward, Turay spent his career traveling worldwide, singing at halls that seated thousands of individuals.

He described the most challenging part during his European debut, and working with directors “who don’t believe in traditional staging of opera. When theater directors try to direct opera, they try to do far-out stuff to shock the people. Then, it is not about the voice.”

He continued by explaining how this particular direction alters the way people view attending an opera.

“People used to say, ‘Let’s go hear an opera,’ and now they say, ‘Let’s go see a show,’ so now it’s not even about the opera, a sacred thing,” Turay said.

The mindset can lead to directions that can ultimately negatively affect the voice and conflict with traditional operatic training.

“When it’s not about the voice, it is really hard to train yourself as an operatic singer because we project our voices to 4,000, 5,000 seat halls without amplification,” Tursay said. “So to train that way, and have it be ‘your whole body is your instrument.’ It changes things. The directors can say, ‘Roll around the floor,’ ‘crawl,’ and all this other stuff. It really starts to affect your voice.”

Performing across the globe was Turay’s full-time job. This often left him thousands of miles away from his family during times when he wished to be with them.

“It was a little too crazy- I was busy and I was going all of the time. I was missing birthdays and holidays with them,” he said.

In the end, Turay moved back to Lexington to focus on raising his kids and began to reflect on the sustainability of a career in singing.

During this period, he decided to return to school to earn his master’s and doctorate in hopes of becoming a professor.

“I decided to go into teaching because you can’t sing forever, right? I wanted to have a solid job whenever the voice starts to deteriorate because it is a diminishing skill,” Turay said. “You have to have something to fall back on.”

Turay describes his process of stepping back as, “teaching, taking classes, trying to be a student, being a dad, coaching baseball. It was just taking a step back from singing professionally. I was still singing locally and a few regional gigs.”

In recent years, Turay has held several positions as a voice professor at numerous colleges in central Kentucky. However, over the past two years, he has since moved away from teaching and accepted a position as the executive director of the non-profit, ComposeArt.

Turay detailed the work he does with the non-profit with great joy. He stated ComposeArt works to, “champion women composers in the arts and visual artists. I am mainly work on fundraising, but we put on performances and exhibitions for our visual artists,” Turay said.

In September through October, Turay revealed ComposeArt will be hosting a fundraiser that will operate similarly to a subscription.

Through the fundraiser, Turayy said he hopes to find “100 to 200 women, and they are each going to give anywhere between $500 to $2,000 every year. So that will support our organization and allow us to perform the works of women who traditionally, historically, have had a harder time over the male counterpart with getting their works performed.”

While ComposeArt is small, Turay refers to it as “a staff of one,” fundraisers are crucial to the operation and growth of the organization.

By performing at smaller venues, like Wesley Village, and focusing on ComposeArt, Turay finds himself doing the most fulfilling work. He hopes to continue supporting the arts and uplifting individuals through his music.