Walking up to the stage to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Ken Lavigne was bubbling with joy, yet felt sick to his stomach.
Performing at the famous concert venue had been a lifelong dream, even though he had to pay his own way to get there.
A few things stand out that day six years ago for the 41-year-old former Victoria resident, who now lives in Chemainus with his wife and three children. It felt like an incredibly long walk past the New York Pops orchestra to the stage either for his execution or a big party, he recalls. He also took a moment to soak it all in.
“I sort of stepped out of that moment of the song and thought, you have to hang onto this, no matter what you need to remember this moment because it’s never going to happen again,” said Lavigne, who’ll be performing in Victoria Dec. 10.
“There’s something about that particular hall…you just feel the energy pulsing through you.”
Even though his family wasn’t musical, Lavigne loved to sing as a young child. At nine years old, he performed in the VOS production of Oliver. It was an experience that opened his eyes to the world of singing and dancing, and a place he felt he belonged.
Eventually, Lavigne fell in love with classical singing and music, and set his sights on becoming an opera singer, enrolling in the music program at the University of Victoria. It didn’t take long for his professional career to take off, and in 2004, Lavigne was recruited by an instructor at the Victoria Conservatory of Music to join a singing trio called the Canadian Tenors.
When the opportunity came along to be part of the group, Lavigne said it seemed like a natural progression, but he was worried about their debut and whether it would even fly.
“We were sort of feeling like we were inventing everything as we went along and didn’t necessarily know if what we had was something that would be really valued, but it turns out it was,” said Lavigne, who was the first to leave the group and venture out as a solo artist to pursue other opportunities.
“Within that particular group, we were living really hand to mouth and didn’t know what was going to be coming next. It was not necessarily an easy existence.”
One of those opportunities was fulfilling a lifelong dream of performing on one of the world’s greatest concert stages — Carnegie Hall. Nobody was asking him to perform, so Lavigne decided to make it happen himself. Soon, community members got on board fundraising to help with the staggering cost of $250,000 to rent the hall and pay for an orchestra. The tipping point, said Lavigne, was that the community also purchased his albums.
“The best way to support our local artists is by helping them out with buying some of their albums,” he said.
Despite performing for big names such as Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth and David Foster, Lavigne still has big dreams he plans to reach by making his own path. One of those dreams is to perform at the Sydney Opera House, which he also aims to do on his own, even though the cost is three times more than Carnegie Hall.
This time, however, he’s caught the interest of Detroit Public Television, which could film and air the show for viewers across Canada and the U.S. The network would also sell DVDs and CDs from the show. The project, however, has run into a few road blocks and will take more time than Lavigne originally anticipated.
In the mean time, Lavigne’s next venture is to record an album of his original songs and continue performing regularly across Canada and the United States, including Victoria where he’s always a big hit.
His latest Christmas show, Old Time Radio Roadshow, is a nostalgic look at the vintage variety radio shows of the 1940s. He’ll also play host to the tight harmonies of special guests, the Company “B” Vocal Trio.
Even though it’s not Carnegie Hall, Lavigne admits he still gets butterflies before he steps on stage.
“In a live theatre, you’re not sure what’s going to happen,” said Lavigne. “It’s a little bit of a high wire act, playing to an audience. Despite your plans, sometimes things can go sideways.”
The Old Time Radio Roadshow rolls into Victoria Dec. 10 at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall. For tickets call 250-386-6121 or 1-888-717-6121.