Even before Nick Veltmeyer, BA’17, was a King’s student he was singing with the University of King’s College Chapel Choir.
Veltmeyer grew up in Halifax, where his family attended St. George’s Anglican Church. Paul Halley, director of the University of King’s College Chapel Choir, also worked as director of music for St. George’s. There, Halley noticed Veltmeyer’s talent and encouraged him to expand his musical involvement to participation in the choir.
Somewhere along the way, Veltmeyer says, “I got hooked on the music and then by extension, the intellectual culture and the education that goes with all that music.”
Veltmeyer is now a masters student in music at the University of Toronto and a Junior Fellow of Massey College. As well as being a vocalist he is also an organist. At present, Veltmeyer is studying remotely from Halifax, having returned temporarily to be closer to his grandmother during the pandemic.
While here, Veltmeyer is also renewing his connection with the choir. He is singing in its upcoming performance of the French composer Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem (1948), for a recording due to be broadcast on the choir’s YouTube page on April 10* at 5 p.m. ADT. A Requiem is a mass or musical service for the dead and this performance, of what Halley describes as “Duruflé’s supremely beautiful, justifiably famous setting of the Requiem,” is being dedicated to the Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.
Though the circumstances that have brought him home are far from ideal, for Veltmeyer, the opportunity to be part of this performance holds great meaning.
“Being a Requiem, it gives the vocabulary for us to process grief … [Duruflé’s Requiem] was an important piece for me; I first performed it with Paul [Halley] in 2010, and only a couple of years later I lost my mom and having that grief—having that vocabulary of the art really helped me process that experience.”
It was, in part, experiences such as this that helped Veltmeyer to realize that he wanted to pursue music professionally. Though he studied classics and history at King’s, through working with Halley, Veltmeyer found himself drawn to playing the organ after experiencing its “overwhelming sound” as a source of deep catharsis.
At King’s, Veltmeyer became Organ Scholar—a role that meant he was in charge of playing services in the chapel as well as special events, in addition to helping both Paul Halley and Nick Halley (Paul’s son) with the choirs each one directs—Nick Halley is founder and artistic director of the Capella Regalis Men and Boys Choir.
Since moving to Toronto, Veltmeyer has had the role of Organ Scholar at St. James Cathedral and Trinity College. He says that the experience he gained as Organ Scholar at King’s was invaluable preparation for the professional opportunities he is now pursuing in Toronto.
“[Being Organ Scholar at King’s] really gave a broad and well-rounded musical experience and education that’s quite rare these days…. When I first arrived in Toronto, it was seen as a unique asset that I had multiple skills in conducting, accompanying, singing, and composition—and being able to blend all of those art forms together in the way that the organ scholarship prepared me, I was able to walk right into certain situations that I would have never had access to.”
Asked what it means to be performing with the choir once more, Veltmeyer says, “I always knew that we had something special at King’s, but now having pursued a professional career in music it’s become increasingly clear … how the Chapel Choir is such a high-level ensemble. It doesn’t just produce offerings for the students and faculty but is really a rare gem for the whole artistic community of Canada and even beyond, too.”
He notes that, as musicians working in Nova Scotia they are in a uniquely fortunate position to be able to perform together—even with the many restrictions that will determine how the performance and its recording are approached. Indeed, as the severity of the pandemic became clear in early 2020, Veltmeyer had a full year of scheduled performances cancelled.
Despite the fact that this performance will be broadcast online, as pandemic protocols continue to prohibit a live audience, Veltmeyer is hopeful that the performance will offer healing.
“The Duruflé Requiem itself … it has a modern sound but it’s built on this ancient music that really resonates with people on a gut level … it’s written to help that grieving process.
“I think that now more than ever people are isolated and they’re lacking those communal experiences that will help them process this grief and remember that they’re not alone, and that we’ve all suffered a communal trauma and that we all can get through it together.”
*Please note that the date of this broadcast has been changed to April 10.