Entertainment

Contest reconnected singer with her passion for song

Opera singer Kari Culjat took top spot in last year’s annual Langley Has Talent competition. The 30-year-old mother of two has been busy learning new songs to record during studio time which she won as part of her package. Culjat also took home a $2,500 cash prize and a professional photography session. - Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times
Opera singer Kari Culjat took top spot in last year’s annual Langley Has Talent competition. The 30-year-old mother of two has been busy learning new songs to record during studio time which she won as part of her package. Culjat also took home a $2,500 cash prize and a professional photography session.
— image credit: Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times

Opera may not be her first love, but it was a stunning performance of Puccini’s O Mia Babbino Caro that earned a Langley singer first place in last year’s Langley Has Talent competition.

And it has been opening doors for her ever since.

As the winner of the third annual LHT contest, held last spring, 30-year-old Kari Culjat earned a $2,500 cash prize as well as studio time to record her music.

And, over the past months, the Langley woman has been practising several new pieces for a CD.

It’s been a nice change of pace, she said.

“I’ve enjoyed learning new songs,” said Culjat, whose prize-winning voice is entirely untrained.

Although she listens to and sings a range of musical styles, it is opera that comes most naturally to her.

“Opera kind of chose me.

“I actually sing everything,” she said.

Truthfully  she’s not even a huge fan of the style. But, at nine, she saw Phantom of the Opera and “fell in love with those specific songs.”

“My mom is a huge opera fan. I grew up listening to it.

“I don’t listen to opera for enjoyment — only when I’m learning a song,” she said.

Culjat has never taken a singing lesson, but it’s something she would like to do one day — once her life settles down a bit.

As a working mother of two girls — Katie, 10 and Emily, 14 — Culjat’s priorities steered her away from the music she loved to perform when she was younger.

“I had given up on singing altogether. I got married and had a daughter at 18,” she said.

When Culjat was 24, her sister passed away, leaving behind a daughter, who the singer then adopted.

With two children to raise, she had all but given up on music.

“I always loved singing. I was very musical in high school,” said Culjat.

In fact, it was a few of Culjat’s co-workers at the Langley Milestones restaurant who, remembering her musical theatre performances at H.D. Stafford, encouraged her to audition for the competition.

“I had never heard of it before I auditioned,” she said.

This year, she will return as a guest performer during the finals competition, accompanied by her daughter Emily on piano.

Winning the talent competition refocused  Culjat on her music, she said. And it has given her  opportunities she otherwise wouldn’t have had.

She was invited to perform at a fundraiser for  the Langley Lodge and, more recently, at the City of Langley’s volunteer appreciation evening.

“It seems like every time I sing at an event, another (invitation) comes along.”

“That’s been very exciting for me,” she said.

“I love doing the charity work, I’m not interested in making a lot of money.”

Beyond performing locally and finishing her CD, Culjat hasn’t decided how actively to pursue a music career.

“My daughters are obviously my number one priority,” she said.

At the same time, she knows she needs to set an example and give her girls the opportunity to pursue their own goals.

“Music is a big part of our lives.

“I realize how (it feels) to give up on the things you love and your dreams and I don’t want my daughters to do that.”

•••

The fourth annual Langley Has Talent competition semi-finals will be held at Christian Life Assembly, 21277 56 Ave., on Saturday, March 29. The finals will take place on April 12. Both events begin at 6 p.m.

For tickets and other information, visit langleyhastalent.com.

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