Career hits the high notes

2008-10-02 08:05

WHEN Carol Trench was a drama student in the city in the nineties, she never thought her career would see her standing up in front of a full symphony orchestra to sing in the Botanic Gardens - and singing a duet with an Idols winner into the bargain. But that is what she will be doing on June 24 at the third annual Concert in the Park, when the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra comes to town.

Trench came to Pietermaritzburg to study drama on the local university campus. She had grown-up in Durban and wanted to escape but as she says, not too far. Coming to Maritzburg meant she could still take the washing home at weekends. She started her musical career singing lead vocals for alternative bands and later on, worked on cruise liners and in the Middle East as a female vocalist.

Then it was back to Durban and into the acting scene. She has appeared in adult panto, musical revue, straight theatre, including KickstArt's excellent productions of Steel

Magnolias and Crimes of the Heart, children's theatre (she featured as Piglet in Winnie the Pooh and as the lead in Snow White) and musical theatre. Last December, Trench was the toast of Durban, when she took the role of Eliza in My Fair Lady at the Playhouse.

That role came with offstage drama as well. During the rehearsals, Trench's fiancé was involved in a surfing accident and lost the sight of one eye. “I came back from a jog and saw the ambulance there,” she recalls. “I nearly pulled out of the production.” But in the age-old theatrical tradition, Trench went on.

It is hard to be a full-time actress or singer in KwaZulu-Natal, so for the past five years, Trench has also taught senior drama and arts and culture at Durban Girls' High School. That came about after she and Durban actor Tim Wells went off to Pretoria to do a corporate gig. “I had been freelancing for 10 years, doing corporate work - dressing up in fishnet tights and a push-up bra - and I was beginning to think there must be more to life than doing that, with one or two stage shows a year,” she says.

“We had an evening off, and were having a few beers, when Tim said he had been offered a locum teaching at DHS and he didn't want to do it. He suggested I took it up - and I did.”

And then Trench realised that teaching was what she should be doing. “I love it, and the kids are great. I'm not so keen about the admin side and lesson plans and so on but I love the practical side. I'm directing my first production this year - To Kill a Mockingbird.”

In an ideal world, Trench says she would be happy with an unlimited budget to go into a recording studio and make an album but in the meantime, she'll stick with the teaching. When she is involved in a show, it can all get a bit hectic but she usually manages. However, for My Fair Lady, she took a month's unpaid leave, while her friend and fellow actress Clare Mortimer filled in as her locum.

This year's Concert in the Park will be Trench's second, and she has to admit that the idea of singing a duet with Idols winner Heinz Winkler makes her giggle every time she thinks about it. “We come from such different worlds,” she says. “But it's going to be great.” While the final programme has not yet been decided, Trench knows that one of the numbers she will be singing is The Rose. “That's fun - it makes people cry and that makes me feel powerful,” she says.

Singing out of doors brings its own set of problems. The first time Trench did it was at last year's Concert in the Park - her first gig with a full orchestra. “I was so nervous I thought I was going to be sick,” she says. “But once I got up there, it was an incredible feeling. She sang with the orchestra again in My Fair Lady and in the Christmas Carols in the Park in Durban, and now she loves it. Out of doors the sound balance is tricky and the conductor is behind the soloist, so she can't really see what is going on but, as she says, performing with 65 people “making this fantastic sound” is wonderful.

And that is exactly what she will be doing on June 24.

• The Concert in the Park will run in the Botanical Gardens from noon to 4.30 pm on Sunday, June 24. Tickets are R60 for adults and R30 for children under 16, available from Parklane Super Spar, Greyling Street or 033 342 3487.

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