A chance meeting through mutual friends brought Joyce into our flamenco fold. Now over a decade later, Joyce is a mainstay of the Maria Osende Flamenco Company and has established herself as a talented flamenco singer (cantaora).
Her journey has taken her from Nova Scotia to Spain to study flamenco in-depth.
Photo Credit: Anne Launcelott
What is your relationship with Nova Scotia?
I grew up in the rural community of Clifton, just outside Truro, NS. I’ve lived in Halifax since 2000.
What brought you to the Maria Osende Flamenco Company?
I met Maria Osende at the wedding of our mutual friend, Daniel MacNeil. We both performed in the reception/after-party. She enjoyed my singing and asked if I’d try flamenco. I said “Sure, why not?” and came to a rehearsal where I learned a few basics. I debuted with the Maria Osende Flamenco Company in February, 2011; a Valentine’s Day show, singing a bit of a soleá and the 1951 movie song “Ay, Pena, Penita, Pena” (“Oh, pain, little pain, pain” – pain is a common theme in flamenco, I would come to find out). I wore a long, red dress and too much makeup, and employed my high school musical theatre skills. I got spun in a revolving chair. It was a hoot!
What do you remember about your first encounter with flamenco?
I saw Maria perform at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, NS. I was there as a kids’ musician delegate. The emotional landscape of her performance moved and intrigued me. There was restraint and explosion. I remember feeling caught up in the passion and having a lump in my throat.
What prompted you to study flamenco?
At some point, you have to take a deeper dive if you want to understand better. So, after a few years as the principle singer for MOFC, learning on the fly from local flamencos and sometimes AFP-featured festival artists, I raised some funds and received a grant from Arts Nova Scotia to audit classes for two months at the Cristina Heeren Foundation in Seville in 2017.It certainly broadened my scope, but like Aristotle said, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” Still, learning alongside really dedicated students from all over the globe was inspiring. And there’s nothing like living in Spain. You realize what all the fuss is about.
What do you love about flamenco?
The rhythms! And the spark and joy you get participating in them with others. They are stimulating and very demanding. It takes time and effort to land squarely within them, and only then can you get creative and play against them. If you’re not centred in the rhythms, they’ll “bite” you. I also appreciate the teamwork (listening/watching) involved in pulling off a performance, and being embedded in all the layers – instruments, voices, foot work, movement, colour, emotion. There are many nuances and unplanned moments. These moments can be brilliant, or train-wrecks that we cleverly disguise as “Plan A.” Flamenco also works my aging brain, pulls me out of my comfort zone, and helps me find and express some buried chutzpah. You can’t do it well at half-measures, you have to go for it! By the way, over the years I have learned that it is unsafe to sing flamenco while driving!
Photo Credit: Jacob Mailman
In day-to-day life, Joyce works part time as a Canada Post Letter Carrier and has a side career performing different types of music, including original songs, music for family audiences, and church gatherings.
With the help of flamenco dancer and friend Audrey Valentina, Joyce brought her four year old daughter to Spain. Audrey took care of Lucy while Joyce attended day classes and they switched care duty midday so Audrey could attend evening classes. They all lived in an apartment in the historic neighbourhood of Triana and walked across the iconic Puente (Bridge) de Isabel II each day.
Audrey and Lucy in the Flamenco Studio. Photo Credit: Audrey Valentina
Joyce recalls living in Spain with a preschooler as “an adventure in itself!” Lucy, now nine, enjoyed exploring the many parks, plazas, flora and fauna, and mingling with Sevillanitos at the playgrounds. Lucy’s favourite memory was feeding pigeons at Parque Maria Luisa, where you could buy a bag of bird food for one Euro. “I rehearsed class material mainly on park benches, watching Lucy play nearby,” says Joyce, who spent her Euro on delicious coffee drinks (essential when combining flamenco with child care).
Joyce lives with her family – Lucy, and husband, Glenn Fraser, in the North end of Halifax.