Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets anthem singer loves singing for thousands of fans

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When Stacey Nattrass finishes singing in the shower, she steps out in front of 15,000 people and belts out a national anthem or two.

The longtime singer at the MTS Centre -- and the Winnipeg Arena before that -- certainly has the highest-profile gig in town. By the time this season is over, she'll have performed in front of nearly 650,000 people and countless more on television and not had a single "boo" directed her way.

A choir teacher at Garden City Collegiate by day, she arrives at the rink about a half-hour before the opening faceoff to prepare.

Nattrass has a dressing room next door to the on-ice officials, which is just a few metres from the ice surface. Carrying a garment bag over her shoulder, Nattrass quickly dumps her makeup bag out by the sink.

"I've had a long habit of relaxing myself before singing by applying makeup," she said.

(Among her multiple hair products, brushes and lip shades, are false eyelashes, which she admits to wearing occasionally.) Her outfit matches perfectly but you'd never know it because she wears her personalized Jets home jersey over it all.

When it's time to warm up her voice, Nattrass walks a few steps over and steps inside the walk-in shower.

"I love the acoustics in here," she said.

If the Jets are playing an American team, she'll make sure to practice both anthems, although Nattrass admits not singing as loudly as she can so she doesn't disturb the referees and linesmen next door.

Then she watches a little of the pre-game warm-up, not just because it's fun but also to get acclimated to the cooler air at ice level.

When it's show time, Nattrass walks down the chute, exchanges a high-five with in-game host Dave Wheeler (who often whispers a joke in her ear -- sometimes it's repeatable, sometimes it's not), grabs the mic and belts it out to the back row and beyond. She makes sure to acknowledge the crowd's yelling of "True North" with a thumbs-up and a smile.

Nattrass hasn't had any vocal missteps in which she has blanked on the words to O Canada or The Star Spangled Banner -- no sense ending up on a Top 10 list with Roseanne Barr or Carl Lewis somewhere -- but she did wipe out a couple of times on her way off the ice prior to Manitoba Moose games.

You also won't catch Nattrass straying from the lyrics.

"Growing up, my father and grandfather got so annoyed when singers went off and did fancy riffs and funky stuff and changed rhythms of the anthem. (They taught me) to stick to that march-like feel that gets everybody feeling rah-rah and patriotic," she said.

Singing at Jets games is a dream come true for Nattrass, who used to listen to the anthem singers as a young girl at the Winnipeg Arena and whisper to herself, "I could do better than that."

So confident was she that she made a recording of O Canada on a cassette in 1988 and sent it off in the mail.

It took nine years for the Moose to get back to her and ask her to audition. By that time, Nattrass was a music student at the University of Manitoba and singing in jazz clubs.

"I know that I'm so lucky. I dreamed of singing for thousands of people and now I get to. It's the best," she said.

 

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2013 D8

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Updated on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:54 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds video

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