Biography of Rosemary Phillips, Singer/Songwriter
I may be a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to the performance world but I have been singing since the age of four when I took some lessons and sang for a benefit in London, England.
I put singing on the back burner (see below in Creative Longer Biography) until I got my first guitar at age 18. Since then I took a few lessons with Gloria Ferrer (Toronto, 1971-2) and Patricia Dalquist (Vancouver), took to the stage and sang with choirs and performed solo.
Well it's been 50 years! My how time flies. But during those years, while continuing a career as a designer and writer (among some of my professions needed to pay my way in life), I have sung for special events, concerts, fairs, festivals, churches, schools, hospices, community events, coffee houses, senior's residences, and in special house concerts.
Audiences evidently have loved my voice and for years have told me I should be making recordings and appearing on television. Others tell me I should be performing more for children. I guess I never took all this too seriously as I kept on being a writer. Recently, in the last twenty-five years, I've been taking it a bit more seriously! Well, not too seriously, for I'm still a writer. But, I have done quite a few performances in all kinds of places, even for a wedding on a bluff while I stood precariously on a rock, and another on a beach with my feet in sand as the Harvest Moon rose over the horizon. And then there have been Celebrations of Life...
Creative Longer Biography
My first ever public performance was at the tender age of four singing “Animal Crackers” for a benefit in London, UK. In no way did I resemble curly-top Shirley Temple – my hair is naturally dead straight (even though the dustman always called me 'Curly') – in addition I believe I got ushered off the stage before I finished because I wouldn’t face the audience. I was facing the piano and when I was asked to turn around, I did, with my back to the audience. Maybe I was rebelling because I really wanted to sing the “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” and hold a teddy bear like the children who were next in the program.
School uniform and choir button
I sang in the school choir as descant, front row centre, until I was eleven, then stopped singing after moving on to Wellington Avenue Secondary School where a stern matronly teacher, who must have been having a bad day, told me I didn’t have a voice.
I rather took that to heart until I was in high school in Canada and tried out for the school musical presentation of "The Boy Friend." Inwardly I knew I was a singer, and hoped for the lead role of Polly, but because of my English accent I ended up with the non-singing comedic role of Lady Brockhurst. The production never got to the audience as the direct-teacher ended up cancelling it because of personal commitments.
Then, thanks to Jane, I bought my first guitar, for $25, paid for with my babysitting money. I learned a whole bunch of songs from an old pops songbook to sing for guests at Allen’s Restaurant, run by Jane’s mum and dad. The chicken-house restaurant was situated on a Canadian island out from Manson's Landing, in the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River, the boating playground off New York State. (I've never tasted chicken like that since – it was absolutely delicious - crispy and tender - fried in well cured pans.) Oh, the stories I could tell!
|Rosemary summer 1968.
Tips were very good that night.
Guests were often known to whisper in my ear, “You gonna sing ‘The Shrimp’ tonight?” (That's an old Elvis Presley song, believe it or not.) My picking up the guitar was a guaranteed boost to tips for all the waitresses on those evenings, and an excellent way for me to get out of washing dishes – by hand. Except for one night when Joan Crawford’s daughter came for dinner. I was so nervous I hid in the woods out back. I had lots of dishes to wash that night.
I sometimes took my guitar with me when I sat out on a dock on the river. One day I was feeling exceptionally lonely and belted out Brenda Lee's "All Alone Am I," singing from my heart. When I finished, I heard applause from the islands around. I had forgotten, sound carries over water.
Glo Ferrer - vocal coach
At age 21, after my often-swollen tonsils were removed, I was invited to take singing lessons from Glo Ferrer in Toronto. I was in my fourth year at Ryerson at the time, taking interior design, so I didn’t take the singing too seriously – I mean, wasn’t I supposed to be an interior designer? So when Glo sent me off to audition for Godspell (1972) I guess I really didn’t have my heart in it. I was too shy, standing beside all those professionals, or should I say, those who became professionals, like Martin Short and Gilda Radner. I often wonder what life might have been like if I had been confident and taken it all more seriously.
Finally bringing out the talent
It was while living in Vancouver in the 1980's that I took a few more vocal sessions this time with Patricia Dalquist who remembered me from days in Toronto with Glo Ferrer. With a bit more encouragement, church performances, coffee houses and community concerts the singing developed. Over the years the voice has mellowed and matured, dropped about an octave to tenor, but I can still do soprano. And I do feel much more comfortable and relaxed on stage even though I may trip and get tied up in cables. Better late than never eh? And because I'm still a writer, singing is still a bit of a passtime. It's never too late for dreams!
I don’t have any awards or anything, just lots of thank you cards, certificates of appreciation, smiles, and warm hugs and handshakes. Knowing that someone has been touched by my music, singing and performance is award enough. Even now, I feel so blessed and get quite choked when someone comes up to me and tells me, "I play your CD almost every day!"