Doreen Hume gave thousands of radio and stage performances in Canada and the UK from the 1940s to the 1970s
Sault Ste. Marie has lost one of her own whose professional voice was admired on both sides of the Atlantic.
Doreen Hume – a soprano singer and stage performer who enjoyed a long career in Canadian and British radio shows and live concerts – died at Sault area hospital on July 2, just two weeks before his 96th birthday.
“I’m very proud of Mom’s career,” Hume’s daughter, Jeanne Basteris, told SooToday from her home on St. Joseph’s Island.
“It was fun growing up because I was exposed to all kinds of music. My greatest joy was accompanying Mom to her rehearsals and performances. When people ask me about my upbringing, I call myself a “backstage baby”.
“She had a fabulous voice. She had a good stage presence. She was a pretty woman. Every kid would love to have someone glamorous like that as a mother.
Hume was admired in her field and worked alongside well-known figures as a professional singer in musical comedy and opera performances.
Basteris said legendary Canadian pianist Glenn Gould called Hume “the girl with the beautiful voice”.
Famed lyricist and theater producer Oscar Hammerstein wanted to collaborate with Hume on a project, but Hammerstein died before that project materialized.
Basteris said her favorite performance from her mother was the song Rusalka: Song to the Moon by the 19th century composer Antonin Dvorak.
“It’s a fabulous piece of music and she’s invested in it. It was wonderful.”
“I remember hundreds of gigs,” Basteris said.
Basteris said one of Hume’s favorite gigs was in Italy, where she and the BBC Radio Orchestra represented Britain in a European song contest. It was an outdoor concert held in front of thousands of spectators in Venice’s famous Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square).
“I didn’t witness this concert, but the one she gave in St. Mark’s Square was quite exceptional and made her very proud to represent Great Britain in this competition. She kept the dress she used for this performance for years. It was a special dress for her.
Born in Sault as Doreen Hulme, she later dropped the “l” in her last name upon entering the entertainment world.
At 18, Hume left the Sault to study music and voice at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. She became a well-known singer on Canadian radio and television before moving to Britain in the early 1950s to pursue her singing career.
“There was the option of going to the United States or going to England. She felt more comfortable going to England because a lot of her family members were there,” Basteris said. .
Basteris spent her childhood in Britain with her mother before coming to Canada in 1968.
Hume has returned to Canada several times over the years for concerts in Toronto and Sault Ste Marie. When the original Memorial Gardens opened in 1949, Hume was invited to give the opening concert.
In Britain, her weekly radio broadcasts on the BBC were heard across Western Europe and she gave many concerts at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall as well as Canterbury Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral.
Hume’s career included over 2,000 live shows, hundreds of concerts and stage performances, over 300 variety show appearances, and numerous commercial recordings of popular Broadway and West End shows.
Hume returned to Canada in 1970, first to Toronto and then to Elliot Lake.
In Elliot Lake, she worked with local amateur theater groups.
Hume lived in Elliot Lake until, at age 95, she became a resident of Extendicare Maple View in Sault Ste Marie.
Locally, she worked as a singing teacher and served as a judge for Bon Soo.
Admiring her mother’s long career as a singer, Basteris shared her favorite memory of Hume as a mother.
“One evening we were driving home to central London and I would have been nine or 10. We were standing in the street after a gig and it was cold, and I remember mum was wearing a fur coat .I was cold and she said ‘Okay, come here’ so she opened her coat and I walked in. The coat was double breasted so she could wrap it around me while keeping herself warm. warm. I was in this kind of cocoon. I remember its scent very well. Everyone has their own scent and mom had a particular scent that was light and very feminine.
“It stuck with me for years. Every time I walked into his house after being away for a while, the smell would hit me. It was very emotional, a feeling of complete protection and warmth.
Hume was honored by the City of Sault Ste. Marie by being included on the community’s Walk of Fame in 2009.
“It’s nice to know that she will be remembered,” Basteris said.
“I hope anyone interested in learning more about her can go to an audio streaming service like Spotify and just listen to her voice. If anyone is lucky enough to hear her sing, go ahead because her voice will brings the opera.
“His voice was a pleasure to listen to.”
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