Recent History – 1999
July 19, 1999
By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
Ben Heppner is catching up on his housekeeping.
“It may seem glamorous to you,” says the world-renowned tenor, just in from a seven-hour flight from London where he was recording his newest album. “Unfortunately, we have to do our laundry too,” he laughs ruefully.
As opera music plays softly in the background at his Toronto home, Heppner, once a resident of Dawson Creek, takes time from his chores to chat about his latest achievement.
At the age of 42, Heppner has been awarded the Order of Canada, joining the prestigious ranks of recipients including Celine Dion, Peter Gzowski and Lloyd Robertson. Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes the lifetime achievement of people who have made a difference in the country.
It seems too early to be receiving such as honour, Heppner says.
However, he muses, “I had also said a short time ago that I felt too young to be sending my oldest daughter off to college this year.”
While Heppner now lives in Ontario with his wife and three children, he grew up in Dawson Creek and got his start singing in church and at various community events.
“People gave me opportunity and endured some not-so-good performances,” he says. “Those are really important to what eventually happened.”
In actual fact, he adds, in his early years he didn’t really enjoy the type of music he is now known for.
“I didn’t like opera at all when I was in Dawson Creek,” he says. When a music instructor suggested he could possibly make his living singing opera, he laughed.
“It seemed like such a ridiculous idea,” he laughs. “I couldn’t possibly imagine that!”
However, the graduate of South Peace Secondary School went on to study music at the University of British Columbia and in 1979 won the CBC Talent Festival, gaining national recognition. In 1988 he came to international attention, receiving top honours at the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.
He hasn’t looked back since and his web site shows proof, citing numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy and a Juno.
However, Heppner says, the Order of Canada is one-of-a-kind.
“I have to say this one is special because I proudly wear the label of Canadian and I’m very proud of my roots here,” says the singer. “I’m probably the proudest of the order of Canada.”
However proud he may be, Heppner downplays his success, crediting a strong faith and supportive family life as helping him achieve his current prominence.
“I have a very supportive home life to do this type of work,” he says, fielding another call on the line from his wife Karen, whom he hasn’t seen in over two weeks.
“My faith sustains me through the rough times,” he adds. “It’s not always sweetness and light.”
Currently Heppner has finished recording his newest release, My Secret Heart.