It’s hard to live in Oak Cliff and not come face-to-face with the realization that all of your neighbors have more artistic talent in their little fingers than you do in your entire being.
Chris Barker is one of those neighbors. Living in Winnetka Heights and singing opera in out-of-the-way places like Carnegie Hall in New York City, Chris is at the same time immensely talented and overwhelmingly modest.
We sat down with Chris to find out a little more about him.
CD: How did you get into music?
CB: I was involved in music from the time I was a child. I started to play the piano at age 7 and realized I could play by ear. Years later, I am still trying to develop that skill with more training. I sang in choirs and played a few instruments in school and I just loved music. I thought I would find fame and fortune in the pop music world but ended up walking away from that only to discover years later I had this talent. I knew I had a strong voice but it needed to be trained. On top of that I needed to work on my language skills and my musicianship. The more I dove into opera the more passionate I became about it. It’s a lot harder than I expected but the payoff is well worth it and I’m fortunate to have complete love and support at home.
CD: Tell us a few of the highlights in your musical career?
CB: To me performing on any stage is a highlight and a wonderful memory. While I can dream of performing at an opera house like the Winspear that Dallas is building, I have to be a realist and honestly the music will always come first. You will find me belting out a tune just about anywhere, if asked. One of my favorites was just last year when I got to perform at Carnegie Hall. It was a wonderful event and it allowed my entire family to see me perform. It was a magical night for me. Another memorable time would have been my first opera production which was a supporting role in “Carmen.” It was really the first time I was on the opera stage in full costume and acting as well as singing.
CD: Assuming for a second that not all CliffDwellers are well-versed in opera, can you give us some pointers on getting up to speed?
CB: I would say if you are just getting your feet wet stick with the extremely popular ones and then work your way through. “Madame Butterfly,” “Carmen,” “Tosca,” “La Traviata,” “La Boheme” and “I, Pagliacci” seem to come around often enough and these are a great place to start. “Carmen” is like hearing a greatest hits album.
CD: What is the opera scene like in North Texas? Is this a good place for a performer? How about for a fan of opera?
CB: North Texas has a few things going for it. I’m sure when the new opera house is in use that the city will really become a force to deal with in the opera realm. Right now you have Dallas Opera and Fort Worth Opera and The Living Opera in Garland. The two big houses bring quality productions to the area but there is not a strong network of smaller, regional houses. I moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area and there were several smaller opera companies that helped bring opera to the community. I think that they are important as a training ground for younger singers. Most of the performers I know who live in Texas do not get a lot of work in the area. It’s a life of travel.
CD: Where can we see you next?
CB: I have nothing locally coming up at the moment. I am flying into San Jose later this year to sing the “Cavalleria.” I am doing some concert work in Florida and on the east coast. I do plan to do a few events here in Oak Cliff. I just did a benefit for the Legal Hospice of Texas. I plan on singing at one of Winnetka Heights Centennial Celebration events. Since it is my neighborhood and we will be 100 years old, I’ve already started going through some pieces created in 1908.
CD: Finally, as an artist, what do you like about living in Oak Cliff?
CB: I find it to be a wonderful place to live. It’s filled with creative people. In my area, there is such a sense of community. I love sitting on my porch drinking wine with my neighbors. I love the Bishop Arts District; it is like a little town tucked inside a big city. I also find the aesthetic of the area to be the finest Dallas has to offer. It really makes it hard to travel for work and be away from my home and family.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Oak Cliff.