Vocalist Will Join North Charleston Pops in ‘We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered’
Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
During the baby boomer generation few singers have had what industry types would call as a ‘pure voice’, one that sets them apart and is easily recognizable. When you think of male singers’ artists like Marvin Gaye, Neil Diamond, Roy Orbison, and Van Morrison come to mind. On the other side of the coin, for the ladies it’s voices such as Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, and the Karen Carpenter.
While their voices are hard to duplicate, Canadian native Michelle Berting Brett has been entertaining audiences for over a dozen years with her vocal stylings as Karen Carpenter in ‘We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered’ and ‘Close to You: The Songs of the Carpenters’.
In 2019, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Carpenters first album, ‘We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered’ was the centerpiece at a Carpenters Convention in southern California. Fast forward to 2022, Michelle who was originally scheduled to make her orchestral debut in 2020 with the North Charleston Pops brings ‘We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered‘ to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Saturday January 22nd.
After earning a degree in theatre and opera Michelle quickly started to put her natural born talent to work performing throughout Canada and the United States, eventually taking her singing prowess overseas all the while thrilling audiences on the finest cruise ships.
Over the years Michelle has had a lot of reasons to believe singing Karen’s songs was meant to be. “People would come up to me after shows and say you really sound a lot like Karen Carpenter. Of course, that’s a great compliment, because she’s one of the greatest female voices of all time.”
Michelle adds, “I’ve been singing my entire adult life, but at some point, I started adding in more Carpenter’s songs. Often times when I finished a show, I would hang around to talk to people and they’d say I really loved Karen’s voice and listening to me gave them that same emotional connection. Others would say a particular Carpenter’s song was played at their wedding, so it brought back fond memories. I discovered their songs really moved people.”
Was there a turning point? “It was around 1995. I was performing on cruise ships, singing with a band doing the typical ballroom numbers, current Top 40 hits, and the great American songbook which included a couple of Carpenter’s songs. Then I would start getting requests for Carpenter’s song. It didn’t happen overnight, but I knew I could eventually build a show around their music.”
Although Michelle has performed several genres of music from opera and pop to cabaret and Jazz, she’s concentrated primarily on the Carpenter’s songbook for the past decade. “It’s been my and my husband Mark’s focus for the past 10 years. What makes it even more enjoyable is that we get to work together, because Mark produces the shows.”
Not long after the two married they began their Carpenter’s journey. “Before I made the permanent move from Canada to Connecticutt I sent my husband, who was still my fiance at the time a copy of me singing ‘Merry Christmas Darling’. Even though he’s always been behind the scenes, Mark has a background in just about every area of music management. He was convinced we could do this and make it work.”
It wasn’t long before they were playing to sold out crowds from coast to coast including shows in Las Vegas and Downey, California, hometown of the Carpenters. “We were well received right from the start. We quickly grew from a four-piece band to a seven-piece unit, with Mark taking over production and acting as our tour manager.”
She says they kept extremely busy until the pandemic hit. “I guess like many people we thought and hoped it would go away quickly. Sadly, it did not. But we persevered, as did many of our band members who have been with us almost from the beginning. We had about 20 months off, and just started back up in November prior to the holiday season.”
While Michelle and Mark have produced several variety shows centered around the Carpenter’s using their own band, the North Charleston Pops collaborations will be their first. “It seems to be the natural next step. Karen and Richard at the height of their careers performed many times with orchestras and even recorded at times with an orchestra. Adding a pop orchestra to our show will only add another element to the show.”
What can low country concert goers expect? “Hopefully what we’ve delivered all along, the complete Carpenter’s experience. The only difference is we’ll have a pops orchestra backing us up, which should provide a fuller sound. Usually, we’ll do about two 45-to-50-minute sets. Sometimes audiences forget how many hits the Carpenter’s had. For me, I never get tired of singing their songs, and to have an orchestra behind me is only going to make it that more exciting.”
For more on Michelle visit her website https://www.michellebertingbrett.com/wp/
For more on the North Charleston Pops visit their site at https://northcharlestonpops.com/
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