- Category : Entertain-Music-Vocalist-Opera
- Type : GP
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Distraction 1
Canadian opera singer, a magnificent contralto; winner of the Governor General Arts Award 1995 and Canada's grand dame of song.
Forrester was the fourth and youngest child of an Irish mom and a Scottish dad, raised in the depression in Montreal’s working class east end. She dropped out of high school at the age of 13 to help support the family working as a secretary, receptionist and Bell Telephone operator. She financed her own vocal lessons which began at the age of 16 with Sally Martin, continued with Frank Rowe, and culminated with her most important teacher, baritone Bernard Diamant.
Her 1953 debut recital at Montreal's YWCA marked the beginning of a lifelong collaboration with pianist John Newmark, her friend, advisor and collaborator for over 30 years. That recital led to her debut with the Montreal Symphony, singing in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under Otto Klemperer. She toured extensively for Jeunesses Musicales, first in Canada and then in Europe.
In 1955 she met violinist and conductor of the Ottawa Philharmonic Eugene Kash, 18 hears her senior and became pregnant from their affair. In 1956, she had a baby, which she kept and raised on her own, a courageous decision at that time.
After a European tour, Forrester had her first recital in New York City and her reputation soared to that of one of the greatest interpreters of Mahler lieder the world has ever known. Through the following years she played over 100 concerts a year and made scores of recordings. She was always a down-to-earth diva, holding no pretensions in her elite circle. She has given her music to small towns and cities all over Canada, singing to rapt audiences with the accompaniment of a single piano. Unstinting in her enthusiasm and generosity, she has championed Canadian composers, premiering many new works and rarely failing to include a Canadian piece on her program. Forrester has been quoted, "Some gifts you get from on high, and I think I'm one of those people. Oh, wonderful art, I thank you very much!"
A singer of tremendous stamina and consistency, she regularly gave 120 performances a year, while raising five children. Between 1983 and 1988 she served as the chair of the Canada Council, continuing her commitment to the quality of Canada's artistic life. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada, the recipient of over 30 honorary degrees and a member of the Juno Hall of Fame. In 1986 she published her memoirs, "Out of Character."
Forrester suffered from dementia and her later years and died on June 16, 2010 in Toronto, Canada.