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Speaking With .... Nathan Pacheco 11.09.12

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♦ 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13

♦ Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph

♦ Tickets, $35-$45

♦ (312) 334-7777;

Classical/pop crossover has a new standard bearer. Alongside the likes of Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, Katherine Jenkins, Il Volo and Sarah Brightman, you can now count Nathan Pacheco among the stars of the increasingly popular music genre.

Pacheco — who’s on his first headlining tour (behind his recently released self-titled album) — possesses an operatic tenor range that traverses nearly 2.5 octaves in four languages. He’s also got two PBS specials to his credit, including an upcoming Christmas special next month for the television network. A Christmas EP is also reportedly set for holiday release.

The 32-yaer-old is headed to Chicago for a concert at the Harris Theater on Nov 13. He talked to the Sun-Times about his love of music and great food.

Question:You make your home in Nashville, Tenn., these days. Is country music something you’d like to add to your repertoire?

Nathan Pacheco: I have been converted to it a bit more since marrying my wife and moving there. I have an appreciation for it. I think in Nashville it’s not just country music that’s the driving force, but an eclectic mix of alternative, pop, rock, that’s coming out of this city and the studios here. [Laughing] I’m not sure how keen they are on opera music. I hope they don’t kick me out of town.

Q.You sang the National Anthem at a White Sox game this summer (and more recently at a Cubs game). What is that like and how difficult is it to sing that song?

NP: That was an exciting experience. It is just thrilling, electrifying. I had sung it at a Washington Nationals game, as well. I get nervous in general before I perform. I get this big adrenaline rush. But there is so much pressure on you when you sing the National Anthem because you have one chance to get it right. And it’s actually a hard song to sing. In some ways it’s more challenging than some of the more difficult opera songs to sing.

Q.Are you a huge baseball fan?

NP: I used to be, but I haven’t been following sports a lot over the past year because of my career. I used to be one of those kids who collected all the baseball cards. I did the same with basketball cards. I was a huge fan of Scotty Pippin and Michael Jordan.

Q.What has your musical training entailed?

NP: I took singing lessons halfway through high school, voice lessons mostly. I would sing along to all the Disney movies such as “Aladdin.” I studied piano when I was younger. I performed in musicals and was in the choir. I loved expressing myself through singing whenever I could. I later studied opera at BYU and also studied for a while in Italy. I decided to travel the world to sing and eat.

Q.You toured for a while with Yanni. What did you learn from him?

NP: Yanni was my first big break. That whole experience was the perfect training ground for the music industry. I learned to many things from him in the recording studio and about being on the road that totally prepared me for my solo career. He was a great mentor. He is very philosophical and we’d all be sitting around eating dinner somewhere and he’d always be talking about being true to ourselves and not selling out, to have faith in ourselves.

Q.You also toured with Katherine Jenkins, a fellow opera/classical/pop performer and the London Symphony Orchestra. What was that experience like?

NP: We toured England, Scotland and Wales together. She is the real deal. And a great musician. I got a real sense from her fans that people really have a deep appreciation for this opera crossover genre. From her I learned a lot about how to interact with audiences and how to be genuine on stage, how to be honest in the way you perform the songs.

Q.Many entertainers have pre-show rituals that they absolutely adhere to. What’s yours?

NP: Don’t laugh, but I just have to have a full plate of really good food. Usually a really hearty chicken dish. As a singer, people always tell me that I’m really goofy for eating a big meal before a performance. But when I sing on a full stomach, there’s something about it that takes all the tension off my throat. I can hit those really hard notes with no problem. Chicago has great food, so I’m totally looking forward to the concert, and the meals there.

Q.What are you listening to these days?

NP: I have an interesting mix on my iTunes play list. Everything from Luciano Pavarotti to Cold Play to the “Braveheart” soundtrack.

Q.Tell me about some of the songs on the album, particularly “Now We Are Free” from the film “Gladiator,” and tackling Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”?

NP: For the “Gladiator” song, [Golden Globe-winning composer] Lisa Gerrard just wrote it by making up these sounds, this gibberish, as if it were a language, evoking all these emotions. I loved it. “Hallelujah” was rather daunting because so many people have covered it and have done incredible interpretations. I didn’t want to be just another artist singing it. And I didn’t’ want to sing a masterpiece and butcher it.

Q.Why do you think this crossover genre is resonating so much with music fans?

NP: Once [producer/composer] David Foster got Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban going, it just ignited this whole genre, showed how people just love good music. There’s such a beauty to classical music, that if it’s represented correctly and mixed correctly with other genres, it emits so much emotion. I just think people want to be moved by a particular song and don’t worry so much about the genre. If it touches people, its’ a work well done. I love this style of music because it incorporates the strength of classical with the accessibility of pop.

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