A TEACHER'S casting in a Christmas concert was all it took to start Barry Patterson on a life trajectory which launched him into professional theatre overseas with some of the world's biggest stars, all the way through to honing the Orange Male Voice Choir.
Mr Patterson was born in Orange and could remember he always loved to sing.
"It wasn't until I went to school, I went to Glenroi and the headmistress there, Mrs Sloan, was passionate about music and singing and every kid that came to the school, she auditioned them," he said.
"She wanted to hear them sing, whether they were a boy or a girl and she immediately recognised I had a voice and she said 'right, you're going to be doing the solo at our Christmas concert and that's where it started.
"That was a Christmas concert so I still love Christmas carols - because carols are so magical and it started off that whole feeling that singing was something magical."
Mr Patterson's first teacher was Pauline Arnold, mother of former ABC Classic FM presenter Marian Arnold, and made his theatrical debut in Sweet Charity.
"I was hooked - one of the things was the smell, it's like that song they say, 'the feel of the grease paint, the smell of the crowd'," he said.
"It was the smell of the theatre make-up and every time I smell the pancake it just brings back memories of that first thrill of being in a show."
As his clear boy soprano developed into a lyric baritone, he appeared in Canobolas Rural Technology High School productions Carousel and Oklahoma, but after high school, he travelled to Wagga to study fine arts to become a jeweller, which took him to Melbourne in 1982.
"During that year, I had singing lessons at the Victorian of the Arts and he told me I should audition for the course," he said.
An undergraduate degree in opera studies led to working for the Victorian State Opera.
"My first professional show was Babar the Elephant - it was a kids' opera and we toured all around Victoria playing in the most unlikely of places like tin sheds," he said with a laugh.
... a lot of them are really old and crappy and the dressing rooms are worn out but they've got so much atmosphereBarry Patterson
He performed HMS Pinafore with Paul Eddington from Yes Minister before successfully auditioning for the Australian Opera in Sydney.
"I was in the chorus there for a year and I thought I don't want to do this for the rest of my life, I'm getting out of here, I'm going overseas," he said.
Life in south London was a challenge - Mr Patterson worked as a waiter, in aged care and in supermarkets while completing more that 100 auditions for companies and agents and described the style of living as "hand to mouth".
But during the 10 years he spent there, he performed in classical concerts to Showboat to Orpheus in the Underworld where he appeared in pink leather and a punk hairdo to the original London cast of Passion with Michael Ball, where he worked directly with Stephen Sondheim.
"The West End is amazing - there are what, 40 or 50 theatres so probably 30 theatres are doing musicals, then you've got all the theatres doing plays, then you've got all the concert halls, then all the tiny venues in back streets.
"The first show I was in was at the Palladium Theatre and that is one of the most iconic big stages in London - to be in venues with a history of hundreds of years of theatre, a lot of them are really old and crappy and the dressing rooms are worn out but they've got so much atmosphere."
But with his parents in failing health, he wanted to be closer to family and he returned home.
He spent two years in Sydney before moving off the grid in Tenterfield for the next decade where he discovered working in disability care, which he continues today, as well as teaching singing.
He also conducts the Orange Male Voice Choir, which he said brought him fresh satisfaction because choral singing was "being part of something bigger than you".
"You can make something special happen."
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