That was three years ago, and now New Westminster, B.C., musical prodigy Elizabeth Irving is in Grade 8 at St. Thomas More Collegiate and still wowing audiences.
“My mom told me that I started to sing before I could even talk,” said Irving.
Her first major performance was a lead role in a musical at age 7 and “it took off from there,” she said.
Irving loves Disney songs and classical music, and at 10 years old she won first place at a Tri-Cities Got Talent competition singing “Let it Go” from the Disney movie Frozen.
Next she auditioned for and won a spot singing at Canucks games. When she stepped on the ice in front of thousands of hockey fans in Rogers Arena, by far her largest audience yet, “the nerves were really uncontrollable,” she said.
“It’s so cool and you don’t want to mess up, especially since you’re singing the anthems.”
Since that debut in 2014, Irving has gone on to sing at three more Canucks games.
Although she has four games under her belt, the 13-year-old said she still gets nervous.
“Performing in front of 18,000 people is very nerve-wracking for anyone, whether you’re (opera and Canuck anthem singer) Mark Donnelly or someone like me.”
She has also impressed other audiences with her vocal talents. Irving, who sings in her parish choir at St. Peter’s Church in New Westminster, has performed at talent competitions, parades and Remembrance Day ceremonies. She has also sung the Canadian anthem at Vancouver Whitecaps soccer matches and Vancouver Canadians baseball games.
Then there are the musicals. Irving has been singing, dancing and acting on stage since she was seven, most recently in front of hundreds of audience members in roles such as Virginia in A Christmas Story: The Musical (2015) and Jane in Mary Poppins (2016).
In the latter, speaking and singing in a British accent was a “super fun challenge” for Irving. It was also one of her favourite performances, tied only with singing at citizenship ceremonies in Vancouver. There, Irving stars alone, singing the Canadian anthem and other national songs as immigrants receive citizenship certificates.
Irving is also a strong vocalist in her school’s chamber choir. Before she even started classes at St. Thomas More, she heard the choir perform and approached the music director to ask if she could join.
She signed up for her audition, not realizing that the chamber choir was made entirely of senior students.
Her voice impressed choir director Johnson Lui.
“My first impression of Elizabeth is that she is quite mature for her age, confident, and modest,” said Lui.
Irving calls the chamber choir and the Grade 8 concert choir her extended family.
She also spends 10 to 12 hours a week singing before school, during lunch breaks and on weekends at St. Peter’s. And despite missing a lot of class time to rehearse for Mary Poppins, she still made the honour role.
Her proud parents are somewhat taken aback by their daughter’s achievements.
“We’re still sort of in awe of it all, just her poise and her grace and her confidence, and her ability to say, ‘I want to do that one
day,’ ” said her mother, Yolanda Irving.
Two years ago, New Westminster celebrated the opening of the Anvil Centre, a venue with a 361-seat theatre. During an open house, Irving looked up at the stage and told her mother she wanted to perform there one day.
Last fall, her dream became reality; she was cast as Fredrika in A Little Night Music, which will hit the Anvil Centre theatre this May.
“For other kids, it’s inspiring,” Yolanda said. “If there’s something you want to pursue, regardless of what it is, reach for the stars. Don’t hold back.”
(The B.C. Catholic)