By Measha Brueggergosman
Harper Avenue, 310 pages
Measha Brueggergosman’s cross-country book tour comes to Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at Chapters Halifax in Bayers Lake Business Park, 188 Chain Lake Dr.
If confession is good for the soul, Maritimes soprano Measha Brueggergosman is earning rich dividends with her new memoir Something Is Always on Fire: My Life So Far.
Penned on the brink of entering her fourth decade, the book is a combination of biography, tell-all, how-to and self-help, constantly shifting gears and keeping the reader on their toes as the Fredericton-born, Nova Scotia-based performer describes the juggling act she has to perform on a daily basis to stay on top of her game as a world-class singer.
Or rather Singer, as Brueggergosman writes it, describing how she compartmentalizes each aspect of her life, with Mama, Teacher (or Student) and Partner also taking varying degrees of precedence over the course of her 40 years.
At one point, she describes her life as a one-woman show, MEASHA!, where her multiple parts also include Cosmo Measha (“I can read a menu in several different languages and don’t shy away from ordering for the table.”) and Christian Measha (“When I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, ‘Oh crap, she’s up!'”), just to spice things up even further.
Brueggergosman doesn’t take an easy path from early childhood to the gateway to middle age, picking and choosing her moments as she progresses through chapters titled Who Am I and Why?, What Do I Want and How Do I Get It? and What’s Holding Me Back? But as she points out over the course of the book, there is nothing easy about becoming an international star of the concert hall stage, or a Bikram yoga instructor, or a mother to her sons Shepherd and Sterling.
And when she has taken an easy way out, it can lead to catastrophe, as when she describes how lack of preparedness was a recipe for disaster when a 1999 performance of Verdi’s Requiem followed immediately after her wedding to childhood sweetheart Markus Bruegger. Or how that marriage broke down due to a healthy appetite for outside companionship, and the network of lies required to camouflage dalliances and more serious affairs.
Brueggergosman’s candor propels you through There’s Always Something on Fire, from describing the burst aorta that almost ended it all in 2009 to her in-depth analysis of the indiscretions that drove a wedge between herself and her husband. The tone is a stream-of-consciousness conversation over a cup of coffee–or at times, a glass of really fine red wine–and if you’ve heard her on CBC Radio’s Canada Reads, seen her as a judge on Canada’s Got Talent or attended one of her performances, it’s not hard to hear her voice in your head at every step along the way.
“I refuse to lie down and curse myself for the sins of my past,” she says after one particularly revealing passage. “Besides, I’m too busy building an empire to feel ashamed and guilty all the time. I am not defined by my mistakes, and instead, I will use them to encourage as many people as will listen, because the presence of dirt in my life is also the presence of Truth and Beauty.”
At this point, you’re probably wondering what she says about her muse and the music that made her a household name in the first place. And yes, there is ample description of her early musical training, her preferences in repertoire, performance anxieties and tips for fellow singers on how to find their voice and create art informed by a life well-lived. She describes her first recital at Carnegie Hall and performing for Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey after having received tragic news from home.
But it’s parceled out through the book as part of a life she’s still learning how to balance, finding peace through meditation and her Christian faith, strength through her dedicated practice and teaching of Bikram yoga, and love in the lives of her children. Some fires need to be fanned, while others are extinguished, and you can hear Brueggergosman chuckling in your head as she says she’d rather be Queen of the Dragons than Jeanne d’Arc.