TRURO - For Brenna Conrad, singing at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo every year feels like a homecoming.
The opera-trained singer has performed around the world and this is the 12th year she has returned to the Maritimes from Toronto to perform in the festival.
"My family is here and my husband's family is here," said Conrad, 29. "So it's great to come home and visit. There's no better feeling when you're an East Coaster and you move away. Nova Scotia always feels like home no matter how long you are away."
Conrad left her hometown of Truro after high school to study voice at the University of Toronto. After university she settled in Toronto's west end and started her own vocal studio.
Leading up to this year's Tattoo, Conrad has been rehearsing with the other Tattoo performers. The songs she is scheduled to perform will pepper the festival, which runs Sunday to July 7 at the Halifax Metro Centre.
"It's hours of rehearsing to prepare for this," explained the soprano. "My solos are a small part of a huge show so there's a lot of sitting around and waiting and watching. It's pretty humbling to be a part of because you see all the work that goes into putting together this big production."
The songs she will perform on stage all next week are the theme from Les Miserables - a traditional folk song called ‘The Skye Boat Song' and a hymn called ‘The Day Thou Gavest.'
The Halifax Tattoo is the largest the indoor Tattoo festival in Canada, while cities around the world have their own design on a tradition that started as a military drumming performance.
Singing in front of the 11,000 people who will fill the Metro Centre next week is not a daunting thought for Conrad and she can't remember ever having a case of stage fright.
"My mom tells the story about how I sang in the New Glasgow Folksong Festival when I was a kid," remembered Conrad. "I got up and sang and I wasn't nervous. I loved what I was doing and people clapped and that got me very excited and I started laughing. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I think I was hooked after that."
Of all the songs in her repertoire, her favourite to perform is a traditional Nova Scotian folk song called ‘Rise Again.'
"It has so much meaning to me," she said. "I learned it when I was six-years-old, I still get goose bumps when I hear it."
As for the lifestyle singing has earned her, she's pretty sure she's struck a fine balance.
"I think that's the thing I am most grateful for now," she said. "I don't have to travel very much, I see my husband on a regular basis and I have a pretty normal day-to-day routine. But once a year I get to go away and sing in front of lots of people and do what I love."
Occupation: Opera-trained vocalist and vocal teacher
Studied: University of Toronto
Lives: In Toronto, running her own vocal studio and working with Islington United Church.
Royal International Tattoo Festival
What: Largest indoor military Tattoo Festival in Canada
Where: Halifax Metro Centre
When: June 30 to July 7
How much: Adults - $35 to $72; seniors/students/AAA/DND members - $29.50 to $72; Children - $24.50 to $72.