Tenor Ken Lavigne was always singing when he was a little boy.
His audiences have expanded substantially since then. Lavigne has even sung for His Royal Highness Prince Charles and for thousands of people at Carnegie Hall.
Now, an audience at Mars Theatre in Springfield has the opportunity to hear the man described by one critic as having a "voice of liquid gold" at an upcoming Oct. 4 concert. They also can make an evening of it with a gourmet meal catered by chef Nick Mueller, designed specifically for the occasion.
Lavigne will be accompanied by his band, which includes piano, guitar, bass, drums and violin. In addition to performing, the Canadian singer will recount his story of achieving his dream of singing at Carnegie Hall.
"I started studying seriously when I was in university," Lavigne says. "But I still question my ability even now."
Fortunately, no one else has any doubts about Lavigne's ability.
"For me, there was one classical singer who inspired me more than others, the great Luciano Pavarotti," Lavigne says. "I had been studying six months at university when someone handed me a CD of him singing.
"It was just electrifying, a voice so powerful and rich," he says. "I knew right then I had to be a singer."
Lavigne's first love was musical theater.
"I got asked to sing the lead role in 'West Side Story,'" he says. "It was magical. It changed me and made me realize this is something I can do.
"From time to time, when the right project comes along, I would do musical theater. I took the role of the pharaoh in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.'
"I did over 100 performances, and it was a good experience," Lavigne says. "One of my dreams is to sing at the Metropolitan Opera."
In college, Lavigne turned to opera and classical music.
"That's when I learned I was expected to sing in music other than English," he says. "You learn how to speak idiomatically correctly even if you don't understand a word you're singing.
"Some languages come easier than others. Italian is a more forgiving language, but French is hard.
"The hardest to make sound correct is English," he says. "It is the hardest one to sing really truthfully."
There have been many highlights in Lavigne's career.
"One of them was the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City," he says. "I did a solo performance with the New York Pops."
And of course there's that performance for His Royal Highness Prince Charles.
"I had just completed my Carnegie review when I got a call from the Government House in Canada," Lavigne says. "Someone asked if I was available to perform at an event.
"I read in the paper that Prince Charles was coming. It was not a command performance, but it was an honor to perform at a royal visit, to be singled out.
"I did have the opportunity to meet him," Lavigne says. "I figured out he's just a regular guy."
In Springfield, Lavigne will sing ballads and show tunes. Guests have the option to attend the gourmet dinner before the show.
"We're using this event as a kickoff for what we're calling the Friends of the Mars," says Tommy Deadwyler, director of cultural affairs for the city of Springfield.
The new organization has two purposes.
"First, it offers an opportunity to be a volunteer, and we do have volunteering opportunities," Deadwyler says. "Also, it's going to be an opportunity for giving financially to support the theater.
"That night, we will be introducing our different levels of giving," he says. "We will offer different ticket packages that are part of whatever level of giving you choose.
"We're at a point now where we've got the theater running and going great. We've had a lot of people say, 'I'd like to volunteer or donate some money because I believe what you are doing is very important for the community.'"
The dinner will take place outside, if weather permits.
"It's going to be next door at city hall," Deadwyler says. "We'll have beer and wine. Nick has been so gracious to us. He helped with the grand opening.
"It's nice to have him as a local chef who is willing to work with us on this local project," he says. "This will become an annual event, the first of hopefully many events."