Nancy Denton-Peck: regaining her essence
By Laura Churchill Duke (’98)
Five years ago, Nancy Denton-Peck (’69) realized it was becoming increasingly difficult to do the things she loved. She had spent her life as a successful musician with a solo-performing career. She had always had a thriving voice studio wherever she lived and had both conducted and accompanied choirs. Music was her life.
“By 2019, I had lost my essence and was incapable of even appreciating music,” she says.
It was around this time that Denton-Peck was being treated for Parkinson’s as her symptoms mimicked this disease. However, her doctor wanted a second opinion. After a trip to the neurologist, the doctors discovered a massive benign, slow-growing brain tumour, which they deemed had probably been growing for about 40 years, she says.
Surgeons were able to remove 90 per cent of the tumour, with the remaining being inoperable, says Denton-Peck. As a result of the surgery and the scarring of the brain tissue and incision site, she now suffers from seizures and will be on an anti-seizure medication for the rest of her life. She will also have to have yearly MRIs to keep tabs on the remaining tumour.
Now a few years post-surgery, Denton-Peck is finding her way back to music.
“My road to recovery will be long. Part of my new life consists of setting attainable goals and working through them one at a time,” she says.
One of the first goals was to work with her occupational therapist at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre to create a sacred recital to acknowledge the Nova Scotia medical community. The program included several breaks to regenerate her energy. But this was a big deal, seeing as prior to surgery, Denton-Peck was incapable of singing.
It wasn’t until January 2021 that Denton-Peck says she felt the desire to try singing again. She contacted her voice teacher in New York and says since then she has been hard at work getting her voice back.
“The main difference in my voice pre-surgery is I was a mezzo-soprano, but now I am a real contralto,” she says.
Preparing for a final performance
Denton-Peck is currently preparing for her final solo performance. As she says, “I am 73 years old and it’s time.” She will host two recitals, one in Halifax, and one in Wolfville, entitled “Remembering Maureen Forrester - A Canadian Treasure”. This program was something she had wanted to do since Forrester’s death in 2010.
“I had several lovely encounters with Forrester in master classes and one of her early accompanists became mine too as well as my coach when I lived in Ontario,” says Denton-Peck.
Because of her advancing tumour, Denton-Peck had to shelve the idea indefinitely. But now she’s back and excited that she can finally realize this dream.
The Halifax performance will be at St. Andrew’s United Church, as this was the last place Maureen Forrester performed in Nova Scotia. The Wolfville concert will be held at Festival Theatre. Denton-Peck grew up in Wolfville and went skating there every Saturday afternoon for most of her young life, and later sang parts in three Fezziwig programs on the stage there and is very comfortable in this venue, she says.
For the recitals, Denton-Peck will be teaming up with concert pianist Walter Delahunt. He studied at the Acadia School of Music with Felicita Kalejs while still in high school and for several years continued with Kalejs before completing his piano performance degree at the University of Toronto.
This will be Denton-Peck’s final public recital program and although this is her final solo performance, she is not at the end of her musical career and is not retiring. In the future, she plans to create her own YouTube channel or blog because her creative juices are at an all-time high and she needs an outlet.
“I still have knowledge to pass on to other brain injury survivors, songs to sing, poetry and short stories to write, and sweaters to design and knit,” she says.
Overall, Denton-Peck says she is thrilled at her continuing progress and very grateful for all the support and encouragement given to her.
“It has been a life-changing experience and with all that has transpired over the past four years - it’s just great to be alive,” she says.
In Case You Go:
Remembering Maureen Forrester: A Canadian Treasure
Nancy Denton-Peck, Contralto
Walter Delahunt, concert pianist
Sunday, April 16, 2023, 3pm
Saint Andrew’s United Church, Halifax
Sunday, May 7, 3pm
Festival Theatre, Wolfville
$25 at the door. Cash only. Or e-transfer to email@example.com
Pictured above: Contralto Nancy Denton-Peck with Concert Pianist Walter Delahunt.
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