Multiple personalities

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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2000 > Fall 2000 > Newsbites > Multiple personalities

Multiple personalities


With the release of her latest record, Dark Divas: the Musical, Ranee Lee once again prove she's a woman of many talents. The 57-year-old jazz singer, who also enjoys careers as an actress and a vocal instructor at McGill's Faculty of Music, could easily be dubbed the Diversified Diva for her efforts. On this her seventh -- and double -- CD, Lee not only covers songs made famous by iconic jazz and blues singers; she also slips into their skins for some brief biographical bits.

Lee, who wrote all the spoken material, personifies no less than seven black singers, some as famous for their tumultuous lives as for their talent. The divas are Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.


Despite 40 years of singing herself, Lee admits she was initially frightened to tackle the songs, since each tune is eternally associated with the icon that first sang it. "But this project was too important for me not to take it on. In a way it chose me."

In July she had an opportunity to present the Dark Divas stage show for two nights as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Though she received good reviews for both her CD and live show, Lee says some of her greatest rewards come from teaching. "Not only does it allow me to give back to students, but I learn, too, since I have to put into words the techniques and methods that I take for granted as a singer."

Each bro's a pro


The dream of a lifetime almost didn't happen for J. P. Darche (shown on the left, with brother Mathieu). Bad communications between the Canadian and the National Football Leagues and a contract deadline missed by hours had him sitting nervously on the sidelines for weeks not knowing whether the Toronto Argonauts would release him and give him the chance to play in the U.S. for the Seattle Seahawks.

"I had actually been looking at retiring," Darche said before heading off for training camp with the Seahawks. "I had played my year in the CFL and had broken my leg in the last game, so I was ready to go back to school. But I got an unexpected opportunity with Seattle."

Then the contract kerfuffle began.

"It gave me a lot of stress. Charlie Baillie (head football coach) at McGill knew J.I. Albrecht, the managing director in Toronto, and he asked him for a favour, and it all worked out in the end."

The 25-year-old McGill medical student was sought by the Seahawks for his talents as a long snapper, a crucial position in kicking plays. Snaps must be executed in fractions of a second and Darche's long snaps have been clocked between 0.65 and 0.75 seconds, even quicker than the NFL average. Darche will also have duties as a back-up on the kick-off return team.

"It's a great experience working out with all the guys from the Seahawks. But I still had to prove myself in pre-season games to make the team."

The Faculty of Medicine granted Darche a leave from his studies last year to play with Toronto and are extending it for him to play with the Seahawks. "They've been just tremendous, very understanding and supportive," says Darche. "The dean has allowed me to play a couple of years."

While playing at McGill, J.P. won 41 awards, including the 1998 Russ Jackson Trophy as the Canadian university football player who best combines athletics with academics and community service and the 1999 Richard Pound trophy for proficiency and leadership in athletics. He'll now be the first McGill player to make an NFL roster.

As if J. P.'s signing with the Seahawks wasn't enough excitement for the Darche family, his equally talented brother Mathieu has been re-cruited by the Columbus Blue Jackets, a new expansion team in the National Hockey League. Mathieu had been an all-star left-winger at McGill and signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent four days after J.P.

inked a deal with the Seahawks. It is the first time in sports history that brothers have signed contracts to play in the two pro leagues.

"My Dad is so excited," says J.P. "He went out and bought a satellite dish to watch all the games. He can't wait -- he's more excited than we are!"

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