Helena Carvalho Pereira has been working in TAP for 28 years and conciliates the duties of cabin supervisor with lyric singing. She applied for the job responding to an advertisement in the newspaper, at the suggestion of a friend, and with the added value of mastering five languages and a bachelors degree in tourism - meanwhile transformed into a degree already - her entry was a natural thing : "I did a very normal course in terms of cabin crew, I went through all the steps calmly and responded to the Company call; I never stopped doing it. I took the Cabinet course, then the Mid-course, then Long and finally I became a Supervisor, who is the top of a Cabin Crew career. I was always doing well and corresponding to what the Company requested, in a very natural and smooth course."
Helena's first flight as Cabin Supervisor
The interest in singing, she says, came unconsciously when her mother rarely hummed a few lullaby songs. When she was 11 or 12 years old, she discovered "Queen" and the voice of Freddie Mercury and started singing in the garage alone - hours and hours, days and days, to the point of breaking the vinyl record. Older, the first party invitations began to appear, at parties, to sing some songs: "I always loved music and musicians, I listened to them with a passionate devotion every time I had the opportunity to hear some live. I was stunned when I heard Commander Xico Gato playing Mafra's carillon. The world stopped right there, in that southern tower of the imposing Convent."
Already involved in the aviation world, she met a colleague with a composition course at the Escola Superior de Música: "She also sang and I soon realized that her voice had a 'school' and I asked her questions: Where did you study? She recommended a choir to me and I thought it was fantastic: a choir would be great to take my first steps. That's how I got into the Lisbon Cantat Choir, which had about 27 voices, Symphonic Choir Lisboa Cantat, with about 80 choristers acting with the main orchestras of the Country, more often with the Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa or with the Sinfonietta Orchestra of Lisbon. I joined as a choirmaster and was also, for 10 years, President of the Direction ."
Helena with fellow musicians
Later, Helena began to take private singing lessons, and when she saw several of her colleagues entering the Conservatory, she decided to try her luck. The age in her case was an inconvenience - the Lisbon Conservatory only accepted students until the age of 26: "I had to get in by transfer. I enrolled in the Amateur Music Academy for a year and then asked for a transfer, but I was already singing at the Sintra Opera Studio, so I ended up doing the audition relatively relaxed." Helena managed to enter and describes the eight years of learning as "marvelous, rich and juicy, where I had the disciplines of History of Music, German, Italian, Singing, Keyboard Practices, Organ, Acoustics, Chamber Music, Composition and Music Education."
Her journey speaks for itself: she was part of the Gulbenkian Choir for a while and continues to be part of the Sintra Opera Studio of Maestro, Cabin Chief and Head of Cabin Instruction, Miguel Anastácio. This association, Helena explains, "recovers much of the music of Portuguese composers (mainly from the 17th and 14th centuries) that lie forgotten in the main national libraries."
Singing at the Aviation Mass at the Church of the Bandstand in Lisbon, with his colleague and Maestro Miguel Anastácio
The places where she has performed can't be counted by the fingers: from the Olga Cadaval Auditorium to the Ajuda Palace, passing through several churches and auditoriums - usually at the invitation of the Municipal Councils - Helena has already in her curriculum performances at the invitation of the Orquestra Metropolitana Lisbon and Sinfonietta Orchestra of Lisbon, Belém Cultural Center, Trindade Theater, Estoril Casino, Aula Magna, Casa da Música, among others.
It is also important to mention that she also sings in a private environment, "when I am invited to sing at social parties, at weddings, at private parties. I also sing when someone dedicates and offers a Classical Music Recital to a loved one, I can also sing at an inaugural, business, or artistic events, and also at funerals when one wants to turn the last farewell of a beloved entity a more solemn and beautiful moment."
When questioned about the performance that most marked it, the choice is difficult and the examples are several: "The 100 years of the Air Force in which the Chief of Staff, General Luís Araújo, invited me to sing at the commemorative concert of the 100 years in the Gulbenkian Auditorium with the Air Force Orchestra was remarkable, as I conciliated two of my lives there: Singing and Aviation.Singing in Gulbenkian as a soloist is always a milestone, even more because I used to sing there with a choir. Was the invitation of the Sinfonietta Orchestra of Lisbon, with about 70 musicians, where I was soloist, side by side, with the biggest names in classical music at national level where we performed Beethoven's 'Choral Fantasy'." She added: "My first solo performance also struck me a lot: Fauré's Requiem accompanied by the piano and by the Lisbon Cantat Symphonic Choir, followed by Gustav Mahler's 'Lieder eines fahrendes Gesellen' masterfully performed by the well-known baritone Armando Possante. The most exciting moment of my life as a singer was not to sing, was to teach the Maestro / tenor Plácido Domingo to improve his pronunciation of Portuguese in the concert he did in Lisbon at the Pavilhão Atlântico (in 2007). Because he wanted to sing 3 fados and his Portuguese was not that good. Even today we are great friends."
Helena with the Maestro / Tenor Plácido Domingo
The reconciliation of her career in TAP with her career as a lyric singer is, according to herself, simple: "I request in due time the free time to which I have the right to, to coincide with my concerts and general rehearsals. Sometimes, when I'm going to have a concert and I really need to sing / rehearse, I ask at the hotels, when I'm out, a room for that. Effect and usually the hotel does not care and give in, even amused and employees escape their tasks and listen a little ... as some of our colleagues."
As a farewell, Helena remembers a difficult moment that left a mark: the song she composed in honor of Bernardo Sasseti, brother of Francisco Sasseti, friend of Helena and someone with whom he works with some frequency. The song, that was written on a flight. Or, as she herself points out, "it was written in heaven."
Helena singing the song she composed - lyrics and music - in memory of Bernardo Sassetti