Opera's in the House
SALEM – Rep. Mark Meek, D-Oregon, known for his soft-spoken political debate, captivated onlookers when he sang "O Sole Mio" in Neapolitan on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday.
"Who knew Mark Meek could sing (Luciano) Pavarotti?" remarked a stunned audience member.
During legislative committee meetings, the freshman lawmaker often talks about his career as a real estate agent, investor and landlord. But for more than a decade, the 53-year-old Oregon City resident sold real estate by day, and moonlighted as a paid chorister for the Portland Opera.
Meek was a lifelong passionate, but untrained, singer, until his early 30s when his wife gifted him voice lessons.
"My wife knew I loved to sing," Meek said. "I didn't even know how to read music, and now I can read music."
The singing teacher remarked that Meek had a "strong voice," he said. "'You could sing opera.'"
She suggested seeing the opera. Meek attended a performance of "The Marriage of Figaro" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
"Amazing," he said he remembered thinking.
"I started getting into singing all of this classical music. I never thought it was in my wheelhouse."
He auditioned and was accepted into the Portland Symphonic Choir.
Two years, later he was hired to sing for the Portland Opera Chorus. Starting out as an alternative, he eventually worked his way up to a full-time singer and remained with the opera until 2014.
Meek didn't tout his talent during his election campaign in 2016, though he opened a couple of chamber of commerce meetings with greetings of singsong.
Meek's debut as a legislative entertainer Thursday may not be his final performance before the end of lawmaker's more than five-month legislative session. He has a special musical remonstrance prepared for when debate starts to heat up over contentious issues in the queue for the remaining four weeks of session.
In the meantime, an encore of Meek's opera performance is available on the Oregon Legislative Information System,
Click on "Opening Ceremony" to listen.