A record number of 24 bursaries were awarded in 2019, thanks to the Art Song Foundation of Canada and the generosity of its donors. Here are the participants’ reports.
Meghan Behiel, Piano – Copenhagen Lied-Duo Competition, Denmark
I’m very grateful to the Art Song Foundation of Canada for supporting my participation at the 2019 Copenhagen Lied-Duo Competition. The competition took place from the 25th to the 27th of October at the Royal Danish Academy.
I had such a fantastic experience participating in the competition! Everything was extremely well organized, which was a relief for all the international competitors. Upon our arrival, we were brought to our own practice room, which was fitted with not just one, but two wonderful Steinway pianos to choose from. The competition staff were extremely friendly and helpful, always checking in on us to see if we needed anything. The competition was very professionally advertised, and the concert hall was almost completely full for all the competition rounds.
After each round of the competition, we had the opportunity to receive feedback from the jury. I found this very interesting and helpful, as the jury members gave very detailed, constructive advice. The jury was composed of six members: three singers, two pianists and one conductor. It’s interesting to receive feedback from six members, each with a different background. We especially found the feedback from jury member Andreas Schmidt, baritone and professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München, most insightful.
I’m very happy to say that my duo partner, James Williams, and I finished in fifth place. We’re very pleased with our performances, and feel as though we performed at our highest personal level. On the last evening, we were delighted to be awarded the prize for the best performance of a Carl Nielsen song by the Carl Nielsen Foundation. This was a surprise to many, and quite an honour for non-Danes! We’re thrilled to be the first international duo to receive this award. Having been completely converted to Nielsen’s song repertoire, we look forward to presenting more of his repertoire in concert.
I can’t say enough about how this experience has helped me to grow personally and artistically. My duo partner, James Williams, and I will continue to work hard and to pursue our passion for Lied.
Basil Vandervort-Charbonneau, Piano – Académie Francis Poulenc, Tours, France
I am so grateful for the Foundation’s support, which enabled me to spend ten days at the Francis Poulenc Academy in Tours, France. When I first benefited from the foundation’s support, last summer, I had just recently formed a duo with French soprano Agnès Ménard whom I had met in a master’s seminar at the University of Montreal. This summer, we first attended the Orford Music Academy’s vocal-piano stage, and afterwards, the Francis Poulenc Academy in order to prepare for the 2019 Nadia & Lili Boulanger International Voice-Piano Competition in Paris.
The Francis Poulenc Academy was a wonderful learning experience for me. The singing teachers François Le Roux and Ingrid Perruche, and piano teachers Jeff Cohen and Christian Ivaldi were all extremely knowledgeable pedagogues and sensitive artists. They were all very capable of helping with technical matters but were especially apt at explaining the context in which the poetry was written and the composers’ interpretation of said text. We also explored this link with theatre teacher Philippe Lebas, and poetry teacher Thomas Le Colleter.
The academy’s mission to offer a well-rounded education led them to include two Alexander technique teachers Christine Sammer and Laurence Schifrine who led us in warmups each morning, but also gave private lessons. These were very beneficial to me because I had been having some recurring pain in my forearms and had suffered from tendonitis in the past. With their help, I was able to better ground myself to cope with stress, eliminate physical tics present during performance, and ameliorate my posture which led to more control over my sound and phrasing. We also worked together as a duo, learning how to connect and to be mindful of one another.
This experience was assuredly one of the most important of my young career. I think that the contacts I made, be they teachers or students will lead to collaborations for years to come. Also, the confidence I gained from performing in concerts, lessons and public masterclasses is invaluable, and I have the Art Song Foundation of Canada and its donors to thank for this.
Justin Swanson, Tenor – Académie Francis Poulenc, Tours, France
This past August I had the wonderful opportunity to take part in l’Académie Francis Poulenc in Tours, France. Dedicated to the art of mélodie française, the intensive summer program for pianist/singer duos featured leading experts who taught me much about the repertoire. Each day was filled with morning masterclasses and afternoon lessons, and there were three occasions on which the students performed in concert. We also embarked upon two field trips! This first was to the Château de Chaumont—one of the many French castles situated on the river Loire—where we performed for a garden party. The second, to Poulenc’s house in Noizay where his studio has been preserved.
In his role as director, renowned French baritone François Le Roux brought together a team which included—along with himself—pianists Jeff Cohen and Christian Ivaldi; soprano Ingrid Perruche; literary expert Thomas Le Colleter; acting and diction coach Philippe Labas; and Alexander technicians Christine Sammer and Laurence Schifrine. It was very satisfying to hear all their different perspectives. His life dedicated to the performance and research of French repertoire, M. Le Roux is a treasure-trove of knowledge and expert in style. I learned much about the nuance and context behind the repertoire. MM. Cohen and Ivaldi—although primarily there for the pianists—helped refine the music I was studying. Mme. Perruche provided me with gentle reminders of breathing and technique needed when singing fresh repertoire, and M. Le Colleter helped me dive into the French poetry and provided ample insight into the meaning of the poetic texts. M. Labas taught me the importance of using my eyes to communicate, and Mmes. Sammer and Schifrine made me aware of my posture and my often distracting hand motions. The Academy left me exhausted, in the sense that it had me fully engaged and ever so motivated to pursue French repertoire.
All in all, this was a supremely educational experience for me. The teachers were excellent, my fellow peers were fun and engaging to get to know and work with, and the room and board provided was more than accommodating. If fate allows, I will defiantly be going back.
Joy Lee, Piano – Académie Francis Poulenc, Tours, France
With the generous support from the Art Song Foundation, I had a pleasure of participating and performing at the Académie Francis Poulenc (AFP) in Tours, France from August 19 to 29, 2019. AFP focuses on French art songs, and in fact is the only program dedicated exclusively to the study of French mélodie. On the faculty this year were François Le Roux (founder, and teaches interpretation and vocal work), Ingrid Perruche (vocal technique), Christian Ivaldi and Jeff Cohen (collaborative piano), Christine Sammer and Laurence Schifrine (F.M. Alexander Method), Philippe Lebas (French spoken language and declamation) and Thomas Le Colleter (poetry and literary context). Our regular day at the AFP started with an Alexander Technique session and a master class in the morning, followed by private coachings in the afternoon. The program each year focuses on different topic/composer, and this year’s focus was on the works by female composers from different periods, along with mélodie by F. Poulenc and H. Berlioz. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn new repertoire and what is current in France from the experts of French mélodie.
The coachings by each expert were very specific, personal, and detailed and extremely helpful for each duo. I appreciated Christine and Laurence for always looking closely into my posture during performances outside of our coaching sessions. I enjoyed this program especially because of the influence and involvement by the community and culture. AFP is a festival for the town of Tours with the community welcoming and being involved with AFP’s three concerts by participants and numerous faculty concerts in churches around the town. Sunday concert at the gardens at a near by Castle and visiting Poulenc’s house and playing on his piano were definitely my favourite memories from the program.
I am very grateful for the bursary given by the Art Song Foundation. With its generous help, I met and learnt from numerous experts of French mélodie this past summer and experienced the culture in the beautiful city of Tours, which was once France’s capital.
Kateryna Khartova, Soprano – Ukrainian Art Song Summer Institute, Toronto
I was one of the eight fortunate participants at the UASI 2019. The project was created to discover and preserve Ukrainian classical art songs which had been suppressed by the Soviet regime and left with no chance to reach the national and international musical stages.
I am a proud representative of the Ukrainian community in Canada. The opportunity to attend a summer program like UASI means that I am able to connect with many young artists across North America and Ukraine. This particular year the focus was on the music by the modern Ukrainian composer Myroslav Volynsky. In my opinion, the music of Mr. Volynsky is extremely underappreciated in Ukraine where he lives and works now. Pavlo Hunka, the creator and director the of the Ukrainian Art Song Project, made the decision to feature Volynsky’s music in Toronto’s UASI this year.
During the one-week project I had the honour of working with the great pianists and coaches, Albert Krywolt and Robert Kortgaard. Their rich musical experiences and professionalism set up very high work standards for everyone in the room. I have also appreciated that the program was set up not only as a learning institution, but mostly as a strong creative platform where all of the participants could feel free to express themselves, share their voices and artistic minds.
Each day we had private coahcings and staging rehearsals. The main goal was to connect all the repertoire and transform it into a theatrical play where all of the poetic stories became one. The theme of the final performance was poet’s fight for his/her voice in literature.
I can say with all confidence that our concert was a beautiful celebration of the Ukrainian language and music. We had a lovely and supportive audience at the Temerty Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
The end of the training week was not the end of my collaboration with the Ukrainian Art Song Project. I was happy to be invited to become a recording artist in 2020 in Lviv, Ukraine.
I am extremely thankful to the Art Song Foundation of Canada for the financial support. Without your generosity achieving my goals would have been significantly harder and challenging.
Thank you so much for all the time, effort and hard work you do to make the dreams of young musicians come true.
Kateryna (Katya) Khartova
Katherine Mayba, Soprano – Ukrainian Art Song Summer Institute, Toronto
In August 2019, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study at the Ukrainian Art Song Summer Institute, with generous support from the Art Song Foundation of Canada. The UASP Summer Institute is a week-long intensive program focused on the dramatic interpretation of Ukrainian art songs and concluded with a staged concert. The program included daily lessons with world renowned bass-baritone and founder of the UASP Pavlo Hunka, as well as coachings with collaborative pianists, Albert Krywolt and Robert Kortgaard, and choral director and diction specialist Melanie Turgeon. Masterclasses and staging of the art songs was held in the afternoon, and the final performance culminated the week-long program. The concert was structured around the theme “Muse”, a poet on a journey seeking to find inspiration. The program consisted of a small-group of 8 singers, and we each performed 2 art songs, a duet and an ensemble work. The two art songs I performed were “A Gentle Song” and “A Prophet Enraged”. Both pieces written by Myroslav Volynsky (b.1955), a contemporary Ukrainian composer, set to poems of Oleksandr Oles. These selections demonstrate the incredible range of Volynsky’s writing, from precious intimate miniatures to epic grandiose “Wagnerian” expression. It was a privilege to perform the works of Volynsky and have the opportunity to delve into the vibrant text and dramatic interpretation throughout the week. We also explored the works of Lysenko, the father of Ukrainian classical music, Stepovyi and Kropyvnytskyi.
The exceptional training was matched only by the generosity of the artists and artistic team. The program fostered a strong sense of collegiality and a common goal to promote Ukrainian art songs. For centuries there has been a missing piece to the evolution of art songs. Due to political repression the world has been largely unaware of the existence and importance of Ukrainian art songs. These lost treasures are a key link in the evolution of the art song form. Ukrainian art songs are characterized by profound lyricism, harmonic warmth, graceful expression and tonal innovation. The music and poetry are infused with a sense of longing, resilience, hope and determination, reflective of a nation’s history and people. Through this program I was made aware of the importance of Ukrainian art songs and their ongoing contribution to classical music, and hope to share it with others. The UASP Summer Institute was an exciting, challenging, rewarding and an invaluable experience. I am very grateful for the generous support given by the Art Song Foundation of Canada for providing me the opportunity to attend the UASP Summer Institute and pursue my love for art song.
Marie Civitarese, Soprano – Franz-Schubert-Institut, Baden bei Wien, Austria
This summer I spent just over five weeks in Baden bei Wien, Austria, where I attended the Franz-Schubert Institut. The program included daily poetry seminars, two masterclasses a day, a variety of diction, acting, and vocal coachings, as well as excursions to nearby towns and historical sights where we performed in concerts (Schubertiaden) for the community. The program was extremely demanding with a rigorous schedule – but I still managed to find time to enjoy local restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops, and family-owned wine gardens (called Heurigen). I was also very lucky to have stayed with a wonderful Austrian host who helped me with my poetry study and conversational German over breakfast every morning.
The masterclasses were taught by world-renowned singers and pianists, such as Robert Holl, Julius Drake, Helmut Deutsch, and Birgid Steinberger (she was my favourite instructor!), among others. Unfortunately Elly Ameling had fallen ill and was unable to attend the program this summer. We were also joined by sessional instructors, among them Richard Stokes, who prepared interactive lectures for our poetry class.
Each singer-pianist duo prepared and performed 27+ songs for the course. It was an absolute pleasure getting to know my pianist partner, Lucy. We really enjoyed working together over the five weeks to create our interpretation of the various lieder we had chosen. It was an honour to perform and coach our pieces with the master teachers, as well as observe my classmates’ sessions. The teachers had so much experience and knowledge to share with the class; I learned all about special traditions within the repertoire, lesser-known history of composers and poets which inspired or contributed to the pieces, and most importantly, how to better express the language and text.
I am extremely grateful to the Art Song Foundation for helping me attend the Franz Schubert Institut this summer! It was a life-changing experience. I gained so much knowledge, grew as an artist, and made incredible friendships – all of which I will continue to cherish over the years to come.
Jean-Philippe McClish, Bass-Baritone – Franz-Schubert-Institut, Baden bei Wien, Austria
Dear members of the Art Song Foundation,
I would like to take the time of this letter to tell you a big thank you and acknowledge your support and the appreciation of your believing in me. Because of you I could have live one of the most beautiful time of my life at the Franz Schubert Institute. I learned and saw so much.
I approach now music on a different aspect, as I see life on a new facet after this wonderful summer. There, I didn’t only have the chance to work with wonderful coaches and masters; I also could have seen what composer at Schubert’s time could see. I have seen those big valleys, those forests and their strange trees; I saw the ruins, the Danube, the houses, the churches etc. I could have taste the Austrian food… and drinks! Overall I saw and felt another culture. I had also seen how people do music in this part of the word and made friends from all over the world.
All those experiences make me, in part, understand better the poems and the Austrian composer’s music, but also a better artist in all the aspect of my life. This experience had made my soul bigger than my artistry, and this is one of the most beautiful things that happened to me.
So thank you so much!
I look forward to sing some art songs again!
Ryan Nauta, Tenor – Franz-Schubert-Institut, Baden bei Wien, Austria
This past summer, I had the privilege to travel to Austria to participate in the Franz-Schubert-Institut and their summer course, “Poetry and Performance of the German Lied.”
The lieder tradition is incredibly diverse. The Franz-Schubert-Institut has structured their course to cover a broad range of lieder, from Beethoven to Berg. Schubert, of course, featured prominently. With three songs per masterclass and fifteen singers participating in this course, I was able to hear several hundred lieder over my time spent in Baden bei Wien. It was an eye-opening experience and an extraordinary privilege.
Every day would begin with a poetry session, followed by two sessions of masterclasses with time between dedicated to coachings. We also had ample opportunities to perform. Schubertiaden were held at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, and several other concerts were held locally in Baden bei Wien.
In addition to these musical activities, we were able to immerse ourselves in Austrian culture. Our spare time was usually dedicated to practicing, but we also took time to hike through the Vienna Woods or sit and relax at local attractions. After a long day, many of us would head to a local wine bar with the master teacher and coaches, and we would unwind and chat. One of my favourite excursions was to Dürnstein, in the Wachau Valley, where we toured old ruins and took a small river cruise down the Danube river.
I applied for this program, as I hoped that it would give me the chance to learn from some of the finest interpreters of lieder, as well as meet an amazing cohort of singers and pianists, with whom I could share my appreciation for lieder. It has indeed done that, and more.
My experience would not have been possible without the support of the Art Song Foundation. Their commitment to supporting emerging artists and celebrating lieder is what has allowed me to learn at this special program. For this, I am profoundly grateful. Thank you.
Laura Fishman, Soprano – Franz-Schubert-Institut, Baden bei Wien, Austria
This summer, thanks to a generous bursary offered by the Art Song Foundation of Canada, I was able to study in Baden bei Wien, Austria as a student of the Franz-Schubert Institute.
At the institute, I had the opportunity to work alongside some very talented and inspiring classmates. The 5-week program involved a daily schedule packed with coachings, rehearsals and masterclasses with some very esteemed performers and educators. Each masterclass teacher focused on repertoire from specific composers. We worked on Beethoven, Schubert and Pfizner with Robert Holl, Mendelssohn and Strauss with Wolfram Rieger, Clara and Robert Schumann with Roger Vignoles, Wolf’s Mörike Lieder with Andreas Schmidt, Brahms and Marx with Helmut Deutsch, Schubert with Julius Drake, and Schönberg, Berg and Mahler with Birgit Steinberger. Having the opportunity to have working sessions with all of these incredibly talented teachers was something that I don’t believe would be possible anywhere else in the world. Over the course, we each learned a total of 27 pieces from the German art song repertoire. I have never studied art song in such a concentrated way, and I believe I really grew a lot from this experience. Having to perform so frequently also taught me a lot about myself as a singer. Much of my initial nerves subsided by the end of the five weeks. This was due in part to the very supportive nature of all the other singers and pianists in the institute. I also learned a lot from watching all of them perform. Whenever I wasn’t performing in masterclasses myself, I watched the other students work with the master teachers.
In addition to the Masterclasses, we also performed for the public in four concerts during the 5 weeks. These concerts were at the Haus der Kunst (where we had our masterclasses), the Heiligenkreuz (a beautiful medieval monastery) and the ZIB (a synagogue and cultural centre). I enjoyed these performances a lot. I loved having the opportunity to perform in German for German speakers. I was able to see them react to what I was saying, which was a very interesting experience that I hadn’t had before.
When we weren’t too busy practicing, many program participants and occasionally teachers would go to one of the town’s many Heurigen to unwind after a busy day of singing and playing. These taverns served foods and local wine. Built into the program were also some hiking excursions and trips to different Heurigen in neighbouring towns.
The Schubert Institute was a great experience, and once again, I cannot thank the Art Song Foundation of Canada enough for your generous support.
Bronwyn Schuman, Pianist – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
In June 2019, I was fortunate to have a fantastic experience studying at SongFest in Los Angeles, thanks to the generous support of the Art Song Foundation of Canada. SongFest is a month-long festival designed for singers and collaborative pianists to come together with world renowned faculty for masterclasses, coachings, and performances. Some of SongFest’s teachers included Margo Garrett, Graham Johnson, Alan L. Smith, Lydia Brown, Javier Arrebola, Kevin Murphy, and Liza Stepanova. Guest masterclasses were taught by Malcolm Martineau, Susan Graham, and James Conlon. SongFest also had composers in residence, including Libby Larsen, John Musto, Jake Heggie, and John Harbison. SongFest’s amazing reputation comes from their outstanding teachers, who create an exciting, challenging, and rewarding environment.
As a pianist at SongFest, I was assigned a large amount of repertoire. Most of it was new to me, so this was a great opportunity to work on repertoire I had never performed before. Some of this repertoire included Debussy’s Chanson de Bilitis, which I was able to have coached in its entirety by Margo Garrett; a song titled “Joy Alone” from Jake Heggie’s cycle Natural Selection, which was coached by Jake Heggie and performed in a concert of his works; the entire An die ferne Geliebteof Beethoven, which I was fortunate to have coached in full by Graham Johnson; Spanish selections by Obradors, coached by Javier Arrebola and performed in a concert of Spanish music that he curated; a world premiere of Martin Hennessy’s song cycle for soprano and baritone, called “Feeling the world as it passes through you,” with text by Naomi Shihab Nye; and Strauss, coached in a masterclass with Malcolm Martineau. Through the opportunity to coach this repertoire and more with specialists in history, diction, and style, I was able to grasp a deeper and more thorough understanding of how to approach interpreting art song of many different eras and languages.
My desire to pursue a career in collaborative piano is tied to how I value relationships and how I love to work with people. I was especially thankful for the wonderful singers who came to SongFest from around the world. I was grateful to be able to collaborate and interact with participants from Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany, and Venezuela. Most of my time was spent with these singers, working on repertoire, getting ready for masterclasses and recitals, in coachings, eating meals, and talking about history, music, and our lives. Several of these singers and I have already made plans for future collaborations, starting as soon as this fall (2019). An environment where singers and pianists come together to collaborate, learn, and establish partnerships that last beyond the program is invaluable.
At SongFest, I enjoyed attending the guest concerts, including a recital with guest artists Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau, a recital with SongFest faculty Martha Guth and Graham Johnson, and a recital with visiting performer Emily D’Angelo and Kevin Murphy. These concerts were a great opportunity for us to see different types of presentation and programming. One of the other highlights of the festival was talking to faculty outside of formal instruction. For example, Margo Garrett held a “Pianists Breakfast,” where we all got together to talk about her experiences and ideas, and to ask questions and receive her advice. Similarly, Graham Johnson held a pianists meeting, in which he discussed the trials and successes of his career, and here too, he took questions and offered advice. It was extremely helpful and encouraging to hear from pianists whose careers and reputations speak for themselves, and to be able to interact with them in such a personal and informative way. I am so thankful to the Art Song Foundation of Canada for helping me attend such a fantastic summer program.
Nicole Leung, Soprano – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
This past June, I had the opportunity to attend Songfest as a young artist with generous support from the Art Song Foundation of Canada. As a returning participant, I found that SongFest continued to exceed my expectations with its outstanding faculty, guest artists, and participants, and it challenged my musical and artistic boundaries to their fullest extent.
By the second day of our arrival, our days at SongFest were filled with masterclasses, concerts, coachings and lessons, and it resulted in one of the most rewarding months of music-making. From daily masterclasses given by renowned musicians including and not limited to James Conlon, Susan Graham, Libby Larsen, Graham Johnson, and Jake Heggie, it was eye opening to see these experts work with my peers and equally as inspiring to see my peers respond to their expertise. In addition to learning from my peers in masterclasses and having the privilege of being able to participate in some myself, there were concerts almost every evening that featured an array of different styles of music and musicians. From Bach, to French Operetta, to American Song, to Spanish music, there was never a dull moment at Songfest.
My most memorable experience at SongFest was definitely having the chance to coach individually with John Musto and Jake Heggie on their pieces and then being able to perform these works in concerts curated by the prolific composers themselves. In addition to these incredible experiences, I received two lessons a week by William McGraw, several coachings throughout the month on an array of repertoire, and opportunities to work with several collaborative pianists.
Because of the generous support given by Art Song Foundation of Canada, I was able to attend SongFest and pursue my love for art song at a very high level. Being surrounded by like-minded musicians and working with such refined artists was encouraging, inspiring, and challenging at times. However, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and the support I was given to attend.
Veronica Pollicino, Mezzo-Soprano – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
It was my great honour to have been accepted to SongFest and offered a place in the prestigious Professional Program. In short, SongFest is a month-long art song intensive, held at the Colburn School of the Performing Arts in Downtown Los Angeles, which enables singers and collaborative pianists to come together and work with the exceptional faculty gathered through a rigorous schedule of coachings, rehearsals, master classes and concerts. Whether you were performing or observing, each day presented new and inspiring ways to grow, learn and engage with an enormous breadth of repertoire.
While at SongFest, I was given invaluable opportunities to work with special guests, which included coaching Schubert Lieder with Graham Johnson, operatic repertoire with Susan Graham, art song with Kevin Murphy and oratorio with Grant Gershon. Additionally, I performed select Bach cantatas under the direction of John Harbison and was able to coach and perform Jake Heggie’s work with the composer himself – these experiences only highlight the exceptional opportunities that were afforded to me during my time at SongFest.
I would also like to say that my fellow colleagues were nothing short of outstanding. The calibre of musician that was attracted to this program was of the highest level and I am fortunate to have walked away from this experience having made many dear colleagues.
Aside from performance opportunities, I prepared a variety of additional art song repertoire, which I was able to coach with the faculty members. In the span of four weeks, I coached with some of the great coaches and leaders of art song today including Lydia Brown, Alan Louis Smith, Mark Trawka, Javier Arrebola, Liza Stepanova, Amy Burton, John Musto and Margo Garrett. During these coachings, I worked on a diverse range of repertoire including works by Bach, N. Boulanger, Brahms, Debussy, Elgar, Mahler, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Rossini, Schubert, Schumann and Wagner.
My time at SongFest was nothing short of exceptional. To wake up each morning, excited and deeply committed to all of the work to come that day, and be surrounded by those with the same love and discipline for this art form, was a gift. In a collaborative profession like ours, more often than not, we musicians find ourselves alone — researching, practicing, studying, preparing, etc. — but to be in a shared community of peers for one month helps to remind us all that ours is not a solo art. We are indeed in this profession because we love to collaborate. We love to share with each other. We love to learn with and from each other. We ultimately love to make music together. This art form has a future, and its future is bright and full of possibilities. This was a most enriching experience and I am deeply grateful to Rosemary Ritter, the foundress of SongFest, for creating this exceptional program, and for affording me this very special and unique opportunity to continue to grow, learn and develop.
Once again, many thanks to you and all those at the Art Song Foundation of Canada for your support in my efforts to go to SongFest. This was a wonderful step in my career and an experience I will not soon forget.
Bruno Roy, Baritone – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
This past summer I was able to spend a month in Los Angeles working with masters and performing in many concerts at SongFest. As an Eva and Marc Stern Fellow, I had the oppurtunity to sing and work on my song repertoire in masterclasses with world-renowned conductors and collaborative pianists such as Malcolm Martineau, Graham Johnson, James Conlon, Margot Garrett, Kevin Murphy and William Sharp.
The program consisted of over 100 singers and student pianists ranging from undergraduate to professional level, in addition to a rotating faculty of over 20 masters. At SongFest, we often had two or three master classes a day, sometimes all day from 10 AM to 10 PM. Because of these numerous classes, my approach to the repertoire was greatly expanded especially in the moments when I could observe my colleagues. The monumental ten-class Schubert series with Graham Johnson was especially notable. These three-hour masterclasses left a strong impression on me and I’m excited to carry that forward to my own study of Schubert Lieder.
During my time at the Colburn School, I performed and coached over 60 art songs in addition to performing two Bach Cantatas under the baton of John Harbison with a professional early music ensemble. I was also exposed to a lot of Amercian Song repertoire which I was unfamiliar with and even got to perform and coach a very interesting Jake Heggie song; what a luxury it was to get to work with composer himself on his composition!
The Stern Fellowship also came with the wonderful oppurtunity to perform a solo recital with a senior faculty pianist, Lydia Brown. I had an absolute blast revisiting Poulenc’s Tel Jour, Telle Nuit and presenting it to a sold-out audience of music lovers and peers.
It was a thrill to visit Los Angeles for the first time and I would not have been able to do it without the support of the Art Song Foundation of Canada. I was able to make many new contacts and it is an experience that will stay with me as I move forward in what is the beginning of my professional singing career.
Morgan Reid, Soprano – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
This summer, I spent four amazing weeks in Los Angeles, California at SongFest as a part of their Young Artist Program. It was my first time on the West Coast and my first American summer festival. Every day I was surrounded by incredible colleagues from all over the world and had meaningful and informative lessons, classes, and lectures from faculty. There was inspirational music-making in every corner of the Colburn School. We arrived May 25th to immediately jump into rehearsals and never looked back! Every day was jam-packed, and no matter what was on your schedule, you were singing, learning, collaborating, and exploring song. Though at times it was intense, it pushed you to new heights in your practices while challenging your perspectives as a musician and artist.
I was fortunate enough to work with baritone Bill McGraw for my lessons over the course of the program and Mark Trawka for weekly coachings. Then, with Margo Garrett, Lydia Brown, Alan Louis Smith, Kevin Murphy, John Harbison, Lisa Saffer, Jennifer Ringo, Javier Arrebola, Martha Guth, and Jake Heggie, I had a combination of masterclasses and private coachings. To learn from, and hear the perspectives of, all of these esteemed musical figures was truly invaluable. Having time with so many faculty members, as well as having a regular teacher and coach, was probably the best aspect of SongFest for me. Whatever you were working on, you had someone to bring it back to, to help prepare and solidify new ideas.
Outside of the studios and classrooms, where we learned about history, repertoire, diction, and more, we spent much of our time in Thayer and Zipper Hall for over 100 hours of masterclasses. These featured guests like Maestro James Conlon, Graham Johnson, Susan Graham, Malcolm Martineau, Libby Larsen, all of the faculty I listed above, and even more talented clinicians. Whether one was on stage or in the audience, these masterclass performances were host to important lessons for all singers approaching the repertoire. In particular, I will never forget Graham Johnson’s eight Schubert classes. I was fortunate enough to participate in in six of these public masterclasses, including Bach with Lisa Saffer, Strauss with Alan Louis Smith, Schubert with Martha Guth, Marx with Lydia Brown, Respighi with Kevin Murphy, and Liszt with Margo Garrett. All helped me bring these pieces to a new level and gave me tools I will be able to approach new pieces with.
Then there were the performances. Recitals by guests Susan Graham and Emily D’Angelo in Zipper Hall, 16 curated recitals which involved singers from all of the SongFest programs, two Schubert-based recitals with Graham Johnson, and another five that I was grateful to perform in. These programmes included pieces entirely new to me and allowed participants to discover brand new repertoire. For me, this included the España concert, curated by faculty members Jennifer Ringo and Javier Arrebola. I did not have much experience singing in Spanish, so I learned an entire new skill in diction, and had a fantastic time closing this programme with a transcription of a folk song by Violetta Parra. One of my other concert highlights was performing Jake Heggie’s Newer Every Day cycle with four other sopranos, each of us tackling one of the pieces in the cycle. Not only did we perform these as the opener on a programme dedicated to the composer, but we coached the cycle with Heggie! There is nothing like collaborating with the composer and learning about their intentions and creative process. We were then asked to reprise our performance of this cycle in the New Voices in Song concert in Zipper Hall, which was my last performance at SongFest. I felt so honoured to have been asked and to have had the opportunity to sing on that stage.
Four weeks, 115 singers, 30 faculty members, and thousands of works of art song to discover. SongFest was a whirlwind, but chockfull of unforgettable lessons and experiences. I cannot wait to take what I learned in these four weeks into my next projects, recital programmes, and every art song I pick up in the future. In his closing speech, Graham Johnson reminded us that no matter where we are from, or our age and stage, we are all colleagues who are the voices of this small, special form. In these divided times, we are a voice for humanity and change through our contribution of music. SongFest spoke to this, bringing together a multitude of international perspectives to bring joy and creation through song. This is our contribution and I’m so humbled to be a part of this musical fabric in 2019.
Caroline Stanczyk, Soprano – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
From May 25th to June 24th, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending SongFest at the Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles. The month was filled with many great opportunities, expansive knowledge, and personal growth as an artist. The program consisted of masterclasses, concerts, lectures, and coachings. I had the honour of performing in six concerts alongside extremely talented colleagues and faculty. I was fortunate to have gotten the chance to participate in masterclasses with Susan Graham, Graham Johnson, Alan Louis Smith, Lisa Saffer, and William Sharp. I was also fortunate enough to work with Lydia Brown, Amy Burton, Margo Garrett, Jennifer Ringo, Lorraine Manz, Liza Stepanova, Mark Trawka, John Musto, David Bowlin, and Nikolay Verevkin.
Personally, one of my main goals as a singer is to work with as many composers as possible. SongFest allowed me to work with composers Jake Heggie and Libby Larsen on their music. One of my biggest admirations for composers is how they are able to create a work so personal, yet are able to share it with world. This is one aspect which I find must be extremely humbling. I learned that Libby Larsen looks forward to the different interpretations people have of her music because it excites her and evolves her own interpretations. I learned that ultimately, as a singer, it is crucially important to have something of value to say that is both original and unique to oneself. To be given the opportunity to not only sing for these composers, but also to have the opportunity to ask them my questions is invaluable.
Throughout my time at SongFest, I could feel my knowledge and artistry expanding. The faculty at SongFest was outstanding; the knowledge they shared motivated me and was very versatile. Every single person I worked with and every lecture or masterclass I sat in shared extremely fruitful knowledge. To name just a few examples, I was learning about Schubert from the master himself– Graham Johnson–which completely changed the way I will approach Schubert lieder in the future. Susan Graham taught me how to be a ‘diva’ by showing me musical/technical tricks to achieve more beautiful colours in my sound. Lisa Saffer taught me how to embrace my love for Handel and how to truly express my character through original and unique ornamentation. And Margo Garrett shared helpful insights about different composers, along with historical context which also motivated me to shift my approach to learning music. The wisdom passed down to me is undeniably priceless. I would often joke with my colleagues that I should sell my SongFest notebook since it is essentially filled with gold!
This was an experience crucial for my artistic growth in this stage of my life, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend this amazing program thanks to the generous support of the Art Song Foundation.
Mishael Eusebio, Tenor – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
The Art Song Foundation has given me an incredible opportunity to participate in SongFest in Los Angeles, which I was attending as a Colburn Fellow. For one spectacular month of song, we explored repertoire from Fauré to Schubert as well as the music of the Festival’s Composers in Residence: Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen, John Musto and John Harbison.
SongFest is an incredible place. It was also a humbling opportunity for me to hone my craft, being guided by such musicians as Margo Garrett, Alan Smith, Kevin Murphy, Graham Johnson, Lisa Saffer, Bill Sharp, Amy Burton, Lydia Brown, William McGraw and so much more!
A usual day would consist of a morning masterclass in which you would either be singing or attending. These masterclasses are public and are attended by all the students. Following that would either be a weekly private coaching or lessons which are usually twice a week. After a quick lunch, there could be a rehearsal for one of the many, many concerts held or a small group masterclass of about ten people. If not that, then there would be a poetry class led by Victoria Browers from Westminster Choir College. After that, or if not that, there could also be a small group Yoga class consisting of about five people. Mark Moliterno leads it, with his own crafted holistic approach that marries yoga and singing, called YogaVoice. The classes were as informative as they were restorative. In the evenings, there would usually be a concert in which either you or your peers would be performing – either that or a concert performed by distinguished guests such as faculty members, resident artists or alumni. This year, we had the immense blessing of having the likes of Susan Graham, Emily D’Angelo as well as a new commission by Reena Esmail. Either that, or a lecture series on the history of Art Song taught by Javier Arrebola. As you can probably tell by now, calling SongFest jam-packed would be an understatement. Did I mention that you do Yoga every morning?
As a Colburn Fellow, I was able to perform in the Colburn Fellows concert curated by Liza Stepanova as well as performing as a tenor soloist in SongFest’s Bach concert curated by John Harbison. SongFest is still chockfull of opportunities for musicians to just get out there and perform! I was able to also perform for various other concerts on top of various other masterclasses. The absence of my beloved mentor and teacher during my undergrad at Juilliard, Sanford Sylvan, was felt strongly. However, through the numerous dedications given to him throughout this month I felt his peaceful presence once more. One had even moved me to tears.
For me, I find that it is the environment that dictates the quality of my growth. One of the aspects of this program that I valued the most is the environment itself, being surrounded by the passion for the music and growth shared with fellow pianists and singers. I found that I learned as much having a two-and-a-half-hour conversation with fellow singers about music as having multiple coachings and a class. To say that I am grateful to both the Art Song Foundation of Canada and SongFest would be the second understatement I will have made in this report.
Avery Lafrentz, Soprano – SongFest, Los Angeles, California
The first time I sang at SongFest was for composer Jake Heggie during a dress rehearsal for his concert. Suddenly shy, I sang well enough, but felt something lacked in my communication of the text. As rehearsal wrapped up, Heggie left us with simple advice, “Now is not the time to get shy. If you feel shy go bigger.” This advice I took with me to the concert the following evening and throughout the rest of the program. Anticipate fear and shyness, and when they arrive lean into them, for they are the manifestation of a necessary vulnerability that allows us to sing and tell our collective stories.
What is that fear, that shyness? How do we learn to face it? It’s programs like SongFest where singers define their fears in order to use them, not suppress or conquer them. Artists need opportunities for trial and error, and risk-taking that allows boundaries to evolve while furthering their skills as technicians, musicians, and communicators. With the support of the Art Song Foundation of Canada, I was able to percolate knowledge in a fast-paced environment designed with said goals in mind. As Adrianne Pieczonka wrote in Issue 4 of Art Song Canada, “As singers of opera and art song we are blessed with the opportunity to tap into our life experiences — to plumb the depths of despair and pain and soar to the heights of happiness and love. What a blessing indeed!!” In order to master communication on stage, we need to have opportunities to perform in order to plumb and to soar. There are so many opportunities for this at SongFest.
This bursary gave me four unbelievable weeks performing in concerts and master classes as a professional fellow of the program. I was fortunate enough to work with all three composers-in-residence: Jake Heggie, John Musto, and Libby Larsen; and perform publicly for Susan Graham (Mezzo-soprano), James Conlon (LA Opera), and Graham Johnson (Schubertian Authority). I coached with a faculty excited to push themselves as well as their students. Gifted interpretors like Margo Garrett and Lydia Brown (Julliard), Javier Arrebola (New England Conservatory), Jennifer Ringo (Lyric Diction Expert), Mark Trawka (Pittsburgh Opera), and Lorraine Manz (Oberlin). Each of them left me with new ideas and inspirations.
SongFest presented challenges that have left me feeling more confident in my abilities and more in touch with how to transmute fear or shyness into the plumbed depths and soaring heights Pieczonka mentioned. It is thanks to my good fortune of being a bursary recipient this year that I was able to work with this incredible faculty over a month of humbling opportunity. There’s a popular saying that states it takes a village to raise a child – but the same is true for singers. Thank you, Art Song Foundation of Canada, for becoming a part of my village and giving me an experience that will live on in each song I sing. What a blessing indeed!!
Rianna Robinson, Mezzo-Soprano – Barachois Summer Music Academy, Barachois, New Brunswick
Through the Art Song Foundation of Canada, I was able to participate in the Barachois Summer Music Academy. During this time, I worked with some of the top professionals in their fields, and experienced a high level of mastery on everything worked on. The repertoire covered was Canadian art song, which really helps young Canadian artists see what music comes from our homeland. Each day, we received lessons and coachings with different instructors, and always got new perspectives and ideas on how to preform the pieces to the best of our abilities. This program was an amazing experience and I would recommend that all young singers participate.
Shanice Skinner, Soprano – Barachois Summer Music Academy, Barachois, New Brunswick
The time I spent this summer at the Barachois Music Academy Emerging Artists Program was an incredibly enriching experience. While the program lasted a little over a week, each day was completely filled with coachings and voice lessons on solo Canadian repertoire, as well as a variety of ensemble pieces in various languages, all in preparation for the concerts presented at the end of the program. Due to the small nature of the program (only 4 vocalists), we were able to receive several lessons a day, and instruction with great detail. This type of fine detailed work really allowed for the opportunity to refine my interpretation of art song, and to make for a more impactful performance. The culmination of the program included concerts in Barachois as well as Fredericton and Charlottetown. It was so valuable to be able to prepare a full recital for presentation to various audiences in different locations. The feedback after each performance was truly rewarding, as the public was so appreciative of us sharing this music with them. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to attend the Barachois Summer Music Academy to grow artistically as a performer.
Léa Weilbrenner, Soprano – Barachois Summer Music Academy, Barachois, New Brunswick
The Barachois Académie was a wonderful experience for me. The teaching quality was very high and the ambiance was very convivial and fun. I learned a great deal while making new connections with teachers and collegues. The atmosphere was beautiful, relaxing and inspiring. The performances were just stressful enough to have the feeling of accomplishing great achievement.
I would recommend this académie to singers and pianists with little or much experience. It’s a great way to find discipline, learn from great coaches and teachers, and also to have fun and make new connections.
Samantha Fullerton, Soprano – Barachois Summer Music Academy, Barachois, New Brunswick
Thanks to the assistance of the Art Song Foundation of Canada, I spent a week at the Barachois Summer Music Academy in New Brunswick, and had the good fortune to collaborate with some very talented musicians. Led by the co-artistic director and collaborative pianist Julien LeBlanc, the week presented a wonderful opportunity to work with soprano Chantal Dionne, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabo, and collaborative pianist Laura Loewen.
During the week, I was able to perform “Joie” by Massenet, and “Aubade” by Ireland, with soprano Érica Aubé and mezzo-soprano Rachel Brown, respectively. These challenging duets were fun to learn and perform. I also performed several solo pieces by Harry Somers and Louis Dominique-Roy at multiple events and venues, including the beautiful Église Historique de Barachois.
Thank you to the Art Song Foundation of Canada for helping me experience this amazing week.
Carolyn Beaudoin, Soprano – Das Lied Competition, Heidelberg, Germany
Thanks to the generous support of the Art Song Foundation of Canada, Scott Downing and I travelled to Heidelberg, Germany, to compete in the Das Lied International Song Competition as one of 30 selected duos. The 2019 panel for this week-long competition consisted of Thomas Quasthoff, Juliane Banse, Malcolm Martineau, John Gilhooly, Charlotte Lehmann, Helga Machreich, Thorsten Schmidt, and Richard Stokes.
Each duo’s repertoire list for the Das Lied live rounds consists of 30 songs in total, with five song selections by each of the six mandatory composers. For the 2019 edition, the mandatory composers were Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Charles Ives, and Wilhelm Killmayer.
Preparing this repertoire was a huge undertaking for both of us. More than half of our repertoire list was completely new and we had no previous working experience with repertoire by Ives and Killmayer. Our program texts included German, French, English, Spanish, Italian, and Greek poetry. We found the Ives and Killmayer particularly challenging (and rewarding) to prepare, given the virtuosic nature of these composers’ writing for both piano and voice, as well as the intricacies of the texts themselves.
A critical part of this competition is the juror feedback sessions offered to all of the duos. Scott and I were provided with some excellent constructive criticism and advice that I’m sure will prove helpful as we continue to develop our artistry and body of repertoire.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, attending Das Lied allowed us the opportunity to observe and learn from other young artists from around the world. The calibre of duos was extraordinary, with most of the artists already established in their professional careers. Observing the semi-finalists and finalists provided us with a new benchmark of excellence to strive for in our own work moving forward.
I’m certain that our time in Heidelberg will have a long-lasting impact on our growth and development as performing artists. I truly appreciate the support of the Art Song Foundation of Canada in helping make this fantastic opportunity possible.
Scott Downing, Piano – Das Lied Competition, Heidelberg, Germany
Participating in the 2019 Das Lied International Song Competition with soprano Carolyn Beaudoin was an unforgettable experience. Thanks to the Art Song Foundation of Canada, we were able to travel to Heidelberg, Germany, perform for a highly esteemed jury, and receive feedback from Thomas Quasthoff, Helga Machreich, Richard Stokes, and Juliane Banse. This was tremendously helpful to us as a duo and as musicians who are pursuing careers in art song.
During the competition, we had the privilege of listening to 29 other outstanding duos from all over the world. I was left in awe after each performance and also motivated to bring the same simplicity into my playing so that I can keep unveiling to the audience the deeper meaning of the poetry in this amazing music.
The required composers for the competition were Ravel, Debussy, Killmayer, Ives, Brahms, and Wolf. Each duo had to select five songs by each composer totalling 30 songs per duo. Selecting and preparing this repertoire was a massive undertaking, and it challenged us to find links and common themes between composers and songs. It was also enriching to perform and hear songs by Wilhelm Killmayer, who was the mandatory composer for the competition. I had never been exposed to this composer; so it was great to hear his music and learn more about his style.
Thanks to the Art Song Foundation of Canada, Carolyn and I were able to pursue this highly sought-after opportunity and expose ourselves as artists amongst a tremendous pool of talent. It was an honour to have been selected among these other applicants who already have years of professional experience and well-established careers in art song. Their performances set the bar very high and I feel confident that I can continue on a path towards similar artistic achievements. This opportunity has inspired me to keep learning and growing as an artist of art song so that I can continue to bring this music to life in Canada and across the world.