Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Canadian Works for Voice and Piano

In the age of social conscious purchasing (think buying locally owned and from field to table programs) how many of us singers out there have applied this to our vocal repertoire? As teachers it is sometimes difficult to find the time (and, lets be honest, the energy!) to source new and local music that is appropriate for our students. As performers are we performing new works? Are we collaborating beyond our pianist with composers? Librettists? Music stores? Music organizations? to find new, interesting, local and socially relevant material?

Recently I discovered a great number of composers doing just that - collaborating and marketing their music directly to US the singing teacher/performer. The Toronto chapter of ORMTA held a composers forum last Sunday, October 19 at the Music Gallery. For those of us fortunate to have stumbled into the theatre, there was much to be found!

Find #1: Martha Hill Duncan

Kingston composer Martha Hill Duncan is an expat-Texan living in Kingston teaching piano and composing all sorts of interesting and relevant material. She has published 2 volumes of songs for voice and piano entitled "Singing in the Northlands". Volume 1 is a collection of songs appropriate for the beginning singer (think Royal Conservatory Grades 2-5). Volume 2 is more advanced with songs that challenge rhythm (think 4/4 over a 12/8 accompaniment) and tonality while remaining romantic in nature and very lyrical!

Find #2: Maria Molinari

Toronto composer Maria Molinari presented her compositions with a bang! She played a recording of an incredible song cycle to poetry by William Blake. Soaring, lyrical and challenging for the undergraduate singer, I was blown away! A graduate of the University of Toronto in composition and the University of Southern California (USC) in Film Scoring, one can "hear the picture" in her vocal works. My favourite piece is a prizewinner from the 2002 Stratford Festival Song Competition Contest for Young Composers winner "Willow Song". Simple, direct and middle voice tessitura, this song challenges the dramatic instinct of a singer in delivering a Shakespearean text.

Both composers have their music available on their websites and through the Canadian Music Centre. I encourage you to check them out.

Share your favourite Canadian composer so we can continue the dialogue!


Chris Foley said...

Thanks for this list, Elizabeth! You wouldn't believe the demand for high quality new works for voice among developing singers.

Elizabeth McDonald said...

Keep me posted on any new works that you hear so I can keep this going with more posts!

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hey Elizabeth,

So do you teach only opera or voice in general, or opera and classical? And do you teach at Queen's or do you take private students as well?

Elizabeth McDonald said...

Hello anonymous:

I teach classical voice technique and generally use classical art song and opera as the repertoire however, depending on the goals of the student, I also love musical theatre! I teach both at the university and privately through the Conservatory at Queens.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have more questions!

Steph said...

Hey Elizabeth,

Um, that was me, Steph. I don't know how I ended up anonymous.

It's just that I'm missing singing, but I haven't done it in about, oh, um, 11 years. I'm very shy right now and sing some godawful notes because I'm out of practice and out of self-esteem, but I was thinking, maybe, of starting up voice lessons to get me going again. Maybe you could shoot me an email or something and we can chat about this?

Musical theatre? RIGHT ON!!

Cynthia Vaughn said...

Hello, Elizabeth,
What a wonderful resource! As the vocal literature coordinator/publisher's liaison for the N.A.T.S. Summer Intern Program, I am contantly looking for quality art song resources. Each summer 12 North American voice teachers with less than five years full time teaching experience are selected to participate in the ten day program. The interns work closely with master teachers and receive feedback from supervised lessons. They also attend a number of lectures and presentation, including two song lit sessions that I present. Session One focuses on "New and Favorite Vocal Repertoire for Students" (High School and University Students.) Session Two focuses on "Vocal Repertoire for Faculty/Artist Recitals". Last summer, one of the intern teachers was Canadian soprano Alison Nystrom. I asked Alison to introduce some of her favorite Canadian composers to us. She delighted us with student pieces Clifford Crawley: "Trolls" and
Godfrey Ridout: Folk Songs. For her artist piece Alison introduced us to Barry Peters 'Turn Again to Life." I will definitely be including more Canadian composers next summer and I encourage Canadian members of NATS to apply online for the intern program at

Elizabeth McDonald said...

Hi Cynthia:

Thanks for your comment - the NATS intern program was on my radar to post in the next week - will do that sooner rather than later!

Thanks for reading!

From the voice of....