Friday, January 30, 2009

Canadian Opera Singers in the News

Just a few articles this week on various Canadian Opera singers in the media:

Wendy Nielson, Tracy Dahl and Richard Margison in Calgary Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos:
Hope opera lost its glamour (Calgary Herald)

Gerald Finley:
The voice of veracity (Bay Area Reporter)

Measha Brugger-Gossman:
Soprano approaches life with a Wagnerian intensity (South Florida Classical Review)

Donna Brown:
Back to back Brown (Ottawa Citizen)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Watch for it...

Sorry to all who have been waiting with baited breath for my final reviews of Canadian undergraduate programs. Its been a week of....stuff. Needless to say, being a parent can be a challenge as I discussed in a previous post! Will get back on the horse and finish my reviews and move on to other topics!

Enjoy the snow for those of you who got dumped on yesterday!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Drama on stage at the Canadian Opera Company

According to ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN of the Globe and Mail, there was mega-drama on stage last night at the Four Seasons during the final dress rehearsal for the Canadian Opera Company's production of Fidelio.

I have been part of drama at the COC in the past including being a last minute replacement for a ailing singer so "stuff happens"... we are artists and have egos and we get sick or disagree ... however, to have that back stage privileged information made public, is inexcusable. Thanks to Canadian opera star Richard Margetson and Icelandic tenor Jon Ketilsson for stepping in!

Marilyn Horne Celebrates her 75th with Master Classes in NYC

This blog entry by Billevesses is a must-read for all fans of Marilyn Horne and all fans of great singing as he reviews his experience of her 75th Birthday Master Classes this past week in New York.

Marilyn Horne has worked with many Canadian opera singers at the Music Academy of the West including sopranos Isabel Bayrakdarian, Joni Henson, Shannon Mercer, Tracy Smith-Bessette, and Karen Wierzba, mezzo Anita Krause, baritone James Westman, and bass Robert Pomakov.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Carnegie Hall with Ken Levigne

It is easy to become a cynic in this hard world especially as a classical musician. After yesterday's historic US presidential event, one might be inspired to pay attention to their dreams. This week, Canadian tenor Ken Lavigne is doing just that. He has hired the New York Pops to accompany him at the famed Carnegie Hall and makes his debut there on Thursday. Writing his own ticket has cost him close to $200,000 but what a story!

Check out his story, his singing and his concert (if you are in NYC this week!).

(and in a "where's waldo" moment, can you find Canadian opera singer Maria Lambroula Pappas in the video clip?)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Undergraduate Programs for Voice in Canada: Mount Allison University

At the very centre of the maritimes sits Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. With a capped undergraduate enrollment totalling 2,250 students in arts, science, commerce, fine arts and music, this liberal arts university boasts a tight-knit music community.

Why bother paying attention to this little school in "the middle of no-where"? Because somehow, they have managed to attract faculty that boast MMs and DMAs from some of the most prestigious universities in North America including my Alma mater, the Eastman School of Music.

Here is a list of necessary information for admissions and completion to their undergraduate programs in music:
  1. Degrees: This is directly out of the course calendar: "The Department of Music offers instruction leading to both the Bachelor of Music degree (B.Mus.) and the Bachelor of Arts in Music. The former is professionally oriented, whereas the latter (B.A. Major or Honours in Music) is designed for the student with a more general interest in music. A Minor in Music is available to students in any program. The Bachelor of Music degree is offered without designated majors, and allows the student considerable latitude to put emphasis on any of the subject areas: Music Theory and Composition; Music History and Literature; Music Education and Performance. It is designed to develop well-rounded musicians in practical, theoretical, and historical areas, as well as to provide a sound education in the liberal arts. This versatility of approach is in keeping with the wide-ranging demands which are placed on the musician of today".
  2. Admission: Like all music programs, admission is by audition. Singers are asked for four pieces including one in English representing different styles of music. You will also be interviewed by a member of the faculty and have to complete an entrance assessment exam which includes aural skills and musical skills.
  3. Faculty: As mentioned earlier, this small school has managed to attract some serious scholars including voice teacher and opera workshop director Dr. Helen Pridmore and music historian Dr. Elizabeth Wells both graduate of the Eastman School of Music. In addition to Dr. Pridmore who is full time, the voice faculty is rounded out by part time instructors soprano Monette Gould and baritone Peter Groom.
  4. Degree Requirements: Although Mount Allison does not offer a performance designation with the B.Mus Degree, they do offer a number of classes to support performing including History of Opera, Diction for Singers, Musical Theatre, Collaborative Keyboard (student pianists are paired with student singers and are coached together), and shared and full recital options in fourth year.
  5. Ensembles: There are eight ensembles of which three are dedicated to singers.
  6. Opera: Dr. Pridmore runs the Opera Workshop which performs regular concerts of opera scenes. They perform an annual tour of the maritimes and have created new operas including a Christmas 2008 opera titled "The Tailor of Gloucester".
  7. Scholarships: Although Mount Allison doesn't boast a tonne of scholarships, they do have the massive Bell Scholarship - a renewable $9,000/year or $12,000/year award for top students. Additionally they have the Leta G. Hill Scholarship worth $40,000 over 4 years, and the Confederation Scholarships worth $5,000 annually.
  8. Calendar of Events: One of the other reasons I was excited by the Mount Allison program was their impressive calendar of events. Looking at the 2008-09 academic year boasts an average at least 8 concerts per month including an early music festival, a symposium on the music of Oliver Messiaen, special events for Canada Music Week, a special concert for Convocation Weekend and a whopping 13 faculty recitals!

It is clear that Mount Allison University Department of Music provides an excellent perspective on the music making in North America and has positioned itself as the creative centre of the community. I would love to hear from alumni with your comments or stories of your time at Mount A!

Wednesday, January 21

Since posting this article about Mount A, I have heard from Helen Pridmore. She writes:

...We're proud of our small department -- even the fact that we're so small
makes us special, because it makes for terrific interaction between faculty and

If you felt like adding a bit more info about us, I would love to have included the fact that I specialize in new and experimental music. We have a small new music ensemble here and a group of very active student composers, and we encourage collaboration and experimentation!

Thanks Helen for responding!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Opera Laughs on a Cold Toronto Night - Mary Lou Fallis and Peter Tiefenbach


"Mary Lou Fallis, Canada’s foremost musical comedienne and her pianistic co-conspirator Peter Tiefenbach, preside over an evening of intelligent musical mirth including many of their classic routines as well as completely new and untried material! TWO shows - ONE night only - to be recorded for posterity. Come and be part of history. This programme has been made possible without the support of the Canada Council. "

The shows are at 5:00pm and 8:30pm at the Glenn Gould Centre with tickets only $25. Yours truly will be singing in the octet of hilarity!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Undergraduate Programs for Voice in Canada: University of Manitoba

Ah Winnipeg - the cold butt of Canadian jokes. But what a city of arts and culture! The Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba seems to be the hotbed for great Canadian Singers including colouratura soprano Tracy Dahl. This combined with the $20 million dollar donation given last year by Marcel A. Desautels for which the faculty is now named has allowed the school to leverage itself into the jazz world. According to the website they offer a "small conservatory atmosphere within a large university setting". I take this to mean individualized attention and training.

Here is a list of necessary information for admissions and completion to their undergraduate programs in music:

  1. Admission: Singers must prepare three contrasting pieces including one in English and perform a live audition (DVD will be accepted if you live FAR away). Additionally you may be required to do some sight singing, a short interview, and a written theory test. They suggest that one must be singing at a minimum Grade 7 RCM level.

  2. Degrees: UofM offers a general Bachelor of Music which options for performance after the 2nd year jury. Additionally they offer an "Integrated" Bachelor of Music/Education. Again, once must be admitted after 2 years in the BMUS program. This is different than the Concurrent Education programs (at Queens for example) that admit the student directly to both the Music and Education departments.

  3. Faculty: The voice department is coordinated by well known baritone and Associate Professor Mel Braun who is also the director of the opera workshop program (more on that later). Additional full time staff include Dr. Karen Jensen who is currently serving as Dean of Graduate Studies, and vocal coach Dr. Laura Loewen. There are a whopping 8 part time faculty members of whom many have graduated from the UofM program. Those include Tracy Dahl, Valdine Anderson and Monica Huisman all former student prodigies of voice guru Mary Morrison.

  4. Degree Requirements: The four year performance degree requirements require the standard courses in music history, theory and music skills as well as applied voice lessons. and third and fourth year recitals. Additionally, all voice majors are required to take the Vocal Pedagogy course to graduate. Electives specific to voice study include Opera Repertoire, French Diction, Italian Diction and German Diction courses.

  5. Opera: The University of Manitoba has created a one year Opera Apprenticeship Program targeted at the post graduate singer. This program includes lessons and coaching and puts on two semi-staged productions per year as well as a school tour. Additionally the school offers a four week summer Com temporary Opera Lab run my Mel Braun.

  6. Ensembles: Of the almost 20 ensembles offered, there are 9 that include singers including Vocal Master Classes, Opera Workshop, a Contemporary Ensemble, and early music Collegium and various choirs.

  7. Scholarships: The Faculty offers a large number or grants and scholarships of which 11 are designated for voice studies. In September 2007, there were 75 Music Students awarded a total of $93,285.00, including 14 students who received $22,200.00 in Entrance Scholarships.

For a small school, the University of Manitoba`s Faculty of Music packs a big punch. High profile performers combined with a small student body, excellent course offerings and an opera workshop make for a great training ground for young singers. Many of my friends have come from UofM and have gone on to great things and still speak fondly of their days of personal instruction and personable faculty.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A "new" Queen of the Night

Sometimes you just have to post the ridiculous. Another remix of the infamous QOTN aria!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Undergraduate Programs for Voice in Canada: University of British Columbia

I am excited to talk about the University of British Columbia's School of Music Program. Not knowing anything about the program other than the Division Head Nancy Hermiston, I am pleased to report that their website is fantastic! It was very easy to find information with clear outlines for courses, expectations, scholarships and program requirements. I was also impressed by the number of courses and their high demands considering they are not a faculty but a School of Music within the Faculty of Arts. Obviously they have worked hard to make themselves relevant and integral to their University and to the community at large (case in point, the Chan Centre for Performing Arts).

Here is a list of necessary information for admissions and completion to their undergraduate programs in music:

  1. Degrees: Bachelor of Music or a Bachelor of Arts with a major, minor or honours in Music. There are 4 main streams of study in the B.Mus Program - advanced performance, general studies (most students follow this stream), composition and music scholarship (entry in 3rd or 4th year with a focus on music history, theory or ethnomusicology).
  2. Admission: As usual one must audition but UBC expects 5-6 pieces of standard repertoire which is on par with the larger faculties in the country. As well there is a Grade VI piano requirement that if not met upon entrance is worked on over the first two years of study.
  3. Faculty: There are three full time faculty members including Division Head Nancy Hermiston and 9 sessional members.
  4. Degree Requirements: This school takes their singers seriously and requires a first year Lyric Diction course, second and third year Song Repertoire classes, and a fourth year Song Interpretation class for piano and voice majors to collaborate together. In addition to these required courses, the school offers Opera Theatre Techniques, Vocal Techniques (Pedagogy), History of Opera, Opera Workshop.
  5. Opera: UBC School of Music has become known across the country for their Opera department. Undergrads can take the Opera Workshop classes and be part of the main stage shows that are put on each semester. This is also a great way to advance through into the Young Artists Training Program that they offer.
  6. Ensembles: UBC boasts and impressive 11 ensemble courses including Vocal Chamber Music, Contemporary Music (with Stephen Chatman no less!), Early Music Ensemble (which partners with Early Music Vancouver for master classes), a Vocal Jazz Ensemble and 5 different Choral Ensembles. Choral Ensembles are required for third and forth year voice majors and fourth years are required to register for a small and a large ensemble course.
  7. Languages: There is a language requirement of 6 credits each of Italian, French and German study to graduate.
  8. Scholarships: There seems to be a large number of scholarships that are given to incoming and continuing students based on faculty recommendation. Additionally there is a strong community support with much funding from outside the university.

I could go on and on about this program but the bottom line with UBC School of Music is that they are training PERFORMERS. They are willing to teach you the music skills you might lack in order to attract the best singers in the country. So far it seems to be working!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A new year brings new posts

Welcome to 2009! A new year with new ideas, new events and a re commitment to keeping up-to-date on teaching advances and information, events, programs and Canadian opera singers.

I will continue the undergraduate music program theme for another few weeks and will go across the county starting in the west with the University of British Columbia then the University of Manitoba. From there I will jump east and look at Mount Allison University then come back to the "centre" (don't hate me westerners!) with the "big three": McGill University, University of Toronto and University of Western Ontario.

I'll finalize the overview with a post of links to ALL the programs in Canada for future reference.

So...up next is UBC!

From the voice of....