Monday, March 30, 2009

Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation for Young Canadian Opera Singers

For immediate release to young Canadian opera singers:

The Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation for Young Canadian Opera Singers
Grants Program 2009

To support the development and promotion of the careers of young Canadian opera singers.

Application procedure
The foundation’s application form must be completed. All questions must be answered. A pre-selection, in May, by means of audio material will determine candidates for the final auditions to be held Friday, June 12, 2009 in MontrĂ©al, after which grants will be awarded. The awards for the approved grants will be available (in part or in total) approximately two weeks after the auditions.
N.B. the majority of grants are of the order of $5,000

Conservatory or University graduates (singing studies)
Young professionals at the beginning of their careers
Age limit of 32 years of age as of March 31, 2009

Eligible projects
Musical and artistic support
Singing lessons (additional training)
Acting (additional training)
Accommodation (up to $150 per diem depending on the place)
Recital/auditions gowns

Only one project a year can be submitted but a given project can include more than one element (for example, coaching and transportation for auditions). Living expenses are not eligible.

Grants are to be used only for the purpose approved of by the Foundation. Copies of invoices can be requested. Any change in plans must receive the Foundation’s approval.

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 5 p.m.

For more information and to receive an application form, please contact Margot Provencher at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Soprano Lena Ma is our NEW Miss World Canada

How cool is this....soprano (and Queens University music student) Lena Ma just won Miss World Canada on the weekend. I know that lots of people take issue with beauty pagents but really, what singer doesn't want to look like a beauty queen on stage?

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 23, 2009) -

Lena Yanbing Ma, a stunning 5'10.5" model/soprano student of Queen's University, won the title of Miss World Canada 2009, in a spectacular event at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in downtown Toronto on Saturday night.

Lena makes history as the first woman of Chinese Origin to win the Title of Miss World Canada. She is now the Canadian representative for the 2009 Miss World Competition, the largest beauty spectacular on the planet, which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in December, 2009.

Miss World is the oldest surviving major international pageant. The telecast of the final competition is the world's largest live annual beauty pageant television event with global viewers in more than 200 countries. Aside from raising millions of pounds for charities around the globe under the banner of its 'Beauty with a Purpose' program, Miss World is also credited with directly influencing a dramatic increase in tourism in Sanya, China, host of the Miss World finals from 2003-05.

True to the head office motto, "Beauty with a Purpose", Lena and all her fellow contestants diligently fundraised in the months prior to the contest for the Miss World Canada Charity of Choice, S.O.S. Children's Villages Canada, an international organization dedicated to raising orphaned and abandoned children into adulthood, in over 130 countries. This year a whopping $25,781.00 was raised through the fundraising efforts of the delegates. Funds will be donated to the All-Canadian funded Village in Ondangwa Namibia.

Lena captured 2 of the competitions Fast Track awards as well as 3 additional general awards; the most impressive was her outstanding rendition of the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber piece "Think of Me", which brought tears to some eyes in the audience. "She is a lovely, gracious and humble winner, a very strong contender at Miss World this year and we are confident that with Lena's incredible talent, poise, and grace she has a strong opportunity to bring Canada the crown" said Sastee Bachan, VP of Marketing and Communications, at the after party hosted by Houston's.

"The award that is most special to Lena's heart is the Beauty with a Purpose Award, she has done much charity work in the Chinese community" said Dr. Sherry X. Yin, mother of the new title holder. "But now she would like to use the Miss World Canada position to help even more people, any person from anywhere!!" said the elated mother.

Among her prizes for winning the crown are an all-expense paid trip to South Africa for 30 days of touring and performing, a competition wardrobe, daytime accessories by Bittersweet, one year membership at Christine's Fitness and Personal Training, photoshoot with photographer Alejandro Antequera, hair services by the prestigious Fiorio Salons, jewelry from Romika Jewels, and a year's supply of Revlon hair care products.

Lena Ma was crowned by out going Titleholder Leah Ryerse; as the reigning titleholder, Lena will now spend her year preparing for Miss World and making appearances for charity and cultural events across Canada. Show your support Canada for our beautiful contender and make sure to visit to hear all about Lena's progress!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Polegato creates despair in Schubert's Winterreise

Schubert's 24song cycle Winterreise is a tour-de-force of dispair, regret and bitterness. Canadian baritone Brett Polegato and pianist Stephen Ralls captured the wanderer's journey with sensitivity this past Sunday as part of the Music at St. George's series at St. George's Cathedral in Kingston, ON.

Not very often does Kingston have the opportunity to host artists of this level - what a joy to be in the audience! Brett created some incredible moments - his ability to spin a line at any dynamic was truly a mark of an experienced singer. I enjoyed the pacing of the whole cycle - both Brett and Stephen knew when to keep the sound moving between songs and when to allow more space for the dram and clear the air. Stephen, as usual, was a sensitive partner and was able to create a clear and buoyant sound when called for as well as darker, intense moments particularly in Das Wirtshaus. His ethereal sound for Der Leiermann was gripping.

For those of you who are in Toronto, check out their performance at the Glenn Gould for the Aldeburgh Connection on Wednesday. This performance will be recorded for broadcast at a later date.

(art work by clementine chan)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Brett Polegato sings Winterreise

For all of you in the Kingston area....

Canadian baritone extraordinaire Brett Polegato will be performing Schubert's Winterreise on Sunday, March 22 at 2:30 at St. George's Cathedral in Kingston. Accompanied by pianist Stephen Ralls, this is a preview of his recital for the Aldeburgh Connection in Toronto on Wednesday, March 25.

Don't miss this fabulous event - Brett is one of the preeminent baritones in the world today...he just got back from singing Ned Keene in Peter Grimes at Teatro di San Carlo!

Hope to see you there...check back for a review on Monday!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Elora Festival Academy of Music

More now from the Elora Festival of Music...

The Elora Festival Academy of Music is a five-day residential programme for senior undergrad and postgraduate music students, young advanced, pre-professional and professional, singers and collaborative pianists.

For the summer of 2009 we will be seeking applications from students of voice, and piano accompaniment. These students will be offered an intensive week of individual instruction, master classes and daily performance opportunities. They will also be given the opportunity to expand their artistic insights through interaction with Festival artists. We are also pleased to have internationally renowned artists as resident instructors (Laurier Faculty Kimberly Barber, Daniel Lichti and Leslie De'Ath)

The Programme for Singers and Collaborative Pianists is designed to offer an intensive period of collaboration in vocal literature, focusing on art song but also including repertoire from opera, oratorio and musical theatre. A regimen of daily lessons and masterclasses will culminate in shared, late afternoon public recitals and a final Elora Festival concert showcasing all participants.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Arts Integra Summer Program

I just received this information last week and thought I would pass it on!

The Arts Integra International Summer Programs offer emerging artists and professional singers, actors, pianists, directors and teachers of all ages and experience, an opportunity to develop their craft, hone their skills and enhance their repertoire by learning new roles. Participants will perform in professionally staged productions with possible exposure to Directors, Conductors, the Media and Artists Management Representatives.

Located in historic Unionville of the Greater Toronto Area, students will receive instruction and guidance in a full range of innovative classes and professional coaching, voice lessons, Master classes, role & scene preparation, interpretation, language, diction, and advice on audition
preparation and career development, preparing them to be entrepreneurial and competitive in the global marketplace in a supportive and nurturing environment by some of the most highly regarded professionals in their field.

Participants are required to pay for their own meals, lodging, travel and
insurance. Optional group excursions to local restaurants and attractions
may be planned throughout each session.

Summer Program session dates are as follows:
SESSION I: June 1st, 2009 - June 13th, 2009
SESSION II: June 15th, 2009 - June 27th, 2009
SESSION III: August 4th, 2009 - August 14th, 2009

AUDITION INFORMATION: See Website for details

Tuition for each session may be paid and withdrawn in two installments as
follows: First installment per session due April 1st,
2009: Canadian Residents: $875
International Residents: $1400

Musical Productions will be accompanied by piano or keyboard, and performed in the original language. All participants must participate in various chorus works in addition to solo roles, and will be expected to arrive with their parts securely memorized.

Arts Integra is committed to bringing the Arts to the community, and the community to the Arts. We encourage members of the community to step out of their daily experience while giving performance experience to highly gifted and trained young professional performers, building a new generation of audiences and patrons of the Arts. Rehearsals and performances will take place at various venues throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

UPDATE from the AD (March 30.09):
"...we've moved the deadline for payment of tuition. It will no longer be on April 1st. Auditions will be held in Toronto/Unionville on May 1st and 2nd. Deadline for audition applications is April 30th. The initial payment won't be due until May 4th, if accepted into the program".

Friday, March 13, 2009

Joni Henson steps out...

Canadian soprano Joni Henson stepped out last night onto the stage of the Jane Mallet in Toronto for one of her first solo recitals. John Terauds of the Toronto Star shouts out that she has great promise as a recitalist.

For those of you who haven't heard her, you can catch her in Hamilton on March 28 singing Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in Kingston on April 26 singing John Burge's Symphony No.2 and Faure's Requiem, and in Toronto on May 9 with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir singing Mendelssohn's Elijah.

Congratulations Joni!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Notes from a Recital

Recently my colleague and I, baritone Gregory Brookes were joined by collaborative pianist Allison Gagnon to perform a joint faculty recital at Queens University. The program, England and the New World, featured the music of Vaughn Williams, Purcell (arranged by Britten), John Harbison and Canadian composers John Greer, John Burge, Martha Hill Duncan and a new commission by Kingston composer David Colwell. It was an interesting program and well received by a relatively full house!

In the tough times of today's global market, stepping on stage to perform seemed like the ultimate luxury but no matter how many times I do it, I still learn things that make me want to slap my head and say "doh" a-la-Homer-Simpson.

Here are a few observations:
  1. Unless you are Renee Fleming you will be sweeping floors: Our arrival to the "concert hall" (it is normally a lecture hall that happens to have a Steinway A in the closet) found us looking at a house full of used newspapers, old coffee cups, spilled pop and dirt everywhere! I spent the first 20 minutes of our warm up picking up and sweeping the floor - somehow my gown still managed to get filthy by the end of the performance!
  2. Even if you are singing in English for an English speaking crowd, you need to print the texts: After the performance, one of my friends asked me about a line I sang. They heard "making love with a dog with a knitting needle" (what kind of mind pulls that one out??) but what I actually sang was "making love with the Dark One and eating little" (Harbison's Mirabai Songs)!!!
  3. Memorize, memorize, memorize: Even if you have sung your songs to your dog, your memory can slip in the heat of the moment. I made mistakes that made me gasp internally! How could I be so careless? How could I have messed that up? How could I....and the beatings continue.
  4. Record, record, record: We hired a former CBC producer to record our performance. Totally worth it even if we can never use it for auditions or our websites...just to have a record of your singing in that moment is invaluable.
  5. Always have your family in the house: My parents and my husband are my most fervent supporters but this time I was lucky to have my auntie and uncle drive in and some very good friends from home...what wonderful opportunity to really "feel the love".

I would love to hear your thoughts on things you are learned or experienced during recital-ing. Come April, undergrads everywhere will be doing juries and degree recitals - lets give them some things to think about BEFORE they step on stage!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Elora Festival Young Artist Competition

Elora Festival is celebrating 30 years this year from July 10 to August 2, 2009. As part of their continued mandate to
...manage a professional choir of international regard and to present a summer festival of classical and contemporary music, with an emphasis on choral works, featuring Canadian artists of international calibre in the unique setting of the Village of Elora...
the elora festival is requesting applications for their TD Canada Trust Festival Competition "Supporting Performers of Tomorrow". Open to voice, piano, strings woodwinds and brass, competitors must be 17-27 of age.
Download the competition brochure and application here.

From the voice of....