Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Holy Child of Boy Sopranos

I have never had the opportunity to work with a boy soprano (treble) so imagine my surprise when recently at the Peterborough Kiwanis Music Festival 12 year old Jacob Abrahamse sang for me!

The first thing that struck me was the power of the sound. Think of the composite voice created for the movie Farinelli in 1994 minus the vibrato. With that power came a great range and a keen musical mind.

After the festival was over, I had the chance to chat with his mom over email. She sent me a link to an upcoming Soundstreams concert featuring Jacob as The Holy Child in R. Murray Schafer's new opera The Children's Crusade. I hope that you take the time to hear this young talent!

For the teachers out there: Who has trained a boy soprano and what considerations did you take for this voice type? How did you work through the transition at puberty and beyond?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Young Artist Program: Arcady in Southwestern Ontario

Canadian Composer Ron Beckett announces the Arcady Young Artist Program

Young artists have always been at the heart of Arcady membership, stemming from the days when the ensemble supported a separate youth choir. Some of those young musicians have continued performing and are now embarking on professional careers, partly resulting from the experience and training provided by Arcady.

Arcady would like to extend this opportunity to the wider community in which it performs, especially to recent graduates who are seeking performing experience. Candidates should be between the ages of 20-35, a senior student or recent graduate of a university or conservatory, and demonstrate potential as a solo performer. Location is not a factor as Arcady performs in a variety of Toronto or Southwestern Ontario locations.

  • open to both singers and instrumentalists

  • solo performance opportunities (varies by season)

  • mentorship with seasoned local performers

  • introduction to contemporary and Baroque repertoire

  • opportunity to work with composer-in-residence

2009-2010 Season

Successful candidates will be featured as a soloist in one or several Arcady performances during the year. They also will receive a solo recital later in the season.

If interested in auditioning for the Young Artist Program for the 2009-2010 season, contact Ron Beckett at or phone 519-428-3185. Auditions are heard on a rolling basis.

Monday, April 20, 2009

This came through my in-box today....

Employment Opportunity: Voice Instructor

Medicine Hat College’s Division of Arts invites applications for the position of Voice Instructor in the Conservatory of Music and Dance. The Conservatory, which enjoys the specialized facilities and beautiful surroundings of the college’s Cultural Centre, has more than 20 full-time faculty and serves well over 1,000 registrants annually in a wide variety of music and dance areas, from classical and jazz to modern and popular.

This position, which will be matched as much as possible to the successful candidate’s background and experience, will consist primarily of private voice instruction, but may over time include ensemble or group instruction in areas ranging from contemporary music and jazz to musical theatre.

Remuneration for this position is on a competitive fee-for-student/class basis and is potentially full-time for the ten-month term, beginning September, 2009. The position will include a benefits package and will be annually renewable in subsequent years subject to performance reviews and student enrolments. Candidates for this position should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline; a master’s degree is preferred. Teaching experience would be a definite asset.

Please submit a cover letter summarizing teaching and professional experience, curriculum vitae, the names of three professional referees, and relevant supporting materials (including performance recordings, if available), quoting Competition #890110. Deadline for receipt of applications is May 4, 2009, after which the selection process will commence. This competition will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Peterborough Kiwanis Music Festival

I just returned from adjudicating the Peterborough Kiwanis Music Festival. What a wonderful experience for me to hear and see all the well prepared young singers! Congratulations to the teachers of those singers - you are doing a great job!

I had lots of feedback and questions during the festival and most of them about some of the exercises that I used for getting resonance in the voice. Here is a list of things I have used in the past and/or various teachers have used for my voice (teachers include Mary Morrison at the University of Toronto, the late Dr. William McIver of the Eastman School of Music and Mary Lou Fallis in Toronto):

Start on the 5th of a descending 3 note triad and sustain the [i]: hungi -i -i

Sustain on one pitch: mmmm i- e-a-o-u

Descending 5 note scale singing [ogni] on each pitch (sounds like the [n] in "onion")
(This is directly out of Richard Miller's The Structure of Singing chapter on resonance)

Singing a descending 3 note triad with a "nasty" sound: [nia] [nia] [nia]

I would love to hear what other teachers are using as the more options we have the better we are as teachers!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Not to Your Jury/Festival Performance

During this time of jury and festival performances, a few words to the singers out there on what NOT to wear (as observed from behind the adjudicators table):

  • strappy sandles (I can see your toe tapping!)
  • bare legs
  • short skirts showing off your bare legs, bare knees and part of your bare thighs
  • heels that are too high and that you have never sang in before!
  • yoga pants
  • cleavage (!)
  • Ugg boots
  • ball gowns

And how about some physical things:

  • be careful not to do the breast stroke with your arms while you sing
  • make sure your hair is out of your eyes - long bangs are hot right now but we want to see your EYES!
  • make a point of checking the relaxation of your hands...I know I get into some pretty funny hand-tension moments!

The bottom line? Use a mirror to practice your performance, do a run through with the shoes that you are going to wear to perform and tell us a story!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Something to do this summer: Toronto Summer Music Festival

This just in from the Toronto Summer Music Festival:

July 21 – August 15, 2009
Festival passes ($120 - $300) and single tickets ($20 - $75) are available online

Renowned conductor and Artistic Director Agnes Grossmann is thrilled to present the fourth annual TORONTO SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL (TSMF) in Toronto this summer. The finest artists from the world of chamber music will come to the city from July 21 to August 14, 2009.

This year’s Festival theme, Eternal Stars, will highlight the performances from such distinguished artists as Menahem Pressler and Anton Kuerti, as well as star composers, three of whom have significant anniversaries this year – Joseph Haydn, Felix Mendelssohn, and Bohuslav Martinu. One of the biggest highlights of the Festival will be the return of perhaps the most outstanding chamber musician of our time, pianist Menahem Pressler....

... Another Toronto favourite group and Juno award-winners, the Gryphon Trio, will appear on August 11 with soprano in a programme of Scottish Folk Songs. Other works on the programme will include Hayden’s Trio in C Major and Mendelssohn’s Trio No. 2 in C Minor.

...Opera Extravaganza on Thursday, August 13, will feature some of the star alumni of the TSMF Academy Opera Studio, accompanied by the National Academy Orchestra, and conducted by TSMF Artistic Director Maestra Agnes Grossmann. The evening will be filled with some of the most beautiful and powerful operatic arias, duets, and ensembles.

Agnes Grossman said: "This summer we are celebrating two composers, who have been shining key figures in the evolution of the musical universe: Joseph Haydn - father of the Viennese classical period in the age of Enlightenment and Felix Mendelssohn - "the brightest light amongst composers of the Romantic Era" (Robert Schumann). Through our great performers, Toronto Summer Music's 2009 Festival, with this year's theme "Eternal Stars", will celebrate for our fourth season, stellar moments of musical interpretation."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Juno for Canadian Composer John Burge

His new name is JUNO JOHN and he is having a banner year! Last weekend, Canadian composer John Burge was awarded his first Juno for best classical composition for his piece entitled Flanders Fields Reflections. The director of the Queens University School of Music, Campus News writes:

Flanders Fields Reflections was commissioned by Sinfonia Toronto in 2005 for their 2005/06 season. "I was asked to fill about 30 minutes of a concert with a composition that would capture some aspect of their season's theme, War and Peace. It dawned on me that a perfect vehicle would be to musically interpret some of the important lines from John McCrae's famous poem, In Flanders Fields. The resultant musical work is in five movements and when people hear it, they seem drawn to the slowly unfolding sadness of the fourth movement which is titled, 'Loved and Were Loved.'"

Not to be one to stay still (at least from my observations), he is gearing up for the premier of his Symphony #2 with the Kingston Symphony and soprano Joni Henson on April 26. Even sooner than that (tonight in fact) Doreen Rao and the University of Toronto MacMillan Singers and Master Chorale and Queen's University Choral Ensemble will be performing his Mass for Prisoners of Conscious at Grant Hall. They have already performed it together in Toronto last week and this weekend head to Avery Fisher Hall in New York City for a performance on Sunday, April 5.

For a listing of his compositions, including those for voice, please visit the Canadian Music Centre.

Congratulations John!

From the voice of....