Two fine Toronto musicians have taken it upon themselves to spur a new wave of collaboration and creativity to secure the future of art song in this country by founding the Canadian Art Song Project.
At its launch this afternoon at a private gathering, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and collaborative pianist, vocal coach and University of Toronto professor Steven Philcox spoke eloquently about their passion for art song, how it is an essential building block in feeding other forms, such as opera, and how it is time to encourage new collaborations between composers, poets, performers and patrons.
Wiliford said the duo had initially considered a lose, co-operative arrangement, but quickly realised that they needed a solid core to make sure that this is going to work. So the Project received a proper launch today, with a board of directors, and charitable, not-for-profit status.
The organizers want the project to foster new works, provide a central resource for existing art song, encourage singers to dip into existing repertoire, and encourage concert presenters to feature quality Canadian content.
Wiliford honoured the past by singing two songs by Srul Irving Glick. Soprano Carla Huhtanen pointed toward the future by premiering a fragment of Sewing the Earthworm, a new work commissioned by the Project from Montreal composer Brian Harman and writer David Brock.
Philcox revealed that the next commission has just been arranged, involving a collaboration between composer James Rolfe, writer André Alexis and baritone Brett Polegato, for a premiere sometime in 2013.
Wiliford said, not jokingly, that one of the benefits of fostering the art and craft of art song should also help widen the pool of composers who actually know how to write for the human voice, which will have spillover benefits in the world of opera.
The first public event associated with the Canadian Art Song Project is a free recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on March 6 at noon. It will feature Huhtanen alongside mezzo Krisztina Szabó, accompanied by Philcox.
For more information on the Canadian Art Song Project, click here.
Here, from the great wave of composers from the flowering of indigenous Canadian culture in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s is Jean Coulthard’s “What Rapture Could I take,” sung by tenor James O’Farrell,a ccompanied by Sonya Sweeny: