RELEASE — In its first edition, Cantabile’s BIPOC Song Competition drew entries from across the country, with a wide range of talented composers from all walks of life submitting their inspired choral compositions. After a thorough deliberation process by a jury of Canada’s leading BIPOC choral artists, the winners and their compositions have been announced.
A First for Cantabile, A Vital Step for Choral Music
“Cantabile has always been known for its eclectic programming, with an emphasis on world music and works by living composers. But despite a wealth of talented composers, BIPOC composers are still grossly underrepresented in the choral repertory. We wanted to create a platform for new works to be discovered and stimulate a new wave of creation.”
In early 2020, with social discourse surging across Canada and the United States, the team at Cantabile Choirs knew that they had to play their part in supporting and advocating for BIPOC artists and addressing systemic inequalities in the choral arts. “In 2020 I started researching repertoire for a program I was curating for Black History Month,” says Artistic & Executive Director Geoffrey Sirett. “I was quite shocked to see how many African American spirituals were arranged by white composers. In fact, in many instances publishers failed to acknowledge the original Black authors entirely.”
An endowment established through a generous donation by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul made it possible to fund a new choral composition competition. “We were fortunate to have a jury of some of Canada’s leading BIPOC artists who supported this initiative from the very start” Sirett remarks. “We were thrilled to see the response from both applicants and supporters, and hope this will be the first installment of many.”
Shining a Light on the Inaugural Winners
“The purpose of this competition is to create opportunities to feature and support young BIPOC composers, and to increase representation of vocal/choral works by marginalized artists.”
“We can proudly say that the first edition of Cantabile’s BIPOC Song Competition was a great success and look forward to promoting the talented winners and their works,” Sirett claims. Below is a quick spotlight on each of the winning composers.
First Place (SATB), $3000 Prize and Premiere Performance by Cantabile Choirs – River Snow by Qiushi Jiang
Qiushi Jiang is a Chinese-Canadian composer with a passion for choral music. He studied composition at the University of Toronto under Abigail Richardson-Schulte, Alexander Rapoport, and Christos Hatzis. He was also a mentee in the CMC’s 2020 Choral Composer Mentorship Program and some of his recent works have been performed by Babεl Chorus and the University of Toronto Chamber Choir.
Second Place (SATB), $2000 Prize – ع القهوجي Ahwaji by Natalie Fasheh
Natalie Fasheh is a Palestinian-Jordanian artist. She works with singing communities of varying ages and lifestyles as a choir conductor, teaching artist, composer, and writer. She is a mezzo-soprano, and also has the pleasure of sharing Arabic music as a guest singer, and choral arranger. She is grateful to have been working with choirs across Canada through commissions of her traditional Levantine music arrangements, as well as new compositions of various styles. As a storyteller, Natalie’s compositions/arrangements are blueprints for singing journeys, exploring sociopolitical topics, and cultural understanding. Natalie is part of the 2022 Global Leaders Program, a graduate program in music, organizational leadership, and social impact.
Honourable Mention (SATB), $1000 Prize – I Wait by Roydon Tse
Originally from Hong Kong, award-winning Dr. Roydon Tse studied composition at the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto. He seeks to communicate to audiences from all backgrounds with music that reflects our lived experiences. Highlights include four performances of “Unrelenting Sorrow” by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, his “Yellow Crane Tower” for the Suzhou Symphony and China National Orchestra Chorus which was nationally broadcast on Chinese New Year, “Shikata Ga Nai” – a new chamber opera for the Atlanta Opera’s 96-hour project, and performances by the Brussels Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and members of the Paris Opera Orchestra. He has received six SOCAN Foundation Awards for composers, the Washington International Composition Prize, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award (2018), and the Johanna Metcalf Protégé Prize (2019).
Honourable Mention (Unison), $1000 Prize – Spring Song by Daniel Zhang
Daniel Zhang is a Chinese-Canadian musician currently in his third year pursuing a Bachelor’s of music at the McGill Schulich School of Music. Growing up, Daniel sang in multiple choirs, including the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston and the McGill Jazz choir, all of which helped nurture his love and appreciation for a wide variety of music.
Cantabile begins its 27th season in September of 2022 and is welcoming new voices of all ages and backgrounds to join their established community. With in-person rehearsals and dynamic live concerts to look forward to, Cantabile Choirs is ready for you and your family to raise your voices. Cantabile invites all interested parties to visit cantabilechoirs.ca for more information and/or to book an audition.
Founded in 1996 as a community choral organization, Cantabile has grown to offer a wide variety of musical education and performance opportunities for singers of all ages. Cantabile has been recognized in national and international competition for innovating programming and exquisite singing, and the choirs’ performances often attract sell-out audiences. Cantabile supports the larger artistic community through the commissioning of new works and creating multi-disciplinary collaborations with Canadian artists.
The organization aims to reduce barriers to the performing arts by providing bursaries to members in need of financial assistance, rehearsing and performing in accessible spaces, and ensuring an inclusive environment for individuals of all identities.