York students create a joyful noise

York music students dominated two recent competitions for classical voice, snapping up first and second place at the regional level and numerous awards at the local level, including an opera trophy for best performance.

In late November, York music student, soprano Vania Chan, added another award to her bulging trophy case and another honour to her résume. She placed first in the fourth-year women’s category at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) district auditions held in London, Ont. NATS, brought together a large field of talented competitors from across Ontario.

Chan dazzled the judges with her performance of Olympia’s aria from Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann and a selection of art songs: Hugo Wolf’s "Verschwiegene Liebe", "Si mes vers avaient des ailes" by French composer Reynaldo Hahn, and "To those who come with open hearts" from Two Songs of Farewell by Canadian composer Keith Bissell.

The adjudicators were lavish in their praise of Chan’s performance, citing her "sensitive musicianship", "crystal-clear tone", "commanding presence" and "lovely, effortless singing".

Right: Vania Chan

Chan’s win at NATS was just the latest in a steady stream of honours garnered by this outstanding young singer. Earlier this year, she took first place at the Kiwanis Music Festival of Greater Toronto, winning the coveted Silver Tray. Other recent vocal triumphs include the Kiwanis Club of Toronto Foundation Scholarship and first place in the Ontario chapter of the NATS auditions in 2005. In 2004, she was a double winner at the Newmarket Voice Festival, picking up a trophy and a scholarship for Best Female Vocalist.

Chan’s NATS award entitles her to go on to compete at the regional auditions in the United States in March. In the meantime, she is joining a professional cast of star vocalists in the Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, running Dec. 27 to Jan. 7 at the Jane Mallett Theatre in downtown Toronto.

The NATS judges also lauded Chan’s classmate, Vanessa Lanch, awarding her second place in the fourth-year women’s category. She was commended for her expressiveness, dramatic involvement and "lovely" vocal line in her performances of a Mozart aria and songs by Debussy, Strauss and Canadian composer Jean Coulthard.

The following week, Lanch was honoured at the Newmarket Voice Festival, where she won a Ron Bonham Scholarship and the Hilda Langsford Memorial Scholarship.

Lanch was joined in the line-up of award winners at the Newmarket festival by seven other York music students:

  • Soprano Michelle Danese took home the Opera Trophy for Best Performance.
  • Soprano Hillary Coote won both the prestigious Newmarket Voice Festival Senior Scholarship, valued at $1,000, and the Ron Adams Scholarship for a senior-level vocalist in the category for best diction in a sacred solo class.
  • Mezzo-soprano Sonia Cosentino was awarded the Karl Rohowsky Memorial Scholarship in the category of concert song or foreign language class.
  • Baritone Ori Dagan and soprano Ana Luisa Santo each won a Ron Bonham Scholarship in the open class category.
  • Mezzo-soprano Leigh-Anne Martin’s talents yielded the Catherine Robbin Scholarship in the senior classical category for most emotionally-moving performance.
  • Mezzo-soprano Laura Kelly won the Kaptyn Family Scholarship in the general category.

Above: Ori Dagan (left), Hillary Coote, Sonia Cosentino,
Michelle Danese, Laura Kelly, Vanessa Lanch, Catherine Robbin
and Raisa Nakhmanovich

Most of York’s award winners were invited to perform in the Newmarket Voice Festival’s Concert of the Stars on Nov. 24, where the trophies and scholarships were presented.

Internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Catherine Robbin, the Chair of York’s Music Department and head of the classical vocal performance program, commended the young singers on their excellent showing. "These are challenging competitions, and it’s wonderful to see our students doing so well," she said. "We’re so proud of them."

In addition to Robbin, instructors in York’s classical vocal performance program are Norma Burrowes, Delia Wallis, Stephanie Bogle, Colin Ainsworth, Michael Donovan, Karen Rymal and Janet Obermeyer. 

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.