Since founding Canadian Art Song Project in 2011, Steven and I have been regularly asked for suggestions of Canadian art song repertoire by voice teachers, students and professionals at all levels in their careers.
There are some usual suspects that are always cited like: The Confession Stone by Robert Fleming (mezzo) or The Centred Passion by Derek Holman (baritone). There are the terrific Tanzer Lieder by Ana Sokolovic (soprano) and John Beckwith’s folk song arrangements Young Man from Canada (tenor).
But in the past few years there has been quite a significant output of new songs and a recognition of some older works that are being explored again. Here are a few recommendations to consider in addition to the old favourites:
Norbert Palej: Cloud Light
This collection of 14 songs is worth looking through to pick a small set from. Originally written for tenor, the voice range is wide enough that selections could be performed by Soprano, mezzo, tenor and baritone. The poetry is wonderful and is selected from Jan Zwicky’s collection Thirty-seven Small Songs & Thirteen Silences. This work has been recorded by Centrediscs and is available on Google Play, iTunes and other digital media outlets.
Derek Holman: The Four Seasons | The Lasting Spring
These two collections of songs by Derek Holman are wonderful settings of iconic British poets for piano and tenor. The Four Seasons is a full cycle that explores a wide range of colours and emotions, whereas The Lasting Spring is a collection of three songs that beautifully explore the power of music. The Four Seasons is available on the Centrediscs recording Ash Roses and The Lasting Spring is available on the Centrediscs recording A Play of Passion. (They are also available on Google Play, iTunes and other digital media outlets.)
Tawnie Olson: Three Settings of Poems by Lorri Neilsen Glenn
Composed for the 2016 winner of the JMC Maureen Forrester Prize, soprano Magali Simard-Galdès, this cycle took second prize in the 2018 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Art Song Competition. It is a wonderful cycle with strong influences drawn from bird song. This cycle was recorded and is available on Magali’s CD here (iTunes).
Healey Willan: Songs from the Healey Willan Archive, Vols. 1 and 2
Just released this spring for the first time, a new collection of 22 previously unpublished songs for voice and piano by Healey Willan. The songs range from simple to virtuosic and include repertoire for all voice types. We highly recommend purchasing these beautiful new scores from the Canadian Music Centre and diving into some of this unexplored repertoire. A recording of much of this repertoire is on its way from Centrediscs.
So, it is true that we are promoting some of the repertoire that we have had a hand in commissioning, recording and editing with this post, but they are all worth considering… along with much of the other repertoire that has come from CASP over the past several years. There is a lot of other great Canadian song repertoire out there that we are discovering each year and we encourage us all to continue promoting our songs along with the well known songs we all know and love.