New voices: TSMF's Art Song ReGENERATION

New voices: TSMF's Art Song ReGENERATION

Jenna Simeonov

With this past weekend’s Art Song reGENERATION, the Art Song Fellows of the Toronto Summer Music Academy gave their second of two recitals at Walter Hall. Eight singers and four pianists delivered short sets of polished song performances, prepared with the help of coaches Steven Philcox and Martin Katz and Finnish soprano and mentor Soile Isokoski.

Likely with the encouragement of Isokoski, each singer included at least one piece by a Scandinavian composer - still somewhat of a rarity among Canadian song recitals. For most of the singers, singing Finnish and Swedish songs was probably a new undertaking; by opting for lesser-known repertoire with linguistic and musical learning opportunities, the Art Song program of the TSMA shows great signs of being something process-oriented rather than product-oriented. I’m not convinced that the Finnish and Swedish songs were the best possible picks for some of the singers - some were luscious songs, but set too low for the higher voices - but they were a breath of fresh air.

It’s worth returning to the word “polished” to describe the concert. The singers and pianists had a mature ease about their performances, based in a lot of trust that well-executed music-making is enough onstage. Pianists Jared Tehse, Jack Oszewski, Chelsea Whitaker, and Amy Seulky Lee played with beautifully soloistic sounds, full of autonomous decisions and unafraid of overshadowing their singing counterparts.

The eight singers were all memorable and unique. Evanna Lai’s rich mezzo foreshadows an exciting career onstage; Victoria Marshall and Bahareh Poureslami gave wonderfully honest performances that made us lean in close; Joel Allison’s delivery of Wolf’s Michelangelo Lieder was grounded and dense. Some highlights included the boiling energy in Sydney Baedke’s coloratura soprano, and the arresting beauty in Adam Harris’ baritone - these are both young singers to keep an eye on.

Hearing final-product concerts like this second Art Song reGENERATION is a bit like looking through a keyhole, piquing plenty of curiosity about these singers’ work in a broader sense. Their performances spoke of a combination of thoughtful artists and excellent mentors.

The Toronto Summer Music Festival is ongoing through August 5th; click here for a full calendar of events.

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