In my busyness, I have been remiss in failing to mention my wonderful students’ many accomplishments this year. I hope I will not omit any of these successes in this post. First, I would like to congratulate Jodie Cadsby on winning first in her vocal class at the Davenport Music Festival. It is always a thrill as a teacher to step away from the studio and the piano and become audience member. I was absolutely blow away by the beauty, power, and maturity in Jodie’s voice, which was also duly noted and commended by the adjudicator. Jodie has worked incredibly hard the two years she has studied with me, and I have seen incredible development in her as a singer and student; I could not be any more thrilled than I am for Jodie. Another exciting win was for Annika Chisholm, who won an award for student showing the most development and improvement at the Timothy Eaton Memorial Choir School. Annika has also studied with me for two years and I have witnessed astonishing improvement in her vocal range (perhaps a budding coloratura here!) and a maturity in her commitment to music. Annika is so very deserving of this award; congratulations Annika! Last but certainly not least, my student Tricia Postle has had an incredibly exciting year with her medieval ensemble. They were invited to a one month residency at the prestigious Banff Centre for the Arts, for which they also received full scholarship. Then, they will be traveling to Spain for three weeks this summer for musical studies and performances, an endeavour which is being supported by the Canadian Arts Council. I could not be any more proud of all of my students and their hard work.
Wow, what a busy, eventful, and fruitful season it has been! Unfortunately, this has resulted in my neglecting to write any updates for quite some time now. I have enjoyed work-related travel to many parts of the world, including Jamaica, Germany, China, Iceland (okay… so this was for a little post-tour fun…), Regina on two occasions, Moosomin and Bengough (two small towns in Saskatchewan, and Timmins (small city in northern Ontario). I have been afforded the opportunity to perform in four continents and adjudicate for the Saskatchewan Music Festival. Now that I am at the end of my season, I look forward to a lighter summer and an exciting 2015/2016 season!
What an incredible adventure I have just experienced. I was so fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to travel to beautiful Jamaica with my good friend and tenor, Paul Williamson. We were invited by the St. Andrew Parish Foundation to take part in their 350 year anniversary celebration and fundraiser. I am astounded by the generosity of this Foundation and all of its committee members. I witnessed their work firsthand when we visited St. Andrew Settlement in Majesty Gardens, one of Kingston’s most destitute communities. This facility includes a school, senior care facility, soup kitchen, medical and dental facilities, and a chapel. We had the opportunity to meet many of the children, and words cannot describe the surge of emotion I felt when four beautiful little girls encircled me and smothered me with hugs and kisses. It struck me how these beautiful children had not yet been robbed of their innocence and I felt sad and ashamed that many enjoy such prosperity in Canada, while others are unjustly rendered the victims of poverty and marginalization. Paul and I came out of this experience forever changed and compelled to do our part to impact the lives of these children, knowing the joy, optimism, and opportunity music may bring to their lives. It is our hope that we will make a return visit to work with the children in music workshops or other projects… stay tuned…
I was astounded by the hospitality, generosity, and kindness bestowed upon me by the Jamaican people. From Paul’s family, to every member of the St. Andrew Foundation committee, to the staff of the Edna Manley Music College, to Valerie Facey, to complete strangers, everyone made me feel, not only comfortable, but as though I had been adopted as a fellow Jamaican. The organization of the committee was astounding and the events were easily the most beautiful, creative, and well executed events at which I have ever performed. To the people of Jamaica: thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Now, to outline our busy ten days in Jamaica… there is no possible way I can summarise each and every event without writing a saga, but suffice it to say that I sampled and loved every Jamaican food with which I was presented, made wonderful new friends, sight-saw in both Kingston and along the north coast, and I was fortunate enough to experience “real Jamaica”, from the destitute to the lavish, rather than from the “privileged perch” of a resort. After being greeted by the wonderful Dr. Newman and Mr. Briggs, part of our time was spent with the warm and welcoming Williamson family on the outskirts of Kingston, then we were ushered to the beautiful Pegasus Hotel in downtown Kingston, and finally we were escorted to Valerie Facey’s stunning estate in the country near Ocho Rios.
Our first appearance was on TVJ’s “Smile Jamaica” for an interview. This is without doubt the easiest, most relaxed, and most enjoyable interview I have ever given. As I soon found out, EVERYONE in Jamaica watches this morning show; for the remaining 10 days, both Paul and I felt like celebrities as we were recognized by people from the south to north coast. We enjoyed a series of four hour rehearsals with the talented pianist, Roger Williams, who is also director of Edna Manley College. I became fast friends with him and fellow singer/voice teacher, Lori. The rehearsals flew by as they were filled with fun and interrupted by bouts of laughter. We were then invited to an elegant affair at the Lord Bishop of Jamaica’s Lodge. It included cocktails, dinner, and speeches by notable members of the Anglican diocese of Jamaica and the West Indies, as well as government officials and dignitaries, members of the St. Andrew Foundation, and special guests. We were honoured to be in attendance. We also had the opportunity to sing arias from Samuel Felsted’s Jonah at St. Andrew Parish’s 350th Anniversary Service. What an honour to be in attendance with the Archbishop of the West Indies, as well as dignitaries and government officials from well over ten countries in the Caribbean and Central America. We were shocked and honoured to be acknowledged as special guests at this celebration; we truly did not expect this. Now, I can not proceed without mentioning the special significance of Samuel Felsted. He was Jamaica’s very first classical composer, dating back to the 18th century, and Jonah was first performed in St. Andrew’s in 1775. This should further exemplify Jamaica’s rich artistic history. Paul and I also gave a masterclass at Kingston’s Edna Manley College. Not only was I impressed by the talent of the students who sang, but most of all by their enthusiasm and genuine passion for music. Here lies a group of kids who live and breathe what they do, and who do not take for granted the amazing opportunity to give the gift of music – fellow Canadians, there is a lot we can learn from these people! We also gave a Q&A and, finally, performed one of our scenes from L’elisir d’amore. They were thrilled and delighted, and we received thunderous applause and a standing ovation!
But, the entire week led up to our concert in the Pegasus Hotel’s stunning ballroom. I am in awe of what the committee created – from the stunning tickets, programmes, and posters, to the press, photogoprahers, videographers, and television appearances, to our faces on the jumbotron in downtown Kingston (seeing a very big you on a huge screen is a very surreal experience, especially for an introverted Canadian such as myself!), to the incredible sound, tech, and lighting crew, to the beautiful, acoustic-enhancing stage that was built in a matter of hours… I could go on forever! The performance was preceded by cocktails and then Paul, Roger, and I made our way to the stage. We centred our performance around scenes and duets from Lucia di Lammermoor, L’elisir d’amore, Rigoletto, La Bohème, Die Fledermaus, Westside Story, and ended with local folksong arrangements by Jamaica’s own Peter Ashbourne. And, yes, I sang two songs in Patois. Thank goodness for Paul and Roger, who patiently coached me in Patois diction (or is it Patawa??). The audience seemed to love my rendition – I’m not sure if they found a pasty white Canadian girl of Dutch heritage singing in patois amusing or cute, or if they found my willingness to embrace their local culture endearing… perhaps a bit of both.
Following a busy week in Kingston, we made our way up to the Facey estate. What an incredible piece of Heaven this was. Some of the buildings dated back to the 17th century, the only things in sight were lush, green rolling hills and the azure of the Caribbean Sea, the only sounds to be heard were the chirping of crickets and croaking of frogs, and the only company to be had was the gracious and hospitable Valerie, her family, the farm employees, and Marjan, the Dutch lady with whom I bonded over all things Dutch. Friendships were made, stimulating conversation was engaged in, sumptuous meals were consumed, and we were pampered through and through. We were treated to massages at Valerie’s spa as well as a day at an exclusive resort in Ocho Rios.
Jamaica, you amaze me, and you will forever remain in my heart. “Walk good” and “Inna di likkle bit”!
After a successful recording session I have posted 5 new songs to my Audio Link. Please feel free to listen and enjoy!
In August, I received an unexpected phone call from a producer of the Women’s Radio Network, asking if I would be interested in being a guest on their Open Forum show with host Sonya Williams. Upon learning that part of the online radio’s mandate is to empower women and give them a voice, I eagerly accepted. To listen to my interview, please proceed to the Morning Show on September 19, 2014. My interview can be found at 157:4.
It is hard to fathom that someone as effervescent as Amy is battling leukaemia and recently discovered metastases. If you have had the pleasure of meeting Amy, you will know her to be funny, thoughtful, and exceptionally talented. If you have not met her, consider that this could be your sister, friend, partner, or daughter. She is a self-employed actress, which means she has no sick leave and is unable to work at this time. Additionally, her parents live and work in Vancouver, so it is very important that they can make regular trips to Toronto to visit her. Please visit the ‘Get Well Amy Rally’ on indiegogo to contribute.
Tune in to Women’s Radio Network on Friday, September 19th at 12:48pm EST, as I’m going to be one of the guests on the show. The station is all about empowering women so, needless to say, I was thrilled to receive the invitation. Go to www.wrnw1.com to listen live!
It’s always hugely fulfilling as a teacher when you witness your students experience that “aha” moment. It is also a proud moment when you see the fruits of their labour rewarded. After months of drilling and pages upon pages of assignments, one of my students went in for her Royal Conservatory advanced theory exam. I’m happy to congratulate her on her formidable mark of 94%! Proud Teacher Post, indeed!
Please stay tuned for upcoming updates to my website. I will be posting my very exciting 2014/2015 Season shortly, as well as some new recordings!
I am very excited to be joining the Heliconian Club as a new member. I look forward to being a part of this energetic and committed group of women who so enthusiastically contribute to Toronto’s arts community. For more information on this thriving community and all of its many events, please go to www.heliconianclub.org.
Last weekend, I was thrilled to attend the Toronto Concert Orchestra’s production of “Brundibar”, an opera written about children, for children. This opera, composed by the Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása, was first performed at a Jewish orphanage in Prague for children who were separated from their parents during the war. Through the symbolic telling of fairy tales, there is a theme of working together so that justice may prevail, and the helpless may overcome tyranny. This is an important story to tell, and a large group of children and the orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Kerry Stratton, did a formidable job of bringing the story to life. I was particularly delighted to witness one of my students, Jacqueline Levitan, perform so beautifully in the lead role of Annette. May this be the first of many children’s operas to grace Toronto’s stage!
I look forward to joining a wonderful roster of adjudicators next weekend at the NATS Ontario annual auditions, taking place this year at the University of Western Ontario. I also wish my participating students the best of luck in their auditions!
I am very excited to be joining the teaching roster of Timothy Eaton Memorial Church’s Choir School. I look forward to working with a team of energetic and talented music teachers as we inspire and nurture the next generation of musicians.
I am continuing to develop my website with the help of my wonderful web designer at Ludwig Designs. I have added to the teaching section, including an area with student testimonials. Current students: Please check the “student area” (password protected) for updates to monthly schedules, recital announcements, student resources on the web, and much more!
It has been a wonderful summer full of study, including a French conversation course through the Alliance Française, as well as the Summer Summit for music teachers through the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. I look forward to this upcoming season with many exciting engagements, projects, and collaborations. Please check back for regular updates!
Welcome to the new website of Canadian soprano Allison Cecilia Arends! Please check back routinely for further updates on Allison’s musical endeavours.