Updated: Aug 1
I am absolutely delighted to announce I am a first prize winner of the 'George Shirley Vocal Competition' 2022 (International Category). The competition is held annually at the University of Michigan, USA and is named after its founder, the world-renowned tenor, George Shirley.
The George Shirley Vocal Competition promotes the preservation of the African American Art Song and Operatic Aria repertoire and the first competition was held in Detroit, Michigan in 2011. The competition comprises of four vocal divisions; 'High School', 'Collegiate', 'Pre-Professional' and 'International' and also contains an 'African American Composers' division. It is the first year the competition has expanded outside of the US, and it was a pleasure to participate and to receive useful feedback from excellent industry professionals.
For the preliminary round of the competition, I submitted two audio/visual recordings - the spiritual 'Give Me Jesus' arranged by Hall Johnson and the art song 'Violin' by Maria Thompson-Corley. Fortunately, I progressed to the live final (streamed via Zoom from the University of Michigan) on May 21st, 2022. During the final, my performance of Thompson-Corley's 'Violin' was played to the audience and jury alongside submissions by other finalists before the winners announcement.
I would like to thank Maria Thompson-Corley (Composer) for her help and advice on performing her stunning piece 'Violin'. The piece forms part of her song cycle 'Grasping Water' which I would advise everyone to check out! To find out more about Maria, please find her biography below:
"Maria Thompson Corley (BM, University of Alberta; MM, DMA, The Juilliard School) has
appeared as a solo and collaborative pianist in Canada, the United States, Central
America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Europe. Her engagements as a soloist with
orchestra include the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Gunther
Schuller. She and cellist Sara Male formed Duo Chiaroscuro in 2011; among their
passions is performing concerts for people whose special needs prevent strict
observance of concert protocols. Dr. Corley has recorded for; Naxos, Albany,
Parma, MSR Classics, and independent labels. Excerpts from her discs have been
featured on radio and digital platforms, nationally and internationally. Her recordings of
several pieces from Valerie Capers’ Portraits in Jazz was included in the HBO special,
“Kabreeyah’s Salad Days,” and her recording of Leslie Adams’s “Etude in C Sharp
Minor” was included in award-winning director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s
documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.
A sought-after composer, her debut opera, The Sky Where You Are (Jenny O’Connell,
librettist) was part of the award-winning Decameron Opera Coalition’s Tales from a Safe
Distance; her second opera, The Place (Sandra Oyinloye, librettist) was included in
DOC’s subsequent production, Heroes. In 2021, she was a co-recipient, with librettist
Diana Solomon-Glover, of Opera America’s IDEA grant for The Boy from Troy, about civil
rights icon John Lewis. Her solo piano piece, “Lucid Dreaming,” was a semi-finalist in the
2021 international Fidelio competition and “Helicity,” a piece for trumpet and piano, won
the instrumental portion of the 2021 international ANSONIA competition. Her songs and
arrangements are published in several anthologies. Her works have been added to
several university curricula as well as being performed, commissioned and recorded by
renowned musicians, nationally and internationally."
George Shirley - Founder of GSVC, International Tenor, Teacher and Lecturer
"One of America’s most versatile tenors and enlightened musicians, George Shirley is in demand nationally and internationally as performer, teacher, and lecturer. He has won international acclaim for his performances with the Metropolitan Opera, and with major opera houses and festivals in England, Germany, Austria, Argentina, the Netherlands, Monte Carlo, Scotland, Italy, Japan, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Santa Fe, and Detroit, among others. One of America’s most versatile tenors and enlightened musicians, George Shirley is in demand nationally and internationally as performer, teacher, and lecturer. He has won international acclaim for his performances with the Metropolitan Opera, and with major opera houses and festivals in England, Germany, Austria, Argentina, the Netherlands, Monte Carlo, Scotland, Italy, Japan, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Santa Fe, and Detroit, among others." (Read more)
Unfortunately, I did not meet George Shirley during the 'International Division' sector of the competition, however I find myself truly inspired by his incredible work. I would like to encourage my vocalist friends both in the UK and abroad to research Mr. Shirley, his fantastic competition and to further explore and program works by composers of African heritage.
RNCM Research Forum - 'Exploding the Canon and Beyond' with Michael Harper
I would also like to say a special thank you to the wonderful Michael Harper (Countertenor and RNCM vocal tutor) for introducing me to the music of Maria Thompson-Corley and for kickstarting my research into vocal works by composers of African heritage.
Michael has done a fantastic job of researching, collecting, performing and teaching art songs by composers of African Heritage and I have learned a great deal through participating in the first 'William's Howard Memorial Prize' competition (devised by Michael himself) and the 'RNCM Research forum 'Exploding the Canon and Beyond'' (in which Michael discussed his "focus on the search for art songs by composers of African heritage connected to Britain through colonialism and post-colonial independence". For this public seminar, I again performed Thompson-Corley's wonderful 'Violin'.
The Chester Competitive Festival of Performing Arts 2022
On May 7th 2022, I participated in the 'Chester Competitive Festival of Performing Arts' at the King's School, Chester. I am thrilled to announce that I am the winner of the 'Lieder', 'French Song', 'Oratorio' and 'Vocal Solo' categories! Thank you very much to all at 'CCFPA' for a wonderful day of music making and for the opportunity to receive invaluable vocal advice from renowned opera singer, Neil Jenkins!
Thank you so much for continuing to support me on my operatic journey!
Watch this space!