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Cathedral Bluffs Symphony vocal competition honours Clifford Poole's legacy of encouraging young talents

By Open Submission on March 12, 2013

Chantale Nurse (Andrea Hausmann photo)
Chantale Nurse, a previous Clifford Poole Vocal Competition finalist, is currently in the Atelier Lyrique of Opéra de Montréal (Andrea Hausmann photo).

We at the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra have been truly blessed with the wonderful young soloists who have competed in the CBSO Clifford Poole competition, which returns for singers on Saturday. Many of those who have performed with us have gone on to the major concert stages around the world.

Recent “graduates” of the competition include soprano Jenavieve Moore, who recently made her BBC début and is now singing on concert stages in Europe. Pianist Annie Zhou has gone on to perform with the Montreal, Minnesota, and Toronto Symphonies.

Soprano Chantale Nurse, who did her Mahler 2nd Symphony debut with us a few years ago, is now singing with the Atelier Lyrique of Opéra de Montréal and has recently returned from solo engagements in the Far East.

My only memory of Clifford Poole is from a hallway at the Royal Conservatory of Music, wearing a rather worn blue sweatshirt and well-used deck shoes.

What was also very memorable about this chance encounter was his kindly and helpful manner. I think I must have been around 16 at the time.

The encouragement of young musicians is one of the things that is most often remembered about Cliff. Indeed, in establishing the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra, one of his main objectives was to provide a venue for aspiring instrumentalists and singers to perform with a large ensemble.

More than a quarter-century after its founding, Cathedral Bluffs continues to follow this path, holding a bi-annual music competition for young musicians.

On March 16, the orchestra hosts the finals of the vocal competition, with 10 wonderful young operatic singers coming from all over Canada to compete in the final round with orchestra. These performers were selected last November from more than 60 applicants.

The Clifford Poole Vocal Competition is organized in the style of large European competitions, giving the soloists a taste of what to expect on the international stage.

It is rare that competitors get a chance to perform with a symphony orchestra. In addition to providing the experience of a juried competition, Cathedral Bluffs is also providing precious time working with a large ensemble.

It is essential that the soloists and conductor are on the same musical page. So, in preparation for the final round, each competitor had had a piano rehearsal with me. Working with singers one-on-one develops a better sense of ensemble and builds a sense of trust between soloist, conductor, and then the orchestra.

What has come out in the piano rehearsals is the high degree of professionalism and musicianship of all the competitors. I am sure this will make the jury’s decision that much more difficult.

Norman Reintamm and the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra.
Norman Reintamm and the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra.

Canada has a proud legacy of great singers that have gone on to great things on the international stage. We hope that the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra will continue to contribute its share, promoting our national talent and propelling it to the top ranks of the concert platform.

I am sure that Cliff would be most happy with this.

The finals take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 16 at the P.C. Ho Theatre of the Chinese Cultural Centre, 5183 Sheppard Ave E. in Toronto. Reserve tickets ($25 for seniors and students; $30 regular) by calling 416-879-5566 or emailing the box office at cbsoboxoffice-at-gmail.com.

For more on the competition, click here.

Norman Reintamm
Is principal conductor and artistic director of the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra


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