Cantabile Choirs names inaugural BIPOC Song Competition winners

After launching its inaugural song competition aimed at highlighting the talents of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Colour (BIPOC) at the beginning of 2022, Kingston’s Cantabile Choirs has announced their winners.

The winners of the 2022 Cantabile Choirs BIPOC Song Competition are: (L to R) Natalie Fasheh with Ahwaji, Qiushi Jiang with River Snow, Roydon Tse with I Wait, and Daniel Zhang with Spring Song. Submitted photos.

At the time the competition was developed, Geoffrey Sirett, Artistic Director for Cantabile Choirs, spoke to the severe lack of music composed by BIPOC musicians.

“Cantabile has always been known for pretty eclectic programming, lots of world music, lots of contemporary music, and representation from a variety of cultures. And even so, I found it really difficult, going through scores, [to find] works by Black composers,” Sirrett explained in January.

“I was quite shocked to see how many African American spirituals were arranged by white composers. In fact, in many instances publishers failed to acknowledge the original Black authors entirely,” Sirett further expressed following the competition.

Divided into two categories, the competition accepted submissions from BIPOC composers across Canada. For the winner in the SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) category, a $3,000 grand prize was on offer, along with a publishing opportunity with Cypress Choral Music, and a premiere performance during a 2022 Cantabile Choirs concert. The prizes for the winner of the Unison (works created for voices in unison) category included $2,000 and a premiere performance during a 2022 Cantabile Grande concert. The competition also promised cash prizes for those achieving honourable mention. The competition and prizes were made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, according to Cantabile Choirs.

Due to the success of the inaugural competition, Sirett hinted at the event becoming an annual occurrence.

“We were fortunate to have a jury of some of Canada’s leading BIPOC artists who supported this initiative from the very start” Sirett said in a press release on Monday, Jul. 18. 2022.

“We were thrilled to see the response from both applicants and supporters, and hope this will be the first installment of many.” 

Bringing it all back to the objective of the competition, Sirett was eager to “shine a spotlight” on the inaugural winners.

Inaugural Cantabile Choirs BIPOC Song Competition winners

Qiushi Jiang.

First Place (SATB), $3000 Prize and Premiere Performance by Cantabile Choirs – River Snow by Qiushi Jiang

Qiushi Jiang is a Chinese-Canadian composer with a passion for choral music. He studied composition at the University of Toronto under Abigail Richardson-Schulte, Alexander Rapoport, and Christos Hatzis. He was also a mentee in the CMC’s 2020 Choral Composer Mentorship Program and some of his recent works have been performed by Bab?l Chorus and the University of Toronto Chamber Choir. 

Natalie Fasheh.

Second Place (SATB), $2000 Prize – Ahwaji by Natalie Fasheh

Natalie Fasheh is a Palestinian-Jordanian artist. She works with singing communities of varying ages and lifestyles as a choir conductor, teaching artist, composer, and writer. She is a mezzo-soprano, and also has the pleasure of sharing Arabic music as a guest singer, and choral arranger. She is grateful to have been working with choirs across Canada through commissions of her traditional Levantine music arrangements, as well as new compositions of various styles. As a storyteller, Natalie’s compositions/arrangements are blueprints for singing journeys, exploring sociopolitical topics, and cultural understanding. Natalie is part of the 2022 Global Leaders Program, a graduate program in music, organizational leadership, and social impact. 

Dr. Roydon Tse.

Honourable Mention (SATB), $1000 Prize – I Wait by Roydon Tse 

Originally from Hong Kong, award-winning Dr. Roydon Tse studied composition at the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto. He seeks to communicate to audiences from all backgrounds with music that reflects our lived experiences. Highlights include four performances of “Unrelenting Sorrow” by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, his “Yellow Crane Tower” for the Suzhou Symphony and China National Orchestra Chorus which was nationally broadcast on Chinese New Year, “Shikata Ga Nai” – a new chamber opera for the Atlanta Opera’s 96-hour project, and performances by the Brussels Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and members of the Paris Opera Orchestra. He has received six SOCAN Foundation Awards for composers, the Washington International Composition Prize, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award (2018), and the Johanna Metcalf Protégé Prize (2019). 

Daniel Zhang.

Honourable Mention (Unison), $1000 Prize – Spring Song by Daniel Zhang 

Daniel Zhang is a Chinese-Canadian musician currently in his third year pursuing a Bachelor’s of music at the McGill Schulich School of Music. Growing up, Daniel sang in multiple choirs, including the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston and the McGill Jazz choir, all of which helped nurture his love and appreciation for a wide variety of music.

“We can proudly say that the first edition of Cantabile’s BIPOC Song Competition was a great success and look forward to promoting the talented winners and their works,” Sirett concluded.

For more information, visit the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston website.

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