New art song contest at Festival of Chichester

One of the frustrations for singers is they spend so long training and auditioning with art songs, but are rarely required to perform them.


A new competition in Chichester will give art song lovers the platform they crave.

The competition, which it is hoped will become an annual event, has been organised by Chichester’s City Wall Productions as part of this year’s Festival of Chichester.

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A first round of auditions has already been held at the Bishop Otter campus of the University of Chichester, as a result of which eight singers have now gone forward to the competition night itself, June 27 in the Assembly Room, North Street.


But as City Wall creative director Lisa Pow says, there is still time for any last-minute auditionees to make it through. Ideally, the organisers would like to see ten singers competing on the night.

Lisa confirmed the organisers would accept entries right through to the day before the competition.

“Art song is a fascinating form of music. It is a stand-alone song or it can be part of a cycle, but art songs are not from opera or shows.

“They are not religious. They are secular, and they are usually settings of poems, usually with a piano, but sometimes with an orchestra.

“We will be doing it with a piano, and we are asking singers to bring their own accompanists.”

Lisa knows singers will leap at the chance: “We do art songs when we are training; we do art songs for exams and for recitals and for auditions, but once you have graduated, most of your work is in opera, and you find you just never get a chance to do art songs.”

City Wall Productions’ competition now creates that chance.

“The pleasure is that you are not required to embody a character that is pre-set. You can really go into your own interpretation. It stands alone. It’s not part of a story. You can put it in your own context. You can make it very personal. You can do it as yourself.

“Everyone has the ability to find a resonance in an art song, but obviously it makes it easier if you have experienced something similar! It you think of the German Lied, most of them are about love and loss... so if you haven’t loved and lost, that might be tricky!”

The format on the night will be a little like the BBC Cardiff Singer of the Year competition, Lisa says. “The singers will bring their own piano accompanist, and there will be a series of performances.

“They will do their first choice in front of a panel of judges and in front of the audience, and then there will be an interval during which there will be some entertainment just for fun.”

After that, just three of the competitors will be asked back to final performance, after which the winner will be announced. But just to keep up everyone’s interest, there will also be an audience prize and a best-dressed prize.

As for any last-minute advice, Lisa would say: “You have chosen the songs because you love them. It is time to show us how much you love them and make us love them, too.

“It’s really about championing your fave! People don’t get to choose their repertoire very often, so this is a very special opportunity! And I know we have some fabulous singers.”

Tickets 01243 813595.

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