Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Introducing the Opera Jeunesse Blog

In the Toronto suburb of Oakville, Artistic Director Madeline Young is in the process of starting up an opera company from scratch. Her new blog will track the progress of Opera Jeunesse as she builds an audience, tracks down financing, and finds new and clever ways of advertising in the process of bringing North America's fastest growing art form to this affluent community known to be a tough nut to crack for arts groups.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Brooks Smith 1989 interview in Stereophile

In 1989 legendary pianist Brooks Smith made a remarkable reference-quality recording with flutist Gary Woodward on the Stereophile label. Richard Lehnert's interview with Brooks Smith from the September 1989 issue of Stereophile is lovingly preserved on their web site. Here are some highlights:

Lehnert: What was it like to work with Heifetz?
Smith: Wonderful, but he was very demanding. He was a very good pianist, which surprised me, and was very critical of my playing, as he was of his own—as he was of everyone's.

Lehnert: How do you see your role as an accompanist, which some consider a thankless job?
Smith: I've never had anything against helping others put on a good performance, nor have I ever felt slighted in playing the role of an accompanist.
Lehnert: But surely you've been in situations where you've had to play music you don't at all like...?
Smith: Yes, that's true. But as an accompanist, it's part of your job to make it all sound good.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Resources Added

I've just added some additional off-site resources of interest to the collaborative pianist, including the Wikipedia entry on the International Phonetic Alphabet, the Lieder and Art Song Texts Page, OperaResource and the Canadian Music Centre.

Speaking of Wikipedia, the world's largest free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, there is an entry on Accompaniment but nothing on Collaborative Piano. Anyone can add the entry--remember Wikipedia is in fact a collaborative encyclopedia...

Arni Ibsen's Accompanist Poem

Arni Ibsen, Icelandic poet and playwright, has written a poem entitled the accompanist, encapsulating a moment from a voice recital, from the Winter 2000 Scandinavian Review, translated from the Icelandic by Petur Knutsson.

Here is an excerpt:

Not even
the studied ease
of the English butler.
His fingers
touch - they
flicker over the black and white bricks
of the keyboard
while the spread-eagled songstress
stands open-mouthed
in the pool
of light.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Program for Nov. 30 recital with Ashley Bedard

Here is the program for the recital I will be playing with soprano Ashley Bedard on Nov. 30.

Ashley Bedard, soprano
Christopher Foley, piano
Princess Margaret Hospital Mezzanine
610 University Avenue
12pm Nov. 30
Free Admission
  • Vilja from Die Lustige Witwe (Lehar)
  • Tanto Bella, L'ultima ebrezza (Respighi)
  • She's Like the Swallow (Ridout), Sweet Polly Oliver, and O Waly, Waly (Britten)
  • Sonntag, Von ewiger Liebe (Brahms), and Caecilie (R. Strauss)
  • Song to the Moon from Russalka (Dvorak)
  • New Era Rag (J. Scott)
  • Foolish Heart, Buddy on the Nightshift (Weill)
  • You'll Never Walk Alone from Carousel (Rogers and Hammerstein)

There will be no programs for the recital, so we will be introducing the music as we go.

Friday, November 25, 2005

NATS Ontario Chapter Auditions Tomorrow

On Saturday, November 26, the NATS Ontario Chapter Auditions will run from 11am to 6pm at the Edward Johnson Building of the University of Toronto, as noted previously. This will be an excellent place to see young emerging singers from the southern Ontario area perform. This year's auditions will also feature two new musical theatre classes.

NATS Ontario members: Don't forget the November Annual General Meeting, which begins at 9:30am.

Link to NATS Ontario Chapter

Thursday, November 24, 2005


The Department of Canadian Heritage yesterday announced that it will be nearly doubling its budget for the Canada Council for the Arts from $151 million to $300 million incrementally over three years.

Link to Globe and Mail article
Link to CBC story
Link to Canadian Heritage news release

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wolfram Rieger interview in Music & Vision

In the online classical music magazine Music & Vision, Tess Crebbin wrote an excellent article entitled Diving into the Music featuring an interview with German pianist and coach Wolfram Rieger. Here is a short excerpt:

TC: Now I understand why you said this is not a job for people who cannot be team players.

WR: A big part of this job is about intuitively knowing what the singer is going to do, so you need a certain amount of sensitivity, to pick up on even the most minute of problems. You have to have good hearing, also. This is not
about the theory-related, analytical sense of hearing that you need in music theory classes. Our kind of hearing goes on at a human-to-human level. You notice: oops, this is going in a direction it shouldn't be going, and then you jump in and do your bit. It becomes a problem if you simply don't notice things like that going on.

The Aria Frequency List

Once again, Kim Witman's Wolf Trap 2006 blog has come up with some fascinating information, this time a list of the frequency of arias that have been offered for the Wolf Trap auditions, subdivided by voice type.

Here are the most offered arias from the list:

Ach, ich fuhl's

Must the Winter Come so Soon
Sein wir wieder gut
Smanie implacabili
Va, laisse couler mes larmes

Dies Bildniss

Hai gia vinta la causa

Bass & Bass-Baritone
I'm a Lonely Man, Susannah
Aprite un po'
O du mein holder Abenstern

Of course, merely offering the most popular of arias in an audition is no guarantee of success, nor is offering unknown arias. What lists cannot tell for individual singers is how appropriate certain arias can be for once's voice, temperament, age, and goals. Singers I have worked with have found audition success (or lack thereof) with both the most conservative of arias and with brilliant but unknown arias.

What I find most fascinating in the Aria Frequency List is looking down the list at the not-so-well-known arias, many of which will definitely be on my list of things to discover.


Perhaps another type of list for someone to compile would be a list of arias offered by singers that actually are hired by companies, so that one can see which arias are the ones with the highest success rates.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ensemble Humor

Here are some Rules for Ensemble Playing from the Witty Quotes Haven:

1. A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with authority is an interpretation.
2. Carefully tune your instrument before playing. That way you can play out of tune
all night with a clear conscience.
3. Stop at every repeat sign, and discuss in detail whether to take the repeat. The audience will love this a lot!
4. Markings for slurs, dynamics and ornaments should not be observed. They are only there to embellish the score.
5. A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.
6. If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it's easy, speed it up. Everything will work itself out in the end.
7. The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note (and vice versa).
8. Everyone should play the same piece.
9. If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, "I think we should tune."
10. Strive to get the maximum NPS (notes per second). That way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.
11. Take your time turning pages.
12. Keep your fingering chart handy. You can always catch up with the others.
13. If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of your partners.
14. Happy are those who have not perfect pitch, for the kingdom of music is theirs.
15. If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be very interested.
16. When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes you have left. If you have notes left over, please play them on the way home.
17. If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.

Happy St. Cecilia's Day

Today is the feastday of St. Cecilia, patroness of music. May the Muse visit all of us and bring our musical endeavors to fruition.

"Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire."

from Anthem to St. Cecilia by W.H. Auden

More on St. Cecilia and the musical traditions and tributes associated with her.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Degree and Diploma Programs in Collaborative Piano

NOTE: I am currently in the process of adding links to program information at each of these schools in alphabetical order. Because I simply haven't got time to keep track of the people teaching at nearly 100 institutions, I will be initially listing only program info and institutional links. If you are an administrator or faculty member at one of these schools and would like to have up-to-date faculty information (or any additional information) listed, either leave a comment or email me at collaborativepiano [at] gmail dot com and I would be glad to include it in your school's posting.

First of all, this list is not complete. Since the field of collaborative piano is a constantly growing field, there are an ever-increasing number of programs available, only some of which have web documentation. The programs at the schools below are generally listed as being in Collaborative Piano, Piano Accompanying, Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music, Piano Chamber Music, Vocal Opera Coaching, or Piano Accompaniment. If you have any schools to add to the list, feel free to either post a comment or email me. This list will be constantly updated as new information is gleaned.

University of Arizona
Arizona State University
Arkansas State University
Stephen F. Austin State University
Azusa Pacific University
Ball State University
Baylor University
Belhaven University
Bellarmine University
Musikschule Konservatorium Bern
The Boston Conservatory
Boston University
Bowling Green State University
Brandon University
University of British Columbia
California Institute of the Arts
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Irvine
California State University-Fullerton
California State University-Northridge
Carnegie Mellon University
Catholic University of America
Chapman University
University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Cleveland Institute of Music
University of Colorado at Boulder
Duquesne University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastman School of Music
Florida State University
Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Hartt School of Music
Hastings College
Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts
Houghton College
The University of Houston
Howard Payne University
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Illinois State University
Ithaca College
The Juilliard School
The University of Kansas
Longy School of Music
Louisiana State University
Lynn University
Manhattan School of Music
University of Manitoa
Mannes College
Mansfield University
University of Maryland-College Park
Catholic University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts Amherst
McGill University
University of Memphis
Mercer University
University of Michigan
Michigan State University
Middle Tennessee State University
University of Minnesota
Mississippi College
University of Missouri-Columbia
National Taiwan Normal University
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
New England Conservatory
University of New Mexico
The State University of New York at Fredonia
New York University
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
University of North Texas
University of Northern Iowa
Northern Arizona University
The University of Northern Colorado
Northern Illinois University
Northwestern University
Notre Dame de Namur University
Ohio University
Oklahoma City University
University of Oregon
Peabody Conservatory of Music
Radford University
Rice University
Royal Academy of Music
Royal College
Royal Irish Academy of Music
Royal Northern College
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Rutgers University
San Fransisco Conservatory of Music
University of Saskatchewan
Shenendoah University
University of South Alabama
University of South Carolina
University of South Dakota
University of Southern California
University of Southern Mississippi
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
University of Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Tainan National University of the Arts
Temple University
University of Tennessee-Knoxville
University of Texas-Austin
Texas Tech University
University of Toronto
University of Utah
Valdosta State University
University of Western Ontario
Western Oregon University
Westminster Choir College
Wichita State University
Konservatorium Wien University
Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

As a believer in due diligence, especially regarding one's education, I would like this list to be a starting point for exploration of programs for the prospective student. A full list of things to consider will include:
  1. Finding the right teacher
  2. Finding a good school
  3. Finding a good vocal and instrumental department for prospective partners
  4. Curriculum (ie. Diction? Keyboard Skills?)
  5. Financial aid
  6. Track record of graduates
Last updated August 9, 2016

Further reading:
Degree Programs in Piano Pedagogy

Contemporary Showcase begins tomorrow

Tomorrow at Eastminster United Church at 310 Danforth the Toronto Contemporary Showcase Festival begins and will run through Friday. The Contemporary Showcase is a non-competitive event sponsored by the Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects that showcases contemporary Canadian works in performance by young artists.

This year's adjudicators will be Judy Siebert, piano, Katherine Rapoport, strings, Lorna MacDonald, voice, and Douglas Stewart, winds.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

You're a what?

Vocal coach? Collaborative pianist? Voice teacher? Accompanist?

Here are two articles othat describe the overlap between different aspects of the collaborative profession.

"Do You Teach Voice?" The Gray Area of Vocal Coaching by Sylvie Beaudette, Eastman School of Music

What is Vocal Coaching? by Timothy Hoekman, Florida State University

Don't over-medicate the patient

From Lucie Renard's 1999 article in La Scena Musicale entitled "The Accompanist: The Unsung Hero?"

"An accompanist shares many traits with an anaesthetist. He generally has studied longer than the surgeon and must constantly stay alert to prevent an unpredictable disaster, but when all is said and done, the surgeon (like the soloist) gets all of the credit."

Some weekend links

A moderately busy day so far with several voice auditions to play at the Toronto stop on the Opera Nuova audition tour. Opera Nuova is an Edmonton-based program that features a summer program for both singers and collaborative pianists.


From the Times Literary Supplement, here is an excellent review of Richard Burnett's Company of Pianos by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt.


And finally, from the website of collaborative pianist Rebecca Wilt, an online guide on working with a pianist, which includes information on responsibilities for both pianist and soloist to ensure a successful partnership.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Am I Too Soft?

Here's another quote from Kim Pensinger Witman's Wolf Trap 2006 blog from the 4th day of auditions in New York:

"I know that it’s comforting to bring an accompanist who knows you and who knows your repertoire. But please don’t bring someone who does you a disservice. It happened a few times this week. Both my colleague and I are coaches, and we know when a singer is struggling to drag his or her pianist up to tempo. (Or fighting to slow down a runaway train.) The majority of singers who bring accompanists do not fall into this category, but sadly, the singers who do make this mistake are often the very ones who can ill afford a liability like that."

I most definitely agree with Ms. Witman. However, there are those that disagree. I recall discussing this very issue with a coach of many years experience playing for opera companies and auditions. He argued that voice auditions exist primarily to show beauty of voice, suitability for hiring, and reactions under pressure. His line of reasoning continued that If a singer shows up with a pianist that they have rehearsed with, the audition shows that they have rehearsed and can work together, but not enough about a singer's suitability. Thus, even if a singer performs an audition with a pianist that is inappropriate for them, they should be able to rise above the crowd if they possess the abilities to transcend the occasion. It has been said that some German companies and agents hire second-rate audition pianists for precisely this reason--to see how the singers will react in a difficult situation.

I disagree with this contrarian line of thinking. There is simply too much at stake in a voice audition (transportation time and costs, clothing, parking, hiring a pianist, only having one shot, etc.) too accept anything less than the highest level of playing from the pianist. And I think that the quality of ensemble between singer and pianist results in a higher quality of sung performance and reflects positively to those hearing the auditions and making the casting choices (one can only hope).

Audition Season Once Again

Looking at my schedule for the next few weeks, it seems that audition season is once again upon us. This is the time of year when opera companies summer festivals, agencies, and conductors have their yearly round of hearing singers from city to city, especially in major centres, one of which is Toronto.

A quick perusal of online resources yields things from the most basic at the Vocalist site ("Walk gracefully or stride across the room/stage with purpose, keep your head up and look where you are going."), to the more involved discussions that take place on sites such as the New Forum for Classical Singers, to Kim Pensinger Witman's astute blog of the Wolf Trap Opera 2006 auditions as told from the auditioner's point of view.

In fact, aside from entries in Ms. Witman's blog, there does not seem to have been much information from the pianist's point of view on the audition process. Here are some excerpts she posted yesterday:

On what makes a first-rate audition pianist:

"Listening. The ability to put the playing in subconscious mode and use most of the conscious mind to take in all of the details of the performance and become a split-second collaborator for singers the pianist has never met."

On what an audition pianist needs:

"Pianist-friendly materials. Books that stay open. Sheets of paper that are held securely in place by a binder. Double-sided, please. And not in shiny sheet-protectors.
Clearly-marked cuts. You don’t want your support system to have to guess where the next measure is.
Easy-to-find arias. We ask for aria #2, you smile and acquiesce, and begin to compose yourself to assume the new character. Meanwhile, the pianist is fumbling through your notebook or anthology.
Clear intentions. Know what you want to do and indicate it. By preparing for phrases with a breath that indicates the downbeat. By choosing a tempo and sticking to it. Indicating the tempo of an aria by conducting it, snapping it, or singing a phrase before starting never works. Never. I know you don’t believe me, but it doesn’t. Sing with clear intentions and a good pianist will be with you."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tapestry's Opera To Go 2006

Toronto's Tapestry New Opera Works has just announced the performance dates of Opera To Go 2006. The show will run from March 3-18 in association with Soulpepper Theatre Company at the new Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto's Distillery District.

Opera To Go is an evening of five one-act operas commissioned by Tapestry for the event. This production will be held in the brand new Charles and Marilyn Baillie Theatre at the Young Centre. Soulpepper's new facility will feature not one but three new theatres which will pull potentially well over 500 theatregoers nightly into the Distillery District, which recently seems to have reached critical mass as a first-rate arts district although it was an abandoned factory complex only five years ago.

The composer/librettist teams have also been announced: Rose Bolton/Jill Battson, Darren Fung/Betty Jane Wylie, Aaron Gervais/Colleen Murphy, Richard Payne/Joseph Maviglia, and Andrew Staniland/Jill Battson.

One of the most interesting things about this project is that even though the workshop for the show will begin in early January leading to an early March opening, the composer/librettist teams were only chosen in October, with a five-month period from commission to opening.

I am glad to report that I will be the repetiteur for the production as well as pianist in the ensemble for the performances. There will be many more upcoming posts on this project as it gathers steam.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Lots-o-collaborative pianists at NATS Toronto auditions

If you're looking for any sort of able-bodied collaborative pianist in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 26, chances are that you could locate nearly every single one of them (myself included) in one building, the Edward Johnson Building at the University of Toronto for the NATS Ontario Chapter annual auditions.

Basically a scholarship competition hosted by the Ontario Chapter that features detailed multiple adjudications for every singer, this event has grown to an extremely large size: this year there will be 185 singers competing in more than 16 classes.

The tough thing about scheduling this competition is fitting in all the singers, all the adjudicators, and all the pianists into a limited number of rooms in one facility in one day. In fact, the scheduling is such a Herculean task that there is a strict rule that no pianist can play for any more than 7 singers. I'm playing for a full complement of 7 and my personal schedule (each pianist gets one) is so tight that I may need to sprint from one room to another in order to make the class times for my singers.

There will be a grand total of 38 collaborative pianists playing over the course of the day--who ever thought there would be work for that many of us in a one-day event in this age of waning interest in classical music?

For those of you interested in attending the NATS Ontario auditions, they will be held in the Edward Johnson Building of the University of Toronto on Saturday Nov. 26 from 11am to 4pm with a final round at 5:15pm. Winners will advance to the Great Lakes Regional to be held in Michigan next March.

And finally, a big word of thanks for Jennifer Higgin and Irene Ilic, two NATS Ontario members who have the three-dimentional multi-tasking brainpower to actually schedule this event, and then send out personalized schedules to everyone involved telling them exactly where to be and when so the day can run smoothly.

A word on my email woes

Some of you may have experienced problems emailing me at in the last few days. The problem seems to originate with either Namesecure's ability to forward mail from my domain or Hotmail/Sympatico's ability to accept forwarded mail.

I've changed all my settings on this site to my Sympatico address,, which works fine. And I've switched the forwarding mail address from to an address at Operamail which should work as long as Namesecure is still forwarding mail.

My apologies to all those inconvenienced by this technical glitch. Please comment on any conspiracy theories which may explain this.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Charles Rosen on "dislocation" in piano playing

Link to article

Charles Rosen, in Section 1 of his review of Robert Philip's Performing Music in the Age of Recording in the NY Review of Books, talks about the purpose and history of "dislocation" in piano playing. For those not familiar with the term, dislocation is the practice of sounding the right hand slightly after the left hand for expressive purposes, popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but currently out of favor (I concur). In the piano field, it is also referred to pejoratively as "da-dum" playing.

Rosen talks about the historical basis for this style of playing, its advantages and disadvantages. To pinpoint the section of the article, skip to the third subsection of section 1 starting "A similar ambiguity..."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

You Go Girls

Here is a picture from a recent trip to Toronto with Isabella and Emma. They are big fans of the Go Train and give new meaning to the old saying that the most important thing is not the destination but how you get there.

An Unexpected Programming Challenge

Today Ashley Bedard and I met to look through some music for our Nov. 30 lunch hour concert at Princess Margaret Hospital. Our idea was to program mostly English songs so as to be as audience-friendly as possible. This would be the kind of venue where talking about each song might be a good idea in order to make friends with an audience that might not be too familiar with voice and piano. Sounds easy? Not so.

The problem we ran into was that so many of the really good songs in English are about death, which is fine in the concert hall but somewhat inappropriate for performance in a hospital that specializes in cancer treatment. Here are some of the songs that had to be eliminated for this reason:
  • The World Feels Dusty
  • Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?
  • Going to Heaven
  • I Hear a Funeral in my Brain
  • Come Away, Death
  • Oliver Cromwell (the words to this song would seem particularly cruel)
  • The Trees They Grow so High

The list went on and on--in fact, it became a challenge to find songs that weren't about death, at least not the ones in English. I think the result will be a group of songs that will be, if not upbeat, then at least life-affirming. Which were our choices? Stay tuned for the final list.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Chris Burton's New Borderless Song Series

Borderless Song is a brand new concert series begun by Artistic Director Christopher Burton. From the Borderless Song website:

"Borderless Song was formed for the sole purpose of bringing Canadian music and the work of Canadian performers to a wider audience. We feel that it is not only important to bring the vast talent in this country to Canadians, but to our international friends and neighbours. Our goal is to present concerts of chamber music from all eras which include Canadian chamber music alongside great musical works from all over the world. "

The inaugural concert is entitled An Evening of Song and features Bridget Hogan, soprano, John Liddle, trumpet, and Christopher Burton, piano. Time and date are 7:30pm Sunday November 27th at Forest Grove United Church. Tickets $15/10.

Best of luck to Dr. Burton & Co. Keep that Canadian music happening.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Auditions, Schmauditions

Here are some interesting thoughts on auditions from canadienne, the blog of Canadian soprano Erin Wall, who has just celebrated her 30th birthday.

Heather Pawsey to sing in Leslie Uyeda's Grace Notes

From the Music in the Morning site:

"Composer, pianist and conductor Leslie Uyeda with co-director and reader Crystal Bergman have created Grace Notes, an ambitious celebration of words and song. This world premiere features eight opera singers and five chamber musicians performing arias, duos and choral works in a presentation of readings and new music. Inspired by the uplifting texts of 13th century Persian poet Hafiz, the late Canadian poet Miriam Waddington and American poet Denise Levertov, Uyeda and Bergman have created a programme celebrating light, love and grace."

Performances will be in the Koerner Recital Hall at the Vancouver Academy of Music in Vancouver. Show runs from December 6-9 at 10:30am. Full listing of singers and musicians to be posted later.

This performance will be recorded for CBC Radio 2 program In Performance.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Full bio

Christopher Foley is a collaborative pianist dedicated to the fields of teaching, chamber music, art song, opera, and contemporary music. At the Eastman School of Music, he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1994, majoring in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music as a student of Jean Barr and David Burge. He is on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he teaches piano, collaborative piano, vocal literature, vocal coaching, and serves as the head of the voice department at the Royal Conservatory School. He spent fourteen summers as Resident Accompanist at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine. In 1989 at the Eckhardt-Grammaté Competition for the Performance of Contemporary Music, he won first prize for the performance of the commissioned work (Walter Buczinski's Mosaics) and third prize overall. In 1991, he won first prize in piano at the Kneisel Competition for the Performance of German Lieder in Rochester, New York.
As pianist and repetiteur for Tapestry New Opera Works, he has been involved with recent, as well as being on the creative team for Tapestry's unique Composer/Librettist and Director/Musical Director laboratories. In 2010 he was the first Leadership Legacy Intern at Tapestry, where he created the Tapestry Songbook program, a workshop and recital program aimed at educating emerging singers and pianists in the new opera development process. At the 2006 Women in Music festival at the Eastman School of Music, he will be performing works of Laura Schwendiner and Barabara Pentland. In 2003, he performed works by Linda Catlin Smith, Andriy Talpash and Juhan Puhm with the Continuum Ensemble in Distillation: The Water Project, an interdisciplinary project featuring video installations by Ramona Ramlochand. A longtime member of the Vancouver New Music Ensemble, solo performances have included The Wanderer: Chamber Music of Africa and two critically acclaimed six-hour retrospectives of 20th-century music, entitled Countdown: The Odd Decades and Countdown: The Even Decades—Distance and Enchantment. In March of 2002 he coached and performed in Modern Baroque Opera's production of Peter Hannan's controversial new opera 120 Songs for the Marquis de Sade.

At the 2012 Honens International Piano Competition, he provided the color commentary for CBC's live global webcast of the final concerto round. Some of the many venues at which he has recently performed include the Eastman School of Music Faculty Concert Series, the University of Western Ontario, Cleveland State Composers’ Forum, Vancouver International New Music Festival, April in Santa Cruz, Sonic Boom, Toronto Arts Week, Word on the Street, Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop, Toronto Dance Theatre, Algoma Fall Festival, and the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music. In June of 2004, his recording of Abigail Richardson's dissolve with Ryan Scott and Sanya Eng was awarded first prize in the under-30 division of the International Rostrum of Composers and was broadcast over 100 times throughout Europe and North America in the 2004-05 season.
As author of the Collaborative Piano Blog, he writes about issues of importance to the collaborative pianist, as well as current musical events in Toronto and elsewhere. Dr. Foley has recently appeared as pianist and coach for the singers featured on the Bravo!Canada reality show Bathroom Divas. 


Note: This bio will be constantly updated, so please check here for the latest version. You may either copy or link to the photo for publicity purposes.

Last revised 10/28/12

Link to short bio

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bravo Canada announces Bathroom Divas premiere

Bathroom Divas: So You Wanna Be...An Opera Star! has been announced for a Jan. 7 premiere on Bravo Canada. Excerpts from the Bravo Canada press release:

"Neophyte opera singers from across the country and from all walks of life get a chance to become the ultimate “bathroom diva” in this all-new Canadian six-part, one-hour series produced in association with Bravo!. After a cross-country audition and selection process, six candidates are chosen to enter an intensive training phase, from which only one will make the final cut and have the opportunity to perform live on-stage."

I will be appearing on at least 2 or 3 episodes as pianist for both the Toronto auditions and events featuring the final six singers that compete in Opera Boot Camp.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What is Collaborative Piano?

Collaborative Piano is a term used to denote a field of the piano profession where a pianist works in collaboration with one or more instrumentalists, singers, dancers, or other artists. This field is also referred to with its former name as Piano Accompanying, a term which has traditionally implied inferiority, subservience, working "for" rather than "with" a recital partner. Collaborative piano, on the other hand, is a term that implies equality, association, and teamwork.

Probably coined by American pianist Samuel Sanders, this term gained in usage in the 1990's and is now used by a majority of institutions that offer degrees in this field in North America. Usage of the term lags in Great Britain. The equivalent French term for this field, "le piano collaboratif", was coined in 2002 by Elizabeth Brodivich in Vancouver, Canada when translating admission materials for the University of British Columbia into French.

piano music sheet music at
The Complete Collaborator: The Pianist as Partner

by Martin Katz. "A bible for accompanists/ collaborators!"--Marilyn Horne

Further reading:
About The Collaborative Piano Blog
What Collaborative Piano Is Not
Required and Preferred Skills for the Collaborative Pianist
Degree Programs in Collaborative Piano
The One-Page Guide to Collaborative Piano Playing
The Core Repertoire, a series-in-progress

Some Ideas on How to Learn a Song or Aria

from Gwendolyn Koldofsky--University of Southern California

1. Read the poetry or a translation of the poetry. Songs are not abstract pieces, they are poems that have been set to music by a composer. Before even looking at the music, look at the poetry; in the case of a song in a foreign language, look at the translation of the poetry. Better yet, translate it yourself in order to sharpen your language skills. This first step is vitally important because it allows you to interact with the poem on its own terms, allowing you to discover important aspects such as line, syntax, vocabulary, trope, rhetoric, metre, and rhyme that may be transparent in the poem's musical setting.
2. Carefully learn the pronunciation of the poem in the original language. Pay careful attention to all the details of pronunciation that you have so meticulously learned in diction class.
3. In the original language, read the poem aloud. Pay attention not just to the sounds of the language, but to syntax and intonation, trying to sound as idiomatic as possible. Inject meaning into your recitation--don't just recite syllables out loud. Think of how a native speaker of the language would recite the poem. Many famous composers of art song are known to have recited a poem at length as a way into setting it to music.
4. In the original language, read the poem aloud in the rhythm of the vocal line. This will give you clues as to how the composer heard the poetry and how he/she may have wanted to interpret the text musically, ie. what lines of text are repeated, what words are emphasized, how fast or slow is the declamation of text, how important are the poem's line breaks and where they occur in relation to the breath.
5. At the piano, play the vocal line in the right hand and the bass line of the piano part in the left hand. This may take awhile, but is worth the effort. Now that you know something about the composer's setting of the text, this process will give you further musical clues regarding the song's melody, contour, tessitura, harmonic direction, and phrase structure, as well as help you to understand and hear the structure of and relationship between the vocal and piano parts.
6. Now learn the music. You'll be surprised.

from Rena Sharon--University of British Columbia

1. Who is the protagonist?
2. What is the setting?
3. What does each of his/her five senses perceive in the poem?
4. Does the protagonist stay in one place, if not, where does he/she go?
5. Where was the protagonist before his/her present state?
6. Is the narrator speaking to anyone in particular, if so, who is the person, what do they look like, what is their relationship?
7. What impetus causes the narrator to speak?
8. Why has the narrator chosen to speak?
9. What is the narrator's emotional and physical state?
10. Does the narrator change in the process of speaking?
11. Has the narrator's physical and mental condition changed?
12. What happens after the text stops?
13. What happens after the music stops?

Some quotes to remember:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." --Albert Einstein

"Melody is the sensuous life of poetry." --Ludwig van Beethoven

"To be willing to live within the imagination is to commit oneself to the gathering together of the pieces that might begin to form a self. To avoid this territory is to avoid the encounters that might validate, inform, or enhance one's experience." --Deena Metzger, from Writing for your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds

"In art, one has more often to fight against oneself, and the victories one wins are perhaps the most beautiful." --Claude Debussy

"...there are others who welcome the transport poetry provides. They welcome it repeatedly. They desire it so much they begin to crave it daily, nightly, nearly abject in their desire, seeking it out the way hungry people seek food. It is spiritual sustenance to them. Bread and wine. A way of transformative thinking. A method of transfiguration. There are those who honor the reality of roots and wings in words but also want the wings to take root, to grow into the earth, and the roots to take flight, ascend. They need such falling and rising, such metaphoric thinking. They are so taken by the ecstatic experience--the overwhelming intensity--of reading poems they have to respond in kind. And these people become poets." --Edward Hirsch, from How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry

"Reading is like writing in beginning in uncertainty and driving toward speculation and experiment. The reader follows, via the poem as a ghostly map, the many paths that were not taken by the author, but whose possibility leaves a shadow like crosshatching on the paths that remain. To read this way keeps a poem always provisional and still in the making, which is how the process of reading absorbs the act of writing to their mutual improvement in terms of skills and understanding." --Mary Kinzie, from The Poet's Guide to Poetry

"The spiritual desire for poetry can be overwhelming, so much do I need it to experience and name my own perilous depths and vast spaces, my own well-being." --Edward Hirsch, from How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry

Required and Preferred Skills for the Collaborative Pianist

Please note that this list is part of an ongoing process to determine just what one needs to know in order to work as a collaborative pianist. Feel free to post your comments, additions, or corrections.

*** Essential skills
** Preferred skills
* Non-essential but a definite plus


*** Must be reachable via land line or cell phone equipped with answering service or machine
*** Must be reachable via email
*** Text capability on cell phone
*** Must return messages as promptly as possible
*** When committing to an engagement, must follow through on commitments
*** Must keep an accurate and up-to-date schedule
*** Must show up on time for rehearsals
*** Must show up reasonably early for recitals, auditions, or competitions
*** Must be prepared for all commitments
** For professionals, elementary knowledge of billing and invoicing
* For professionals, elementary knowledge of accounting and tax issues

Pianistic Skills

*** Ability to play at a consistently high level
*** Ability to learn music accurately
*** Ability to learn music quickly
** Ability to improve quality of playing in the lead-up to a recital
*** Ability to read solo line(s) in addition to piano part
*** Ability to sight-read at a level close to that of prepared material
** Ability to sight-read at the same level as that of prepared material
** Ability to sing solo lines in addition to playing piano part
** Ability to read orchestral scores
** Ability to read figured bass
** Ability to transpose music after some preparation
* Ability to transpose at sight
* New opera: ability to sight-read, singing vocal lines at sight
* New opera: ability to sight-read from orchestral score
*** Ability to play selected solo material at a high level

Skills for Vocal Collaboration

*** Ability to follow a singer
*** Knowledge of basic repertoire
** Wide knowledge of songs and arias from opera, art song, and oratorio
** Knowledge of entire operas, song cycles, and oratorios
*** Ability to adjust playing to the needs of individual voices
*** Ability to point out obvious mistakes, i.e. notes, rhythms, and entrances
** Ability to coach lyric diction
* Deep knowledge of literature and poetics
** Ability to talk about poetic and dramatic issues
* Ability to speak several languages
** Ability to make some basic remarks on use of voice, i.e. Intonation
* Ability to teach voice
** Ability to suggest basic repertoire
* Ability to suggest a course of repertoire for future development

Skills for Instrumental Collaboration

*** Ability to follow an instrumentalist, picking up on both visual and auditory clues specific to each instrument.
*** Knowledge of basic repertoire, including both concertos and sonatas
** Knowledge of encore repertoire for strings
** Wide knowledge of all standard works for a specific instrument with piano
** Wide knowledge of all standard works in one genre, i.e. piano trios, strings with piano
*** Ability to point out obvious mistakes such as notes, rhythms, entrances
** Ability to make basic remarks on instrumental playing
* Ability to play second instrument
** Ability to follow a conductor in larger ensembles

Personal Skills

*** A positive attitude
*** Ability to get along with most people and to develop working relationships with a wide cross-section of people without confrontation
***Ability to remember faces and names from the entire extent of one's professional network (ie. usually about 100-200 people)
** Ability to develop working relationships with difficult people
** Ability to connect well with people in a limited time-span, ie. a 3-day rehearsal process
* Ability to work in more than one language
*** An open-minded attitude, and a willingness to try new ideas
** A sense of when to compromise and when not to
** How to navigate within a given political situation, ie. opera company, music department
*** Ability to become a trusted and respected colleague, with the ability to inspire confidence in others

Other Specific Skills:

1) Dance Accompanist

For the following, I would like to express my gratitude for the ideas and assistance of Emily Tench, a graduate of the Toronto Dance Theatre School, whose experience and insight were instrumental in compiling this list.

*** Ability to understand dancers’ vocabulary
*** Take instruction from a non-musician, i.e. dance steps don’t always correspond to musical beats
*** Ability to create music that will assist the dancers’ rhythm in choreography
*** Ability to put in long hours in a rehearsal process where one is not the focus
*** Ability to accommodate and interact with the needs of dancers

2) Opera Coach/Repetiteur

*** Ability to work with a musical director
*** Ability to work with a stage director
*** Ability to work with stage management
*** Ability to put in long hours in a rehearsal process where you are not the focus
*** Ability to maintain a high standard of playing in the rehearsal process
** Ability to take notes for singers in the final stages of rehearsal (“tech week”)
* Ability to run a rehearsal when director/musical director are absent
*** Ability to sing and/or play all vocal lines in addition to playing the orchestral reduction
** Ability to coach the language of a given work
** Ability to understand and impart the dramatic sense of a work, both verbally and through one’s playing

Dr. Christopher Foley
from the Royal Conservatory of Music Art of Teaching Conference
June 2004

[1] Although many coaches have been known to give advice on vocal issues, the only time a coach can be considered completely trustworthy is if they have some record of serious vocal training (such as a B.Mus. in voice) and professional singing experience.
[2] Voice teachers might be more reliable than coaches on this point. However, experienced coaches often have a much wider range of repertoire that can yield interesting suggestions.

Accompanying Basics - sheet music at Accompanying Basics By Joyce Grill. Piano. Reference. Music Book. Published by Neil A. Kjos Music Company. (WP154)
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Further reading:
Add To Your Skills By Learning Theory
First Steps: Getting New Repertoire on its Feet
Developing an Artistic Sensibility
Add Collaboration To Your Activities

The One-Page Guide to Collaborative Piano Playing

Getting Ready
Make sure you have a date-book, either paper or digital. You’ll need to mark down rehearsal, lesson, master class, and recital times that may need to be remembered weeks or months in advance. Make sure you have either a watch or access to a clock so that you will show up on time for your commitments—nobody likes to be kept waiting. You will need a telephone with an answering machine or someone to take good messages for you. Pager and cell phone are optional but extremely useful, as are email and instant messaging services.

Before the first rehearsal
Make sure you exchange phone numbers and alternate ways of staying in touch. Make sure the person you work with gives you the music a reasonable time in advance of the first rehearsal. If not, politely insist on it. If the person you work with gives you photocopies, you are within your rights to politely ask for a binder in which to put them or to ask for the score itself. Remember that performing with photocopies is illegal without permission from the publisher if the music or the edition is under copyright.

Learn the music thoroughly before the first rehearsal. Learning the music also includes learning the solo line(s). Reading a vocal line also includes following the text. Come to the rehearsal with the material prepared and already at this stage make sure you have at least some musical ideas about the work prior to first rehearsing it.

At the rehearsal and/or lesson
Have your antennae out when working with other musicians. A relaxed, open, yet focused attitude when working together yields the best results. Always be thinking of how you can better interact with your partners in both music-making and discussion.

Play with a full sound, not a meek sound. If balance is an issue, consider the following criteria:
a) Pedal--are you using too much or to little? Can you change pedal less often? Can you try experimenting with half or quarter pedal? Flutter-pedalling?
b) Register—where is the solo line in pitch-space compared to the piano part? Are they overlapping or not? Consider whether balancing toward either the treble or bass might improve the overall sound.
c) Articulation and speed of attack—is your articulation helping or hindering you? Could your sound benefit from either a faster or slower speed of attack? Is your sound either too abrasive or too limpid for the instrument, performer, or repertoire? Could your sound benefit from either a lightness or heaviness of touch?
d) Melody--who has it? If you have it, make sure you are projecting it properly. If somebody else has it, make sure you can hear it. If you can't, you might need to back off.
e) Finally, are you in fact playing too loud? Too soft?

With singers, listen for breaths, as well as consonants before the beat and vowels on the beat.
With string players, listen for speed and types of bowing. If you need one, ask for a cue.
With wind and brass players, listen for breaths, as well as delays in onset of sound for different types of instruments. With a conductor, make sure the piano is angled so you can see him/her clearly.

Before a recital
If possible, rehearse in the concert hall beforehand to try out the acoustics of the space, the piano, and for any adjustments you may have to make. If playing in unfamiliar halls, be familiar with the idiosyncrasies of different makes of pianos (ie. New York vs. Hamburg Steinways, Yamahas, Bösendorfers, Baldwins, Bostons, Grotrians) and how they may affect overall sound and balance. Figure out the chair situation and if possible, find a comfortable height on adjustable benches before the concert. Discuss how you and your partner(s) will enter and leave the stage and in what order, as well as the ever-important issue of bowing when you walk out and after the end of the piece. Do you need a page-turner? If so, make sure a page-turner’s chair is set out before the concert.

And most importantly, play at the same professional level for your collaborative projects as you would for your solo work—your command of the piano must be the same in either situation.

Dr. Christopher Foley
from the Royal Conservatory of Music Art of Teaching Conference
June 2004

Accompanying Basics - sheet music at Accompanying Basics By Joyce Grill. Piano. Reference. Music Book. Published by Neil A. Kjos Music Company. (WP154)
See more info...