News Releases - 2006
Shannon Mercer, Jane Archibald, Darryl Friesen and Christianne Rushton win Canada Council music prizes
Ottawa, July 19, 2006 – Sopranos Shannon Mercer and Jane Archibald, pianist Darryl Friesen and mezzo-soprano Christianne Rushton are this year’s winners of Canada Council for the Arts prizes for young Canadian musicians.
Ottawa native Shannon Mercer is the winner of the 2006 Virginia Parker Prize. Worth $25,000, the prize was established in 1982 by Virginia Parker Moore. Moved by her profound love of music and the recognition that talented young musicians need such a prize to help them take a leap forward in their careers, the late Mrs. Moore established the prize for young performers of classical music under the age of 32, who demonstrate outstanding talent and musicianship. The prize will be presented to Ms. Mercer on Aug. 5, 2006, at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival’s closing gala concert at Dominion-Chalmers United Church.
Jane Archibald of Truro, Nova Scotia, and Darryl Friesen of Winnipeg are this year’s winners of the Sylva Gelber Foundation Award, established in 1981 by the late Sylva Gelber of Ottawa. The award is given to the most talented candidates under the age of 30 in the Council’s Grants to Professional Musicians competition, classical music category. Ms. Archibald will receive $15,000, and Mr. Friesen will receive $10,000.
Christianne Rushton of New Minas, Nova Scotia is the winner of the $5,000 Bernard Diamant Prize, which offers professional Canadian classical singers under the age of 35 an opportunity to pursue their career through further studies. The prize was created in 2001 with funds from a generous bequest to the Canada Council by the late Bernard Diamant, as well as through memorial gifts from a number of his friends, colleagues and former voice students. It is awarded in addition to a regular Canada Council grant to an outstanding young classical singer in the Council’s annual competition for Grants to Professional Musicians, classical music category. Ms. Rushton is the fourth winner of the Bernard Diamant Prize; the others were Measha Brueggergosman, Shannon Mercer and Peter McGillivray.
The four winners were selected by an independent peer assessment committee consisting of soprano Valdine Anderson (Winnipeg); organist Jacques Boucher (Montreal); Peter Gardner, general and artistic director of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (St. John’s); and composer and oboist Elizabeth Raum (Regina).
For a list of previous winners of these prizes, visit the Endowments and Prizes web site.
Shannon Mercer, soprano
Ottawa-born soprano Shannon Mercer has been hailed as one of the “Leaders of Tomorrow” by Maclean’s magazine. She began her career as a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio Program and returned to sing the role of Oscar in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and Elvira in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri.
Ms. Mercer’s versatility as an artist makes her a sought-after soloist in Early Music, recital, concert, opera and contemporary repertoire. She was awarded the Bernard Diamant Prize as well as a Canada Council grant in 2004 and spent most of 2005 in Vienna studying German operatic repertoire.
Upon her return in November, she made her Lincoln Center debut in an all-Mozart recital with renowned American soprano Barbara Bonney and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. She also sang as a featured soloist with Thirteen Strings in Ottawa and as a soloist in a Bach program with the ensemble Arion under the baton of Bernard Labadie in Montreal. More recently, Ms. Mercer performed in a solo recital with Music Toronto as part of “The Discovery Series”, sang in a Schubert recital at Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto with the Aldeburgh Connection and performed the role of Nannetta in Verdi’s Falstaff with Opera Lyra Ottawa. In June 2006, Ms. Mercer revisited the role of Grace Goodbody in the new Canadian opera The Midnight Court with Queen of Puddings Contemporary Music Theatre Company at Covent Garden in London.
Ms. Mercer can be heard regularly on CBC Radio. In November 2004, she released her first CD entitled English Fancy, recorded with the Early Music ensemble Masques from Montreal on the Analekta label. Her next recording, set for release in March 2007, features the music of the French Baroque composer Mondonville, also on the Analekta label. She can also be seen on Bravo! in Alexina Louie’s opera Burnt Toast, featuring many Canadian acting and singing stars.
Ms. Mercer will return to the Canadian Opera Company in the fall to sing the role of Despina in Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte in the opening production of the season in the new Four Seasons opera house in Toronto and later will make her debut with Montpellier Opera in France in the title role in Marin Marais’ opera Semele. She will also make her debut with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra as the soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah in December.
Jane Archibald, soprano
Following a busy international season, lyric-coloratura soprano Jane Archibald, of Truro, Nova Scotia, begins a two-year engagement at the world-renowned Vienna Staatsoper this September. Her first season includes performances as Queen of the Night, Susanna, Musetta, Fiakermilli, and others.
Ms. Archibald launched her career in Canada following her graduation from Wilfrid Laurier University where she studied with Dr. Victor Martens. Contracts soon followed with some of Canada’s most respected presenters such as Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, Roy Thomson Hall, Opera Ontario, the Indian River and Elora Festivals, and the CBC.
Building on this solid Canadian foundation, she gained valuable experience at the San Francisco Opera with her participation in the Merola summer program, which led to a prestigious two-year tenure as an Adler Fellow and her mainstage debut in 2005. Debuts with leading U.S. presenters soon followed with opera and concert engagements in New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
An audition tour, supported by the Canada Council, led to the launch of Ms. Archibald’s international career, garnering invitations to sing leading roles in Austria, Japan, Switzerland, France and Spain. She has been prominently featured in critically-acclaimed recordings of works by Vivaldi and Charpentier for the Naxos label with the Toronto-based Aradia Ensemble and is regularly featured on CBC Radio.
Appearances with the Toronto Symphony and at the Lanaudière Festival conclude this year’s performances as she looks ahead to future seasons representing Canada on the international stage.
Darryl Friesen, pianist
Winnipeg’s Darryl Friesen began playing piano at the age of seven and is now embarking upon a professional career. He holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in music performance from the University of Manitoba and is currently pursuing his doctorate as a Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mr. Friesen was the winner of the 2003 Arts Encounters Young Performers Competition and was a finalist in the 2004 International Stepping Stone Competition. He received the Lawrence Genser Memorial Scholarship (2002) as the most outstanding performer at the University of Manitoba School of Music, was a National Finalist in the Canadian Music Competition (2001) and a prizewinner in the University of Manitoba Concerto Competition (2001), and has won several prizes at the Manitoba Music Festival.
He has had solo performances at Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall, Eva Clare Hall and the Muriel Richardson Auditorium (all in Winnipeg), at the Grace Mennonite Church at Steinbach, Manitoba, and at Pollack Hall at McGill University in Montreal. He has also performed with the Mennonite Community Orchestra and the University of Manitoba Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Friesen has taught piano in his private studio and has adjudicated piano competitions for the Dauphin Festival of the Arts, the Rolling River Music Festival and the Altona Festival of the Arts.
Christianne Rushton, mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano Christianne Rushton recently finished one of the most exciting and rewarding seasons of her young career. Recent performances have included the title role in Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges, with the Juilliard Opera Center, which was described by the New York Times as “a bumptious and nicely realized enfant”. In addition, Ms. Rushton completed a successful Debut Atlantic recital tour of Canada, was awarded second prize at the prestigious Eckhardt-Gramatté competition, and recently made her Alice Tully Hall debut in New York.
Originally from Wolfville, Nova Scotia and a graduate of Acadia University, Ms. Rushton is a past First Prize winner at the Canadian National Music Festival, and is a grant recipient from the Canada Council for the Arts. Recognized as a rising talent in a new generation of Canadian artists, Ms. Rushton regularly performs in Canada and has been showcased in performances at the National Arts Centre, as well as on CBC Radio.
An advocate of contemporary music, Ms. Rushton can be found on two recordings with Albany Records. The role of Hepzibah, which she created in Scott Eyerly’s The House of the Seven Gables, brought her critical acclaim from Opera News magazine. Ms. Rushton received her Masters Degree and Professional Studies Diploma from the Manhattan School of Music. She then joined the Juilliard Opera Center performing the roles of Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and Filotete in the North American premiere revival of Handel’s Oreste.
This season, she will be performing in concert with the Stony Brook Baroque Ensemble, the New York Festival of Song, and as soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the Newfoundland Symphony. Ms. Rushton is currently a doctoral candidate in voice at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and divides her time between New York and New Minas, Nova Scotia.
The Canada Council for the Arts, in addition to its principal role of promoting and fostering the arts in Canada, administers and awards prizes and fellowships to over 100 artists and scholars annually in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences and engineering. Other noteworthy prizes administered by the Council are the Canada Council Molson Prizes, the Jules Léger Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts and the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts.
For more information about these awards, including nomination procedures, contact Janet Riedel Pigott, Acting Director of Endowments and Prizes, at 613-566-4414 or 1-800-263-5588, ext. 5041; or Danielle Sarault, Acting Endowments and Prizes Officer, at 613-566-4414 or 1-800-263-5588, ext. 4116.
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