British Art Song Masterclass and Competition 2021
Saturday 11 December
1901 Arts Club, Waterloo

The annual London Song Festival Masterclass and British Art Song Competition was held on Saturday 11 December at the 1901 Arts Club, Waterloo. 

Staged in conjunction with the British Music Society, this is a unique combination of public masterclass and competition hosted by Festival Director Nigel Foster, and sponsored in 2021 by the Delius Society.

During the event, young singers and pianists have the opportunity to work in depth with an eminent vocal performer, on this occasion Dame Sarah Connolly (pictured above), who selects the best duo to receive a cash prize of £800 and an invitation to give a recital at the following year’s London Song Festival.

The 10 duo finalists, studying at music college or opera studio level and selected by audition, are given a 30-minute slot to work on their two songs, at least one of which must be by a set composer, which in 2021 was Frederick Delius.

Other chosen composers represented in the programme included Rebecca Clarke, Florence Price, Muriel Herbert and Jonathan Dove, alongside some of the more established masters of their craft; John Ireland, Benjamin Britten and Herbert Howells.

For the winning duo, Dame Sarah based her decision on who would be ready to perform a recital at Wigmore Hall, choosing mezzo-soprano Anika-France Forget and pianist Cole Knutson, who gave mature and all-encompassing performances of Delius’s So white, so soft, so sweet is she; “a beautiful performance of a lovely song”, and Rebecca Clarke’s tragic narrative of Masefield’s The Seal Man.

Sarah loved Anika’s analytical approach and the way she drew in the listener with her “sincere expression and open face”. She was thrilled that Anika had so many ideas and recommended internalising what was, she said, very sensual Delius with a sexual neurotic tension. 

Suiting her natural accent, Anika brought out Delius’s jazzy overtones and successfully conveyed both the wistful and unattainable nature of Ben Johnson’s words.

Anika is also a composer and splits her time between the UK’s Guildhall School and her native Canada as does Cole, who attends the Royal Academy of Music.

All finalists received a promotional ClubDelius travel bottle and propelling pencil and will be offered a free year’s Delius Society membership.

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