This past weekend, the final round of the annual Zita Bernstein Competition took place at the Desautels Faculty of Music of the University of Manitoba.
A celebration of German Lieder, the music of Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, Wolf, Mahler, Liszt, Strauss, Pfitzner and more rang out in the Vocal Arts Room as 9 talented finalists indulged in the rich harmony, beautiful melodies and poetic imagery that are hallmarks of the genre.
“German Lieder opens up all aspects of emotion, it’s very soul-stirring,” says 2024 winner Hannah Orr.
Singing music of Strauss, Wolf and Schubert, the third-year vocal performance major was thrilled to be awarded top prize.
“I’m really, really happy,” says Orr when asked about the win. “It was an incredible opportunity.”
Originally from Magrath, Alberta she’s currently in her third year at the faculty studying with Monica Huisman.
Runner-up went to fellow third year, local Winnipegger, Jayden Fraser – who performed music of Wolf and Mahler.
“I’m kind of feeling like I’m hitting my stride and figuring out what (classical music) is all about,” says Fraser, who only started singing in earnest a few years ago with musical theatre selections.
“Every year I feel like I can discover a new secret in the music, it’s so rich with storytelling and information,” says Fraser. “I love it so much.”
Started in 1997 by Zita Bernstein’s family in honour of her 70th birthday and love of Lieder, the undergraduate competition gives young artists the opportunity to explore the vast repertoire.
In the opening round of the competition back in December, 16 singers performed three songs each – with only one song heard twice. That speaks to the depth and variety of the repertoire available, notes the competition organizer and faculty instructor Tracy Dahl.
“What I find most wonderful about these students is their curiosity,” she says.
“It really didn’t feel like a competition to me,” says Dahl. “I know that it was, but it felt like a concert.”