I’ve started making fun of journalists’ tendency to identify any and all music competitions involving audience participation as some form of “American Idol.” On the other hand, it sounds downright stodgy to say “There will be an art song competition in which the audience gets to vote on the winner this weekend.” Isn’t it more fun to call it “American Idol for composers?” I guess decorum wins out, but in any case, I think I’ve gotten the point across.
The event is happening on Saturday night in Philadelphia, where the Center City Opera Theater is holding its first-ever competition-performance “Art Songs for the 21st Century.” Fifteen composers are submitting two songs each, to be performed by members of the company’s young-artist program; the audience votes on its favorite. The prize: to take part in the company’s Creative Development Projects program, which helps shepherd operas from conception to performance. At least two artists will win, the audience favorite being one of them.
The composers run the gamut in terms of age, which is the major gamut in the composing world; let’s not get into questions of race and gender, apart from saying that four women out of 15 composers is a pretty good ratio these days. Still, it should be quite a musical spectrum, and I’m sorry I won’t be there to hear it. Crowdsourced reviews, posted here, would be most welcome.
Philadelphia is doing well at promoting new composers; the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence program has just closed applications for its second round, after crowning a winner for the first year, Lembit Beecher, age 30. Beecher is having a world premiere in Washington later this month: his new piano trio was commissioned by the Southwest Chamber Players.