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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 21, No. 5 February 2016

First Wirth Vocal Prize

by Wah Keung Chan / February 1, 2016

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 Wirth vocal prize finalists
Left to right: tenor Nicolas Burns, baritone Bruno Roy, soprano Chelsea Rus, and soprano Lauren Woods

After the $25,000 Golden Violin for string players, McGill’s music faculty is now set to inaugurate the first edition of the Wirth Vocal Prize, a $25,000 award for the school’s top singer. The prize is endowed through a major gift from McGill graduate and businesswoman Elizabeth Wirth, whose $7.5 million gift last March (bringing her total gifts to the school to over $10 million) included an endowment for Student Excellence Awards and a new Student Initiatives Fund. In 2015, McGill named the New Music Building in her honour.

A prize for the school’s top opera singer is no surprise for Elizabeth Wirth, whose love for opera started when she was introduced to the art form as a child by her grandmother in Austria, as she told Caroline Rodgers in La Presse in 2015. “Liz has been such a fantastic supporter of our students over the years – attending so many concerts, recitals and operas,” said Patrick Hansen, Director of Opera McGill and member of the jury. “Her prize, just one of just a few like it in the world, is a game-changer for the student who wins such a significant amount of money. It will go very far in helping support his or her singing career aspirations.”

The prize will become a great recruitment tool for the Schulich School of Music. The four finalists hail from across Canada: tenor Nicolas Burns, Burnaby, British Columbia; baritone Bruno Roy from Carnigan, Quebec; soprano Chelsea Rus, Abbotsford, BC; soprano Lauren Woods, Calgary, Alberta.

Wirth Vocal Prize Finals, February 7, 7 pm, Tanna Schulich Hall, McGill. www.mcgill.ca/music

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