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The Art Song Festival is a new festival for India, celebrating Western classical art song through events dedicated to showcasing Indian performers and composers. The festival was founded in 2020 by artistic director Nina Kanter, during her time teaching at KM Music Conservatory (KMMC) in Chennai, with the aim of offering educational and performance opportunities to young singers and pianists. The 2021 festival was delivered virtually in a new partnership between KMMC and Trinity Laban International Academies, reaching audiences worldwide, and in 2022 they return to KMMC, Chennai to deliver their first hybrid live/virtual celebration of art song! This year’s festival features masterclasses for singers and pianists, workshops for composers, a performance competition and a concert tour with visiting guest artists.
Art song is a favourite genre for performers and audiences of Western classical music. Usually written for solo singer and pianist and performed in concert halls rather than theatres, it offers audiences a more intimate performance experience than opera and requires finely nuanced delivery from performers. The songs set works by great poets, allowing singer and pianist to work together as equals to communicate sublimely beautiful poetry and music. The German genre began in the nineteenth century with simple songs written for amateur musicians to enjoy at home. Over the next hundred years, it blossomed into an international phenomenon, with thousands of songs written in various national styles, from the folk-like to highly sophisticated concert works for professional singers, pianists and orchestras.
Today’s concert features a selection of much-loved songs from some of the Romantic European composers who created this genre (German composers Franz Schubert and married couple Robert and Clara Schumann; the French composer Claude Debussy), plus Spanish and English composers who developed art song in the twentieth century, allowing audiences to hear different national styles. Robert Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und –leben is one of the few great nineteenth-century works for female singer, unusually telling a woman’s story in a musical world which was dominated by male narratives. Our final part of the programme will feature the premiere performances of new art songs by Indian composers which were submitted for the 2021 festival, including a duet in Urdu and a lullabye in Tamil. We are proud to showcase these songs and support today’s composers telling contemporary stories, including songs reflecting on lockdown. We also welcome the young tenor Himanshu Barot, who was awarded Greatest Potential in the 2021 Festival.
This concert is supported by JSW and Furtados
The Art Song Festival is supported by the KM Music Conservatory, Chennai and Trinity Laban International Academies
Header: Julius Schmid, A Schubert evening in a Vienna town house, 1897
Thumbnail: Edgar Degas, Café Singer, ca. 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago
Nina Kanter is a soprano, educator and producer from London. Recent appearances include Tatiana (Eugene Onegin) for Instant Opera and concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall with the Philharmonia Chorus. Nina is founder and director of the Art Song Festival, India’s first festival celebrating performers and composers of Western classical song, with partners Trinity Laban and KM Music Conservatory. This July, Nina appears in an Indian concert tour alongside tenor Sandeep Gurrapadi and pianist Karl Lutchmayer as part of the festival, and will co-run a workshop for Mumbai’s Royal Opera House.
Nina has performed in opera, oratorio and concerts throughout Europe and India, including at the Aldeburgh Festival and Oxford Lieder Festival. Opera roles include Santuzza, Tatiana, Erste Dame, Clorinda, and Norma for RAM opera scenes. She studied at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music, where she won several prizes, and with English National Opera and Glyndebourne Opera. A prizewinner in the 2018 North International Music Competition, Nina was a Britten-Pears Young Artist, an Opera Prelude Artist and an ENOA Artist at Polish National Opera. As a choral scholar with the choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Nina was a featured soloist on several recordings and in concert for BBC Radio 3.
Nina previously taught at KM Music Conservatory, Chennai, where she founded the Vox Madras chamber choir, and is passionate about music education in cross-cultural contexts. Also an experienced conductor and pianist, she is the vocal coach for Teddington Choral Society and musical director for various London choirs. For more information see www.ninakanter.com
Sandeep Gurrapadi is an American operatic tenor, educator and composer with experience in the UK, Europe, India, China and America. Sandeep has premiered leading roles in new opera at the Tête à Tête Festival, Grimeborn Festival, Southbank Centre – UK, Royal Academy of Music, Royal Opera House and London Festival of American Music – amongst many others. He has been invited to perform as a soloist in venues ranging from the Beijing National Stadium (Dialogue for Asian Civilizations Conference for the Chinese President), to the Beaumaris Festival of Wales and the Royal Opera House of Mumbai. In 2022, Sandeep was an understudy in the highly acclaimed opera Violet for the Aldeburgh Festival with the London Sinfonietta (produced by Britten Pears Arts and Royal Opera House – Covent Garden). He then went on to originate leading roles in the productions Witchfinder by Cohere Arts, Meal One by 509 Arts (UK wide tour) and Silver Spoon by Keynote Opera – all in 2022. This July, Sandeep will be in India leading workshops for the Royal Opera House of Mumbai and performing in recitals for the Art Song Festival of India alongside artistic director Nina Kanter and pianist Karl Lutchmayer in cities across the country.
Also an experienced facilitator, Sandeep has worked with organizations such as Streetwise Opera, English National Opera (Baylis), Trinity Laban Conservatoire – London, KM Music Conservatory and the Singapore Raffles Music College.
Alongside performing, Sandeep is also a doctoral researcher with the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he is investigating music facilitation practices within the context of exploring third space identity and intercultural artistic partnerships. Further information at: www.sandeepgurrapadi.com
Himanshu Barot is an Indian tenor, songwriter, and composer who sings Western classical, Indian classical, and other contemporary genres of music. He did his Bachelor’s degree in Indian classical music and then, went to A R Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, Chennai to study Western classical music.
He has performed Opera at various venues such as the Goethe Institute, Chennai, KM Conservatory, Chennai, JG College of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad and JG International School Campus, Ahmedabad, among others.
He was also a part of ensembles and choirs such as Madras Box under the direction of Nina Kanter, Vocal Chamber Ensemble under Liliana Shaykhi, Harmony Bunch, Ahmedabad City Choir, and others. He won Greatest Potential in the Art Song Festival in 2020.
He will be performing a few pieces from his repertoire at BIC, Goethe Institute, Chennai, and the KM Music Conservatory, Chennai in July 2022.
Karl Lutchmayer is equally renowned as a concert pianist, academic, and lecturer. He performs across the globe, has broadcast extensively, and has lectured at institutions including the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School, and the University of Oxford. For 15 years he was a senior academic lecturer at Trinity College of Music, during which time he created numerous music education projects in India, his family home, for which he was awarded the Bharat Gaurav (Pride of India) lifetime achievement award. He continues this work as a freelance educator whilst studying for a PhD at the University of Cambridge.