Competition sets performers on road to musical success
Music Matters By: Holly Harris
One of the many pleasant tasks I have in this line of work is serving as jury chairwoman for the Women’s Musical Club’s (WMC) McLellan Competition for Solo Performance with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, a job I have been honoured with since 2008.
The McLellan, held biennially, boasts a solid track record of showcasing the astonishing talent that continues to spring from our rich musical community. Many past winners — all Manitoban-born and under the age of 30 (with the exception of vocalists, who may compete up to age 35) — have gone on to establish professional musical careers of their own. Recent recipients, including pianist Madeline Hildebrand and violinist Joshua Peters, have also won the province’s other major competition, the Eckhardt-Gramatté (“E-Gré”) National Music Competition held each spring in Brandon.
“The WMC McLellan Competition is the first of its kind and has created a wonderful opportunity to promote the performance careers of the best of our young Manitoba musicians,” says committee chairwoman Carol Gamby, who works closely with the WMC’s volunteer-based board of governors to pull off the event named for late local arts benefactor Doris McLellan.
“Manitoba is the envy of other provinces because we offer such a wonderful opportunity for young musicians.”
Twelve semi-finalists recently competed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Saturday, March 26. Three talented finalists (listed in alphabetical order): Jaena Kim (flute); Gregory Lewis (violin); and Caitlin Wood (soprano) were chosen by an illustrious international jury composed of Valdine Anderson (soprano), Mark Rudoff (cello) and Douglas Finch (piano), and now will be performing as soloists with the WSO during the last round being held Friday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Jubilee Place Auditorium (MBCI), 180 Riverton Ave. WSO resident conductor Julian Pellicano leads the orchestra through the two-hour gala concert, which also includes a post-show audience reception. It’s a thrilling night for all, capped by a fresh set of jurors awarding generous prize packages totalling $20,000 to the winners.
Some might naturally rail against the dog-eat-dog nature of competitions, particularly in the kinder, gentler lively arts. However, Pellicano firmly asserts their value in honing the next generation of artists.
“I think that competitions help to jump-start these young, very talented musicians’ careers,” the maestro says.
“They most certainly open doors for them, and provide incredible opportunities that might not have had otherwise. This particular competition is simply a great experience, and is one that these young musicians will take with them for the rest of their lives.”
Given the high-stakes nature of the final round, stage jitters are par for the course. Pellicano says this is all part of the process, assuring that the WSO players are strongly in tune with helping the soloists realize their best performances.
“All musicians will tend to sympathize with that kind of pressure,” he says, adding he’s looking forward to leading the program of instrumental concertos and vocal arias chosen by the trio of contenders. “The three finalists will feel they’re doing their best if they know we are pushing for them,” he says.
“We’re rooting for all of them and it’s going to be a fantastic night.”
The WMC McLellan final round concert is Friday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Jubilee Place auditorium of Mennonite Brethern Collegiate Institute, 180 Riverton Ave. Tickets are $30 (adult) at McNally Robinson Booksellers, at the door or by calling 204-944-9431. Student admission is $5 at the door only. For more information, visit