Jeunesses Musicales Canada: Home Sweet Home contest

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

For more than 70 years, Jeunesses Musicales Canada has been supporting young classical musicians as they pursue their careers across the country. The coronavirus pandemic and its dire economic consequences will not keep JMC from fulfilling its mission. During lockdown, which affected the arts in particular, the Fondation JM Canada launched its freshly-minted Home Sweet Home contest – the name an allusion to that place of refuge which protected us from infection, and which, thanks to the contest, became a source of inspiration for young musicians.

The contest was aimed at musicians aged 30 and under, who were prepared to play or write a piece based on the phrase “Home Sweet Home.” This translates as domicile adoré, which matches the French Do Mi Si La Do Ré, i.e. the notes C-E-B-A-C-D, which participants had to incorporate into their pieces. As FJMC director Richard Lupien explains, the idea was to encourage creativity, and he himself used social media to share a recent composition of his, entitled Tango, based on those notes. “It only took us a few days to launch the contest,” he says.

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Facts and figures

At the beginning, the FJMC received 220 applications and 173 pieces of three minutes or less. In the end, it awarded over $128,000 in prize money and bursaries to emerging musicians. Also, 3,200 donations totalling $97,782 were made on the funding platform, averaging $30 per donation. That sum made it possible to award Participation Prizes and bursaries to 33 musicians and/or composers.

Because so much money was raised, all the prizes and bursaries were covered. Pianist Henry From of Vancouver won the first prize of $20,000$* for his Etude “Home Sweet Home,” Op. 54, which uses the C-E-B-A-C-D motif several times. Singer Jeanne Laforest of Montreal received second prize and a bursary of $10,000 for Pas d’école, incorporating the sounds of glasses being rubbed. Third prize-winners are the Quebec duo of pianist Marie-Pier Allard and cellist Dominique Beauséjour-Ostiguy (Longueuil, QC) with a bursary of $7,000 for their brilliantly-constructed composition in which the soloists play the motif back and forth. The seven other finalists each received a prize of $4,000.

Participation prizes were awarded to the musicians who garnered most donations for their applications. The winner was violinist Leslie Ashworth (Oakville, ON), followed by cellist Antoine Savard (Montreal) and the trio of pianist and writer Simon Desbiens (Quebec City), violinist Émilie Auclair (Ancienne-Lorette, QC) and singer Carole-Anne Roussel (Rivière-du-Loup, QC). They received bursaries respectively of $5,000, $4,000 and $3,000. “Musicians are keener than ever to play and be heard,” says Jean-Guy Gingras, JMC director. “They [the donors]have made a real difference in the lives of our young musicians.”

Overhauled selection process

The Fondation made an initial selection on May 20 from videos the candidates posted on YouTube. They had until June 14 to publicize their videos on the platform to attract as many donors as possible. This was with a view to the Participation Prizes, which are awarded on the strength of viewers’ votes. Between May 20 and June 14, the public could vote for their favourite video and make a donation to the young musicians (one vote per donor) on the funding platform Fundky. At the same time, three pre-selection juries chose the 33 best videos for Artistic Prizes, recognizing outstanding projects and performances.

The decision to award two separate prizes followed complaints from some participants, as we explained in our article “Jeunesses Musicales Foundation overhauls Do-Mi-Si-La-Do-Ré contest after public outcry,” which appeared on the LSM website. The tenor and composer Louis Desjarlais, who withdrew from the contest as a protest, explains: “JMC has listened to our objections and shown good faith in many respects. In its current format the contest rewards and respects the work of the composers. That said, the Fondation ruffled a lot of people’s feathers and took some reprehensible decisions.”

True to its mission, the Fondation made sure the videos were assessed for the Artistic Prize according to firm criteria: originality, quality of performance, listening pleasure and incorporation of the C-E-B-A-C-D theme. The 10 finalists were then heard by a jury comprising influential names in music such as conductors Marc David, Timothy Vernon and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and partner organization directors Renaud Loranger, Chantal Lambert and Isolde Lagacé. A JMC press release says, “Since the contest was organized in a strong sense of solidarity with the young musicians, FJMC is confident that it now reflects the expectations of the artists FJMC supports.”.

Translation by Cecilia Grayson

*This and the other sums mentioned include the $2,000 grant awarded to the 33 musicians.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Justin Bernard est détenteur d’un doctorat en musique de l’Université de Montréal. Ses recherches portent sur la médiation musicale, notamment par le biais des nouveaux outils numériques, ainsi que sur la relation entre opéra et cinéma. Membre de l’Observatoire interdisciplinaire de création et de recherche en musique (OICRM), il a réalisé une série de capsules vidéo éducatives pour l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Justin Bernard est également l’auteur de notes de programme pour le compte de la salle Bourgie du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal et chargé de cours à l’Université de Sherbrooke. Par ailleurs, il anime une émission d’opéra et une chronique musicale à Radio VM (91,3 FM).

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