Lament for deceased singer draws worldwide response


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A musical collaboration in honour of a world-renowned singer is drawing international attention to professors at Providence University College.

“When I wrote it, I had no plans. I just felt I had to do this… to honour this person,” said composer Dr. Michalis Andronikou.

Andronikou, a Greek composer born in Cyprus, moved to Canada about ten years ago. He is associate professor of composition and theory at Providence University College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne. He wrote operatic song “We Say Farwell,” based on a poem by Dr. Luann Hiebert, also a professor at Providence.

GERALYN WICHERS | THE CARILLON Dr. Michalis Andronikou at his office in Providence University College.

The song is in memory of the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a Russian operatic baritone who was considered one of the best singers of his time, Andronikou said. Hvorostovsky performed in concerts and operas world-wide, including at the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall in New York, according to his obituary in The New York Times.

Andronkou recalled that on the day of Hvorostovsky’s death, he read an obituary in his college office while his colleague David Klassen, himself a baritone, was speaking to a student outside the door.

“I had this epiphany. I said ‘oh my god. We have to do something,’” Andronikou said. “This is a voice I always admired since I was a kid. I mean, I grew up with his voice.”

Andronikou said he first heard Hvorostovsky sing after the singer won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1989. Andronikou was 12 and already knew he wanted to be a musician, but he wasn’t an opera aficionado.

“He’s not a voice that you can skip when you hear,” Andronikou said.

Andronikou asked Dr. Hiebert, a professor of English literature, to write him a poem lamenting the loss of Hvorostovsky. He composed the accompanying music in three or four days.

The song debuted at a recital in Steinbach this spring, performed by baritone David Klassen and pianist Tracey Regier Sawatzky. Both are instructors at Providence. A couple weeks later, they recorded the song and posted it to YouTube. Andronikou submitted the score for publication to Italian company Da Vinci Publishing.

He also sent the song to the Russian ambassador to Cyprus, where Andronikou was born. The ambassador, in turn, sent the song to several Russian music schools.

Feedback began to roll in. The video has received about 4,000 views to date, and Andronikou has received emails from Hvorostovsky’s managers, friends and family of the singer, and from local arts organizations like the Manitoba Opera. People from Russia have commented on the YouTube video.

“People were grateful to think, to realize that their baritone is an international baritone,” Andronikou said of the response from Russia. “His legacy is everywhere now.”

Andronikou said singers, including a soprano from New York, have expressed interest in recording the song.

“What we do has an impact on our students,” Andronikou added. Inspired by the collaboration between professors in the literature and music departments, students from both departments held an evening in which students from both disciplines attempted collaborations of their own.

“I think this is what makes a vibrant university,” said Andronikou. He expressed hope that the recognition the piece received might create opportunities for the music program at Providence.

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