CBC Radio Competitions | The Canadian Encyclopedia


CBC Radio Competitions

National competitions whose aim has been to identify, encourage and present Canadian talent through the medium of CBC radio, and to provide opportunities for career development through cash awards, performance, broadcasting and recording.

CBC Radio Competitions

National competitions whose aim has been to identify, encourage and present Canadian talent through the medium of CBC radio, and to provide opportunities for career development through cash awards, performance, broadcasting and recording. The first major CBC radio competitions were 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow' (1943-56), 'Nos Futures Étoiles' (1947-55), and 'Opportunity Knocks' (1947-57). In 1991 the CBC English and French radio networks continued to sponsor four national competitions in music. One of these, the Alcan Jazz Competition, is treated in the entry Festival international de Jazz de Montréal; the other three are:

1/ CBC National Radio Competition for Young Performers, 1959-

2/ CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers, 1973-

3/ CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs, 1976-

In addition to these major competitions, the CBC has sponsored other competitions for composers and songwriters (see Composition Competitions).

CBC National Radio Competition for Young Performers, 1959-

CBC National Radio Competition for Young Performers (CBC Talent Festival 1959-76; CBC Talent Competition 1976-84)/Concours National de Radio-Canada. Radio competition - a successor to 'Opportunity Knocks' - initiated by Geoffrey Waddington and Terence Gibbs in 1959 and held annually to 1979, biennially thereafter. The first finals were broadcast in 1960 from Toronto. Open to instrumentalists aged 15 to 30 and singers up to 35 years, the competitions have attracted as many as 200 contestants in one year. Semi-finalists are selected at auditions in major cities across Canada, and from these, two finalists are chosen in each performance category. The competition is carried in French and English on the CBC networks, and the finals, while generally held in Ottawa (with the NACO) or Quebec City (with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra), also have taken place in Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

During the first five years only singers and pianists competed, and the winner in each category received $1000, the runner-up singer $250. The categories then were increased to four and in 1978 to five: piano, voice, strings, winds, and a rotating 'speciality' category - harpsichord in 1978, guitar in 1979, harp in 1981, and piano trio in 1983. After 1983 the special category was dropped and the piano and vocal categories began to alternate with strings, woodwinds, and brass. By 1978 prize money had increased to $500 for all finalists, $2500 for the winners in each category, and a $5000 grand prize; by 1991 category winners received $5000 and the grand prize was $6000. An award for the best performance of a Canadian work in the semi-final round was established in 1985, and was $2000 in 1991.Winners have appeared in special broadcasts or telecasts. In addition, beginning in 1978 first-prize winners received scholarships to either the Banff CA or the JMC Orford Art Centre.

Contestants perform with an orchestra. Conductors for the competitions have included Raffi Armenian, John Avison, Mario Bernardi, Franz-Paul Decker, James De Preist, Sir Ernest MacMillan, and Simon Streatfeild. Among the judges have been Murray Adaskin, Robert Aitken, Pierrette Alarie, Louise André, Victor Bouchard, James Campbell, Marius Constant, John de Lancie, Lorand Fenyves, Kenneth Gilbert, Leonard Isaacs, Philip Jones, Alexandre Lagoya, André Laplante, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Phyllis Mailing, Franco Mannino, Mady Mesplé, Mary Morrison, John Newmark, Arthur Ozolins, Jan Rubes, Léopold Simoneau, Raoul Sosa, Gerald Stanick, Steven Staryk, Malcolm Troup, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Ronald Turini, Jean Vallerand, Fanny Waterman, and George Zukerman.

In 1983 Clermont Pépin'sTrio No. 2 was commissioned as the imposed piece for the special piano trio category. To mark the 25th anniversary of the competition in 1989, there were five categories of competition, and a gala concert took place 7 May at Roy Thomson Hall that featured 14 past winners performing with the TS conducted by Mario Bernardi, and a performance of Akasha for orchestra, commissioned from Glenn Buhr. The soloists were: Gianetta Baril, James Campbell, Angela Cheng, Claude Corbeil, Angèle Dubeau, Judith Forst, Ben Heppner, Angela Hewitt, Norbert Kraft, Louis Lortie, Jon Kimura Parker, Marina Piccinini, James Sommerville, and Heather Thomson.

CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers, 1973-

CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers (CBC Radio Canada Council Awards for Young Composers 1973-4; National Competition for Young Composers 1975-6)/Concours national des jeunes compositeurs. Biennial awards established to promote the composition of concert music by Canadians, and to ensure a performance of such music. A total of $19,000 was awarded in 1974 from monies provided by the CBC, the Canada Council, the OAC, and the MACQ. The amount had increased to $26,000 by 1979 as a result of allocations from the British Columbia Cultural Fund, the MACQ, Alberta Culture, and the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Provincial support continued until 1986. In 1990 $32,000 was offered. The competition is administered by the Canadian Music Centres in Toronto and Montreal, and jurors are drawn from the ranks of established Canadian and foreign composers (eg, for the 1977-8 competition, the US composer Earle Brown and the Canadians Malcolm Forsyth, Otto Joachim, and Jean Papineau-Couture; for the 1989-90 competition, the French composer Serge Nigg, the Scottish composer Judith Weir, and Canadians Patrick Cardy, Denis Gougeon, and Gilles Tremblay).

To be eligible a work must be composed by a Canadian citizen or in Canada by a landed immigrant under 30years of age; it may be from 6 to 20 minutes in length; and as many as three works may be submitted by a composer. 190 works by 133 composers were submitted to the 1977-8 competition; 191 by 134 composers in 1984; and 88 works were submitted to the 1990 competition. In 1977 three separate categories were introduced: electronic works; chamber works employing from 2 to 12 instruments or voices; and works for solo instrument or voice, unaccompanied or accompanied. A lyric theatre category replaced the solo category in the 1981-2 competition, but no award was made. The categories were changed in 1986 to: string ensemble of 25-35 players, electronic or chamber ensemble up to 12 performers, and percussion up to 8 players; and changed again in 1988 to: chamber music, electronic, and strings. In 1982 the Canada Council inaugurated a grand prize ($5000 in 1990) for the best work overall, to be awarded at the discretion of the jury. The finalists' compositions are broadcast on the CBC English and French networks. The 1984 broadcast concert was given in conjunction with the ISCM festival, held in Toronto.

CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs, 1976-

CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs (CBC Canada Council Prize for Amateur Choirs 1976-8)/Concours radiophonique national des chorales d'amateurs. Biennial competition that began in 1976 with five categories, open to all amateur choirs in Canada; (conductors, however, are exempt from the amateur qualification). A regional three-member jury selects up to two choirs in each category as entrants in the national-level competition. A national three-member jury selects the finalists in each category, and these then qualify for broadcast on the English and French radio networks. In the 1990 competition, a month of broadcasts by the 43 finalists preceded the announcement of the winners on CBC's 'Choral Concert' 27 May. First-prize winners in each of the eight categories received $1500, second $1000. The number of categories had expanded from the original five to seven by 1980, and to eight in 1988. These categories have included school or children's choirs (unchanged voices), youth choirs (up to 21 years of age), and various adult choirs: equal voices, mixed voices over 29 members, mixed-voice chamber with 16-28 members, traditional and ethno-cultural choirs, and beginning in 1988, large choirs with 60 or more members. Any choir in any category also may enter the contemporary choral music category initiated in 1980. Special awards also have been made for the performance of Canadian music in any of the categories (1978, 1982, 1988, 1990); in 1980 this was limited to performance of music by Willan in honour of his centennial.

Categories and First-place Winners:

Centennial Meistersingers, Guelph, Ont 1976; Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute Concert Choir, Outlook, Sask 1978

no first 1978; Powell River Boys' Choir, Powell River, BC 1980; Toronto Children's Chorus 1982; Toronto Children's Chorus 1984; F.A.C.E. Treble Choir, Montreal 1986; no first 1988; Toronto Children's Chorus 1990

Ontario Youth Choir 1976; Jeunes chanteurs d'Acadie, Moncton, NB 1978; Medway High School Concert Choir, London, Ont 1980; no first 1982; Western Canada High School Madrigal Singers, Calgary 1984; Amabile Youth Singers, London, Ont 1986; no first 1988; Ensemble Cantare, Montreal and Amabile Youth Singers, London, Ont (tied) 1990

Adult Mixed
The Gallery Choir, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Toronto 1976; UBC University Singers, Vancouver 1978; London Pro Musica, London, Ont 1980; Donovan Chorale, Montreal 1982; UBC University Singers, Vancouver 1984 and 1986; The St Paul's Singers, Toronto 1988; no first 1990

Adult Mixed Chamber
Memorial U Chamber Choir, St John's, Nfld 1980; Guelph Chamber Choir 1982; Les Chanteurs d'Orphée de Montréal 1984; Phoenix, Vancouver 1986 and 1988; University of Manitoba Singers, Winnipeg 1990

Adult Equal Voice
no first 1976; no first 1978; The Grads, Lethbridge, Alta 1980; no first 1982; Oriana Singers, Toronto 1984; Faculty of Music Singers, London, Ont (male), and Oriana Singers, Toronto (female) 1986; (male) no first, Elektra Women's Choir, Vancouver 1988; Elektra Women's Choir, Vancouver 1990

no first 1988; McGill Faculty of Music Concert Choir, Montreal 1990

Traditional, Ethno-cultural
Merezhi Vocal Ensemble, Edmonton 1980; Vesnivka Ukrainian Girls' Choir, Toronto 1982 and 1984; no first 1986 and 1988; Vesnivka Choir, Toronto 1990

Contemporary Choral Music
Powell River Boys' Choir, Powell River, BC 1980; no first 1982; Faculty of Music Singers, London, Ont 1986; Phoenix, Vancouver 1988; Elektra Women's Choir, Vancouver 1990

Special Prize: Canadian Work
Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute Concert Choir, Outlook, Sask 1978; Vancouver Cantata Singers (for Willan composition) 1980; Donovan Chorale, Montreal 1982; The St Paul's Singers, Toronto 1988; F.A.C.E. Senior Treble Choir, Montreal and Cantata Singers of Ottawa 1990


Bruce Davis, String Quartet; Walter Boudreau, Variations; David J. Nichols, Slant; Richard Boucher, Angoisse des fuyantes créations

OAC award: Gary Hayes, Pythian I

MACQ award: Pierre Trochu, Orange

1/Pierre Trochu, Eros; 2/Patrick Carpenter, Touch-Stone I; 3/David Grimes, Increscents; 4/Philippe Ménard, Reel-à-Phil, and 4/ Michael Parker, Cholê 6/Michel Gonneville, Rôle

BC Cultural Fund award: Patrick Carpenter, Touch-Stone I

Chamber: 1/John Thrower, Recitatives, Arias; 2/John Burke, Spectre

Electronic: 1/Jean Piché, La Mer à l'Aube; 2/John Thrower, Suite from Atma

Solo: 1/Anthony Genge, Eleven Steps; 2/John Burke, Six Regions

Chamber: 1/John Burke, Interface; 2/Mark Hand, Soliloquy

Electronic: no awards

Choral: 1/no first awarded; 2/John Burke, Diffusa est gratia, and 2/Denis Gougeon, Berceuse

Chamber: 1/Denys Bouliane, Jeu de Société (and grand prize), 2/John Winiarz, Nightflower

Electronic: 1/no award, 2/Bernard Gagnon, Gwendolyn Descendue, and 2/Alain Thibeault, Sonergie

Lyric theatre: no award

Chamber: 1/Rodney Sharman, Erstarrung, 2/Glenn Buhr, Le rêve revient...

Electronic: 1/no award, 2/Paul Dolden, The Melting Voice Through Mazes Running

Solo: 1/Gordon Monahan, Piano Mechanics, 2/Doug Schmidt, Imaginary Visions

String orchestra: 1/no award, 2/James Harley, Along the Riverrun

Chamber or electronic: 1/Mario Rodrigue, Tilt (and grand prize), 2/Howard Bashaw, Tsunami

Percussion: 1/James Harley, Encounters II, 2/Richard Désilets, Prière pour une infinité

Chamber: 1/Robert May, Hymns to the Night, 2/William Peltier, Requiem for a Twittering Machine

Electronic: 1/John Oliver, El Reposo del Fuego (and grand prize), 2/Stéphane Roy, Paysages intérieurs

Strings: 1/no award 2/Robert May, Nightstreaming

Chamber: 1/David Harman, Pieces for Solo Piano, 2/James Rolfe, Four Songs on Poems by Walt Whitman

Electronic: 1/Marc Tremblay, L'Argent...toujours l'argent, 2/Daniel Leduc, Ombre

String ensemble: 1/Chris Paul Harman, Iridescence (and grand prize), 2/Omar Mark Daniel, Masque of the Red Death

First Prize Winners

Gordana Lazarevich, piano; Cornelis Opthof, baritone

Michel Dussault, piano; Heather Thomson, soprano

William Aide, piano; Claude Corbeil, bass-baritone

Irene Weiss, piano; Joan Patenaude, soprano

Constance Channon-Douglass, piano; Jean Bonhomme, tenor

Otto Armin, violin; Peter Smith, clarinet; Louise Lebrun, soprano

Marilyn Engle, piano; Hélène Gagné, cello; Alban Gallant, clarinet; Jeannette Zarou, soprano

Elsbeth Coop, piano; Kathryn Wunder, violin; Robert Cram, flute; Carrol Anne Curry, soprano, and Maurice Brown, bass, both second prizes (first not awarded)

Arthur Ozolins, piano; Osher Green, viola; Gloria Coleman, horn, and Jadwiga Michalska-Bornyi, flute (tied); Judith Forst, mezzo-soprano

Janina Fialkowska, piano; Gisela Depkat, cello; Jean Lavoie, clarinet; Sonia Rohozynsky, soprano, second prize (first not awarded)

Jane Coop, piano; Adele Armin, violin; John Rapson, clarinet; Gabrielle Lavigne, mezzo-soprano

William Tritt, piano; James Campbell, clarinet; Lynne Cantlon, soprano; Margo Burton, viola, and Susan Mustard, cello, both second prizes (first not awarded)

Linn Hendry, piano, second prize (first not awarded); Malcolm Lowe, violin; Anna Chornodolska, soprano

Robert Mayerovitch, piano; Angela Cavadas, violin; Douglas Stewart, flute; Mary Lou Fallis, soprano, and Mariana Paunova, mezzo-soprano (tied)

Jacinthe Couture, piano; Denise Lupien, violin; Marcel Saint-Jacques, flute; Ingemar Korjus, bass-baritone (also 15th anniversary special prize)

Louis Lortie, piano; Gwen Hoebig, violin; Timothy Maloney, clarinet; Micheline Dinel, soprano

Sharon Krause, piano; Joel Quarrington, double-bass; Richard Stewart, trumpet; Rosemarie Landry, soprano

Jamie Syer, piano; Philippe Djokic, violin; John MacDonald, horn; Marion Harvey, soprano

Angela Hewitt, piano; Chantal Juillet, violin; Harcus Hennigar, horn; Gina Fiordaliso, soprano; Valerie Weeks, harpsichord (grand prize)

David Swan, piano; Angèle Dubeau, violin; Ellis Wean, tuba; Ben Heppner, tenor, and Norbert Kraft, guitar (tied for grand prize)

Andrew Tunis, piano; Desmond Hoebig, cello and grand prize; Peter Lutek, bassoon; Mark DuBois, tenor; Gianetta Baril, harp

Jon Kimura Parker, piano and grand prize; Debra Parker, soprano; Hoebig-Moroz Trio

Neil Misky, viola; Marina Piccinini, flute; James Sommerville, horn; Scott St John, violin (performance of Canadian work)

Angela Cheng, piano, and Sonia Racine, mezzo soprano (tied for grand prize); Lyne Fortin, soprano (performance of Canadian work)

Michael Kim, piano, and Jamie Parker, piano (tied); Catherine French, violin; Susan Hoeppner, flute and Leslie Newman, flute, both second prizes (first not awarded)

Richard Raymond, piano; Sherri Jarosiewicz, soprano, and Shelagh Tyreman, soprano, both third prizes (first and second not awarded)


Schulman, Michael. 'CBC's Talent Festival is exactly that,' PfAC, Summer 1976

Lemery, Marthe. 'Le Concours national de Radio-Canada, un tremplin vers une carrière internationale?' Aria, vol 7, Winter 1984

Moorhouse, Colin. 'In pursuit of excellence,' Radio Guide, vol 9, May 1989

Bernstein, Tamara. 'High level of professionalism in CBC young performers contest,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 15 May 1989