French Song Project

Program Outline

The French Song Project is a performance course for pianists and singers, aged 30 or older, who would like to improve their interpretive, collaborative, and performance skills as part of an intensive exploration leading to performance. Taught over a series of weekend afternoons, the course is run at the Victoria Conservatory of Music in association with the Pacific Song Collective and the SongArt Performance Research Group (UK). In 2020, the course will explore the songs of Parisian composers Gabriel Fauré and Pauline Viardot. The young Fauré premièred many of his early songs in the famous salon of composer/singer Viardot and was for a time engaged to her daughter. Many parallels in style and content can be heard in the songs of the two composers. Our course offers students the unparalleled opportunity to take part in a unique exploration, through study and performance, of the intimate connection between these two great French musicians.


Our song courses are built around the exploratory potential of the singer-pianist duo, the core creative pairing that first led to the development of song for voice & piano. Our students work in multiple pianist-singer duos throughout the course, receiving five stages of professional-standard instruction: solo coachings, duo coachings, workshops, faculty open rehearsals, and masterclasses. Our group classes take place on weekend afternoons and coachings are arranged to suit mutual timetables. The course culminates in four performances: a private student omnibus, two public student concerts in the beautiful Wood Hall at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and a final faculty concert. The timetable of the course is flexible, and is designed to allow working students and those with family
responsibilities to miss up to three weekends and still take part in the course.


All are welcome on our song projects! We have three student categories, allowing us to accommodate all levels of musical ability from amateur beginners to professional music teachers wishing to improve their collaborative skills in song performance and interpretation. For more information:

Click here for student criteria and schedule

Click here for Timetable (subject to change)

Click here for Repertoire list (subject to change)


Places offered on a first-come first-serve basis. Admission is through registration ($100 deposit required at registration. Remainder of fees due by March 1, 2020). New students should register in their preferred student category first and then send a recording of 2 pieces of their choice (max 6 minutes) to: Placement in student categories for all students will be announced December 14, 2019.

Registration Deadline:

  • Performers & Understudies: Friday, December 13, 2019
  • Observers: Saturday, March 28, 2020

Pay in full online (click applicable course link below):

OR to only pay the $100 deposit, visit or call the VCM front desk: 900 Johnson Street, 250-386-5311.
Bursaries and payment plans are available.

Program Details

Course dates: March 28 - May 30, 2020
Student concerts: June 5, 6, 7, 2020
Faculty concert: June 13, 2020


Kathryn Whitney

Canadian/British singer Dr Kathryn Whitney was raised on Vancouver Island and now divides her time between Britain and Canada. A versatile musician whose work combines concert and recital performance with a wide range of collaborative research, educational and other projects, she is a lyric mezzo-soprano with an “impressively wide dynamic range” (Oxford Times) and a “special gift” for interpreting text (Nanaimo News) whose singing has been described as “meaty”, “prophetic” (Oxford Times) and “very touching” (Sir John Eliot Gardiner). Kathryn is a freelance performer, teacher, researcher, and solo and choral clinician. She is currently an Associate Fellow at the Institute (…)

Anna Cal

ANNA CAL is trained in the famous tradition of Russian piano schools. She studied at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St. Petersburg with well-known Russian performers and professors including Vitaly Berzon, Pavel Yegorov and the late Helen Shishko. She holds Master degrees with high distinction in three fields: piano performance, piano pedagogy and collaborative piano. After studying in Russia, Anna spent two years in Rome, Italy where she worked as a soloist and a voice coach. Anna is a senior teacher at the Victoria Conservatory of Music where she teaches piano, piano pedagogy and collaborative piano. She is Director of Collaborative piano and Interpretation in German Lieder Projects. Anna is a frequent performer in Victoria as a soloist and in collaboration with vocalists and instrumentalists.

Robert Holliston

Robert Holliston studied at the Victoria Conservatory of Music under Robin Wood and Winifred Scott Wood, and at the University of British Columbia under Robert Rogers. As an accompanist and chamber player he has performed throughout Canada and the USA, England and New Zealand, and has been heard frequently on CBC-Radio. He has recorded CDs with the popular salon ensemble Viveza, trombonist Ian McDougall, tenor Ken Lavigne, his brother Tom Holliston, Show Business Giants, and members of the Hornby Island Ensemble. Robert has collaborated with many of Canada’s leading singers, including Richard Margison, Benjamin Butterfield, Judith Forst, Nathalie Paulin, Susan (…)

Alex Chen

Alex Chen is a collaborative pianist and vocal coach whose personal approach and intellectual curiosity bring fresh perspectives on a diverse body of musical works. In the words of mentor John Hess, he is “an immensely musical and sensitive player” with “a deeply inquisitive mind”. Alex has an MMus from the University of Western Ontario […]