(1922, Poland - 2005, Canada)

Harry Freedman is one of Canada's most frequently performed composers. His output has given us a vast array of over 200 compositions ranging from solo voice to choir, from full orchestral symphonies to string, wind and brass ensembles, from theatre to dance and from film to television programs.

Freedman was born in Poland, and moved to Canada in 1925. His early training was as a visual artist and in jazz and at eighteen he began studying clarinet. He came to Toronto to study oboe and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He then joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as its English horn player, a post he held for 24 years until he resigned in 1970 to devote himself full-time to composing. 

Two of Freedman’s honours are of particular note. In 1970, the Brian Macdonald ballet 5 OVER 13, for which Freedman wrote the music, received front-page headlines when the Royal Winnipeg Ballet performed it in Rotterdam. And in 1988, Borealis, for orchestra and four choirs, was presented in Paris at the International Rostrum of Composers, an annual symposium of music producers (radio) who present broadcast recordings of the most interesting pieces they have heard during the past year. 

He was a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers (president, 1975-78) and of the Guild of Canadian Film Composers. In 1967, he was chosen to represent Canada at the 2nd Festival of Music of the Americas and Spain in Madrid, where his First Symphony was performed. In 1970 he won the Etrog (now called the Genie) award for best music in a feature film at the Canadian Film Awards. In 1984 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Artist Compositions


Premiere Title of Commission Listen
09/27/2004 Graphic 10 Listen Close

Graphic 10 is part of a series of Freedman’s compositions that pay homage to the visual arts. Like its predecessor Graphic 8, this piece was inspired by Henri Matisse’s 1947 limited-edition art book Jazz, which contained prints of many of the artist’s brightly coloured cut-paper collages of figures in silhouette.

04/22/2004 A Gift for King Freddie Listen Close

Despite its irreverent title, Freedman’s contribution to Freddy’s Tune is not, this time, a jazz piece. Nor does it contain the original theme given to Bach by King Frederick.

11/03/2002 Valleys Listen Close

It is the position of the six choirs relative to the audience that gives Valleys its name. They are to be placed around and above the audience: the largest of them on stage and the five others arranged in a semicircle in the first balcony.

02/26/1999 Voices Listen Close

Freedman acknowledges that the title of this work “may strike some listeners as being somewhat redundant: one does not, after all, go to a choral concert expecting to see fifty krumhorn players on stage!” But in fact that title points to the innovative nature of the piece, for unlike most choral works, Voices has no meaningful text.

06/13/1997 Borealis Listen Close

Borealis makes use of such antiphonal and spatial effects. It also, as its title suggests (Borealis being Latin for “of the north”), draws inspiration from another awe-inspiring space: the frozen vastness of the Arctic. The text used in the piece is an abstraction of Inuit and other aboriginal languages.