1925 – 1999, Canada

Born in Toronto (Canada), Somers believed that composition evolves from a body of tradition and a series of conventions, be they old or new. He wrote works that employed Baroque techniques fused with serialism and the more highly tensioned elements of 20th century music.

He studied piano and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto with Reginald Godden (1941-43), Weldon Kilburn (1946-49) and John Weinzweig (1942-43, 1946-49), receiving scholarships in 1947 and 1949. He was awarded a Canadian Amateur Hockey Association scholarship through which he studied composition with Darius Milhaud in Paris (1949-50).

Somers was a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers and in 1971 was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Ottawa (1975), the University of Toronto (1976) and York University (1977). From the late 1950s he composed almost exclusively on commissions from a wide variety of North American musical organizations and individuals.

Artist Compositions


Premiere Title of Commission Listen
05/25/1994 11 Miniatures for Oboe Listen Close

In composing these eleven short pieces, Somers has declared that he deliberately set out to put the performer’s technique to the test by exploring the entire gamut of the oboe’s range.

05/25/1994 The Birminal Trilogy Listen Close

Described by the composer as “wurbl inwentions by Edward Lear, boshed to music by Harry Somers,” this trilogy of settings combines one of the eccentric English humourist’s best-known nonsense poems with two other less familiar pieces from his pen.