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Premiere Title of Commission Composer Listen
10/01/2013 Open Road James Rolfe Listen Close

Whitman's long lines and purple passages are a challenge to set and to sing. The soloists deliver the more personal, incantatory lines, with the choir responding, shading, interfering, echoing.

01/27/2013 Five and a Half Bridges James Rolfe Listen Close

10/11/2012 Sentir de cacerolas Analia Llugdar Listen Close

This piece was inspired by the 'cacerolazos', a demonstration accompanied by the clattering of saucepans in protest against Argentina’s economic and political situation that culminated in December 2001. The words are from the poem Oración de un desocupado (Prayer of the Unemployed) by Argentinian poet Juan Gelman.

10/11/2012 The Mountain Spirit Fuhong Shi Listen Close

The text of this work comes from poetry anthology Nine Songs written by a great Chinese poet Qu Yuan. Nine Songs consists of 11 poems and presents various parts that reflect rituals of ancient China.

11/29/2011 Tango: Del Amor Imprevisto James Rolfe Listen Close

Rolfe’s own words best describe the challenge he faced in composing this work—the difficulty of writing from outside of the culture and style—and how he rose to meet it: “As an Anglo-Canadian composer writing a tango, I’m skating on thin ice. How can my stolid northern soul find its way into the very particular language, singing, rhythm, and soul of this dance?"

04/28/2011 Symptoms of a Quase Language Craig Galbraith Listen Close

In the poem from which Galbraith has taken his text, Vancouver writer Desirée Jung uses a mixture of Portuguese and English to describe a state of mind in which two worlds collide and, for a moment, coexist with one another, intermingled and inseparable. A subtle use of guitar accompaniment and close harmony lends further expression to the composition’s theme of merging realities.

03/23/2011 Breathe James Rolfe Listen Close

'Breathe' redefines many musical periods through its blending of ancient and modern texts, and through the performance of new music with historical instruments and techniques. Each part of the piece focuses on one of the four classical elements—air, fire, water, and earth—all of which are strongly present in the poems Rolfe has chosen for his text.

10/20/2010 El sueño de Aquiles Analia Llugdar Listen Close

'El sueño de Aquiles' ('The Dream of Aquiles') is a setting of a poem by Mexican writer José Manuel Recillas. The composition calls for four immense percussion setups, placed at the front and back of a room. Also, four voices alternate between clusters of close harmonies, complex rhythmic Sprechstimme, and intricate contrapuntal lines.

02/24/2010 Cantares José Evangelista Listen Close

'Cantares' ('Singings') is based on sixteen traditional Spanish songs, mostly from Castile. Encompassing religious songs, love songs, social songs, and a lullaby, much of the material would originally have been sung a cappella, with only rhythmic accompaniment. Evangelista sought a way of presenting them in new ways without imposing a harmonic language.

03/16/2008 Seven Last Words of Christ Paul Frehner Listen Close

In this series of seven musical meditations on the words spoken by Jesus on the cross, Frehner makes dramatic use of counterpoint and other forms of superimposition to explore the meanings and universal resonances of the texts.

02/11/2008 Pimooteewin: The Journey Melissa Hui Listen Close

In this acclaimed and ground-breaking work, the first oratorio ever to be written in the Cree language, Weesageechak and Misigoo bemoan the departure of the living to the land of the dead. They travel to the magic island where the Spirits of the Dead dance by the light of the moon, held up by Atheegis the Frog.

11/06/2007 An Unfinished Life Brian Cherney Listen Close

Etty Hillesum was twenty-nine when she died at Auschwitz on November 30, 1943. 'An Unfinished Life' is based on the diaries that this young Dutch Jewish woman kept from March 1941 to October 1942. Cherney transformed several brief passages of Hillesum’s own writing, including several prayers, into a form of verse, and set these for the voices.

05/07/2006 Inventory Brian Current Listen Close

As a young woman who works as a shoe-store clerk daydreams about shoe ownership on a grand scale, her inner reverie alternating with her rapid-fire recital of the romantically named stock of which she is taking inventory, Current makes use of his signature “slanted time” to suggest the character’s underlying neurosis.

02/12/2006 The Weaving Maiden Chan Ka Nin Listen Close

The story of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden, a tale of two forbidden lovers who are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month over the wings of magpies, is well known in Chinese folklore. Since the Weaving Maiden is from heaven and the Cowherd is of the world below, the music embodies the division between the celestial and the earthly.

05/07/2002 The Growth of Music and the Invention of Storytelling Omar Daniel Listen Close

“This is a fable.” So begins Giller Prize-nominated author Michael Redhill’s story of an inveterate liar who is betrayed by a growth under his arm that sings whenever he utters a falsehood. It was with the elemental quality of fable in mind that Daniel approached his setting of Redhill’s text.

04/17/2001 Six Songs James Rolfe Listen Close

In his earlier compositions inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Rolfe was interested more in the sound of Whitman’s verse than in its meaning. In these settings of poems from Leaves of Grass, however, he takes a more traditional art-song approach, his music reflecting the thoughts and sentiments conveyed by the words.

06/17/1997 Terror and Erebus (A Lament for Franklin) Henry Kucharzyk Listen Close

The story of that ill-fated expedition of Terror and the Erebus, under the command of Admiral John Franklin, had long fascinated Kucharzyk, and when he discovered in the archives of the CBC a transcript and tape of Gwendolyn MacEwen’s 1975 radio play on the subject, he seized the opportunity to give musical voice to the tragic tale.

05/28/1996 Traces (Tikkun) István Anhalt Listen Close

Traces is not a conventional opera. Rather than conforming to traditional concepts of music, staging, drama, and plot, it is driven by the inner drama of every human life. In part, this deeply emotional work is autobiographical, drawing on Anhalt’s own experiences during the Holocaust. Multiple roles are adopted by the solo performer, who sings a series of monologues in a variety of different dramatic voices.

04/26/1992 Prime Time John Weinzweig Listen Close

Intended to be seen as much as heard, Prime Time is a music-theatre work, with words assembled by the composer. Those words consist of a series of disparate messages from the news media presented in juxtaposition without heed to chronology. Moments of quiet rumination, ranging from the contemplation of hidden meanings to furtive thoughts, are interrupted by concert events.

04/06/1987 Laudes Creationis Derek Holman Listen Close

Laudes Creationis exemplifies many of the characteristic aspects of Holman’s musical style. Each movement has a distinct harmonic and rhythmic identity. The three percussionists and the harp add a distinct colour to each section by accenting the angularity of the melodic material. Though certain passages in the work are more tranquil in mood, these usually function as resting places between more actively rhythmical sections.