One of the happiest moments as a composer is discovering an orchestral piece is going to have a new performance. I was thrilled to learn that Carissa Klopoushak, who I first met at Scotia Festival of Music in 2005, is going to be performing Sapling with the Saskatoon Symphony, conducted by Eric Petkau, on March 25 at the Sid Buckwold Theatre in Saskatoon, SK. Sapling was commissioned by Calvin Dyck and the Vancouver Island Symphony in 2014, and has also been performed in an arrangement for solo violin and seven strings by Annette-Barbara Vogel and Magisterra. It’s such a delight to hear different musicians’ interpretations, and I’m really looking forward to hearing Carissa’s performance in March.
An enormous thanks to Ensemble Thing, conducted by Tom Butler, with Alan McHugh, Catherine Backhouse, and Brian McBride, directed by Stasi Schaeffer, for a fantastic premiere of the fully-staged version of Jan Tait and the Bear on October 6 and 8 at the CCA in Glasgow. We received some lovely reviews from The Tempohouse, The Cusp, and Opera Scotland. We’re hoping to take it on tour next year. In the meantime, here’s a photo of Catherine Backhouse as Jan Tait and Brian MacBride as the bear, with costumes by Vicki Brown!
I’m so thrilled that Ensemble Thing, conducted by Tom Butler, will be premiering the fully staged version of Jan Tait and the Bear at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on Oct. 6 (8 PM) and Oct. 8 (1 PM). This performance stars Alan McHugh, Catherine Backhouse, and Brian McBride, and is directed by Stasi Schaeffer, with costumes by Vicki Brown.
For a little preview, here is a trailer, with beautiful illustrations by Meilo So and animations by Jason Brown of Greenlight Creative.
Tickets are available from the CCA, in advance or at the door. I hope to see you there!
I’m so excited to announce that I’ve been awarded an Opera America Discovery Grant to have my chamber opera Jan Tait and the Bear premiered by Ensemble Thing at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on October 6 and 8, 2016. More details of the upcoming performances to follow soon.
On February 7 at 3:00, the English Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ken Woods, will be performing the UK premiere of green/blue at Shirehall in Hereford, England. The piece was commissioned by Ken in 2003 for the Oregon East Symphony, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to hear it again.
Here is some coverage of Jan Tait and the Bear in The Scotsman. Please note that the bear was not actually drunk, he was put to sleep with a complicated mixture of butter and Shetlandic and Norwegian herbs. And he did not starve to death: Jan Tait kept him well fed with buttered oatcakes. We’re planning a concert performance of Jan Tait this summer, and staged performances in the winter.
I’m delighted to learn that two of my pieces, Col and Why the parrot repeats human words, will be performed at the Now Hear This festival, which will take place from March 20-22, 2015, in Edmonton. Last year the Wind Rose Trio and dancer Gerry Morita gave a wonderful performance of Reeds, and I had a great time attending. The weekend-long festival had the perfect mix of great music, excellent performances, and ample opportunity for discussion and socializing. I’m looking forward to attending again this year.
In 2010 I spent 10 days in Yell, one of the Northern Isles of Shetland, with a group of killer whale researchers. Although we didn’t see any killer whales, I was there long enough to fall in love with the land, people, and folklore of Shetland.
While I was there, I got to know the musicians of ffancytunes, the UK’s northernmost chamber ensemble. They asked me to write a piece for them, and I decided to write a chamber opera based on the Shetlandic folktale Jan Tait and the Bear. It takes a long time to write a 40-minute chamber opera, and I was interrupted several times (by a violin concerto, by the birth of my son, by my hermit thrush research, etc.), but I finally completed it in October!
In November I spent a week in Yell, where we began rehearsing Jan Tait. I’m really looking forward to the performances, which will be in the summer and fall of 2015.
I wrote Seven Duos for Birds and Strings in 2011-2012, when I was composer-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. The piece explores the ways different species of birds might sing their songs together, ranging from unintended overlapping to hocketing so tight that it sounds like only one bird singing.
Seven Duos was commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts for violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel and violist Dan Sweaney. For a variety of reasons, the piece did not receive its premiere until November 28, 2014, when Annette-Barbara and Dan performed it at the International Viola Congress. I’m glad they waited, because this year the Congress was in Porto, Portugal, and I was able to attend! They gave a fantastic performance, and I had a great time visiting Porto as well.
I’m just back from London, where the English String/Symphony Orchestra and violinist Harriet Mackenzie, with Ken Woods conducting, gave a beautiful performance of falling still. The concert also featured a fantastic premiere of Wall of Water by Deborah Pritchard, and pieces By Thea Musgrave and Kaija Saariaho. (A detailed review of the concert can be found here.)
I’ve known Ken since the early 1990’s, when we were both students at Scotia Festival of Music, and it was great to have the chance to work with him again. (Ken is a very multi-talented musician. When we were at Scotia Festival, we performed Ancient Voices of Children by George Crumb together: Ken played both the mandolin and the musical saw parts!)