Burble
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Solo mezzo with mixed chorus [15’] 2015

Premiere: Laura Swankey & The Burble Choir with conductor Christine Duncan, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5, 2015.
Text: Anna Chatterton

Burble gives voice to the Wonscotonach/Don River, one of Canada’s most polluted rivers.

My curves are straight

My mouth is a drain

Spewing grease and trash

Cars roar and ignore me

I am deaf from the din…

Dreaming of Trees
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Mixed voices [12’] 2015

Premiere: Alex Samaras & GREX, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 5, 2015.
Text: Nicholas Power

 

 

walking at night in the woods

between my childhood home and the river

fully awake and wondering

in a dream both strange and familiar

particular trees reach out like lovers…

Stone’s Secret
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SATB [4’] 2015

Commissioner: Victoria College, University of Toronto
Premiere: The choirs of Victoria and Emmanuel Colleges, Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto, October 14, 2015.
Text: Margaret Avison (excerpted from Stone’s Secret, Sunblue, Lancelot Press, 1978)

stones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otter-smooth boulder

lies under rolling

black river-water

stilled among frozen

hills and the still unbreathed

blizzards aloft;

silently, icily, is probed

stone’s secret.

 

Word has arrived that

peace will brim up, will come

like a river and the

glory…like a flowing stream.”

So.

Some of all people will

wondering wait

until this very stone

utters.

 

Todas Las Tardes
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mezzo-soprano & piano [2’] 2015

Commissioner: Soundstreams Canada
Premiere: Krisztina Szabo & Stephanie Chua, The Gardiner Museum, Toronto, September 18, 2015.
Text: Federico Garcia Lorca

Program note:

How to set a portion of the Ghazal for a Dead Child by Garcia Lorca without hearing echoes of George Crumb’s version? I purposefully didn’t refresh my memory of this vocal classic, focussing instead on the first stanza of the poem, interpreting it as a quietly obsessive rumination on loss. The singer and pianist are both called upon to step outside their comfort zone through body percussion and vocalization. In response to the lyrical devastation of the poem, I chose to work with numerical patterns based on syllabic and visual structures of the text. The result is an emotionally restrained, simple, stripped down setting.

 

Solid Gold
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soprano + 1.1.1.1 / 1.1.1 / pf.perc / str [15′] 2013

Commissioner: Orchestra Wellington
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: soprano Madeleine Pierard with Orchestra Wellington and conductor Marc Taddei, The Opera House, Wellington, September 8, 2013.
Program note:

Solid Gold riffs on mainstream culture’s obsession with the Number One Hit. Challenging the straitjacket of copyright law, I take as my starting point the titles of over 30 years of number one pop songs. Cracking open this shared archive of pop memory, I hope to unearth the heart of the love song. Collaging selected titles into new and original lyrics, my creative quest echoes the sentiment of British-American band Foreigner’s 1984 hit “I want to to know what love is”. In this maelstrom of romantic yearning, what does love mean? And who exactly is the singer? Is (s)he “Venus, Jezebel, Lady Madonna — Lola, Nikita, Sylvia’s Mother”? Or is gender itself in question? Fernando? Pinnochio? Nelson Mandela?

Dopey and The Moon
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children’s chorus SATB [8′] 2010

Commissioner: Viva Youth Singers
Funder: Viva Youth Singers
Premiere:  Viva Youth Singers, Trinity-St.Pauls, Toronto, May 16, 2010.
Text: Dennis Lee

Program note:

These two songs for children’s chorus draw on the beloved Canadian poet Dennis Lee’s works for children — Garbage Delight — and adults — Yesno, creating a world which acknowledges distance and pessimism, but also hope and possibility.

The Moon (from Garbage Delight, 1977)

“I see the moon and the moon sees me

And nobody sees as secretly…”

 

Dopey (from Yesno, 2007)

“…mind to the

grindstone, ear to the plough.

 

Hi-

Hoein along with a song:

What home but here?  Whose grubby hands but ours?”

The Province of Impossible
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three singers playing theremin, hand-held percussion, shamisen and clarinet [35′] 2007

Premiere: Christine Duncan, Aki Takahashi and Juliet Palmer, Voice++ Festival, Victoria, May 12, 2007.
Credits: music Juliet Palmer in collaboration with the performers (Christine Duncan and Aki Takahashi), text Anna Chatterton with additional lyrics in German (Wilhelm Müller) and Japanese (traditional).

Program note:

The Province of Impossible bridges the two worlds of Japanese folksong and Schubert’s Die Winterreise.

The first piano arrived in Japan in 1823, four years before Schubert composed his famous song cycle Die Winterreise (The Winter’s Journey).  Western classical music took firm root following the forcible end to Japan’s isolation during the Meiji Restoration.  Now Yamaha pianos glut the market and Kent Nagano directs the Montréal Symphony Orchestra.  Alongside this Western music invasion, Japanese folk music has stubbornly held fast. This new song cycle finds fresh ground in two powerful yet disparate traditions.

So Long
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soprano and chamber orchestra [5′] 2005

Commissioner: Open Ears Festival
Funder: The Laidlaw Foundation
Premiere: Patricia O’Callaghan and the Canadian Chamber Ensemble with conductor Dan Warren, Open Ears Festival, Kitchener, April 29, 2005.
Text: Leonard Cohen

Program note:
Both So Long, Marianne and I were born in 1967. Leonard Cohen’s song lodged itself in my brain at an undetermined point somewhere between that first release and the present. The moment that stuck in my mind most clearly was when the back-up singers wiggled their way upwards in the chorus on “Marianne” (a moment which fails to reappear in my own version of the song). Now Marianne’s name has gone, and I hope I have found a way to make the song new. I don’t remember ever hearing the words to the verse I’ve set, but I can imagine Trisha on a window ledge, miles above the traffic, stuttering a song of goodbye. So long. 

gone
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unaccompanied chorus SSAATTBB [5′] 2005

Commissioner: Soundstreams Canada
Premiere: Tafelmusik, Soundstreams Canada’s New Voices Choral Workshop, Trinity-St. Pauls, Toronto, January 22, 2005.
Text: Dennis Lee
Program note:

gone is based on one of the fifty-one poems which make up Dennis Lee’s UN (Anansi Press, 2003).

 

Over the Japanese Sea
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chamber opera for 2 baritones, bcl, perc, acc + vc [14′] 2003

Commissioner: Tapestry New Opera
Funder: Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: Tapestry New Opera with baritones Gregory Dahl & Ian Funk, Tapestry Gala Opening, The Distillery, Toronto, May 24, 2003.
Text: Julie Salverson

Program note:

Ordinary people who carry extraordinary events: Maurice (an office cleaner) and Thomas (an office intern). A normal day. The past is past.

 

Room
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mezzo-soprano, clarinet & hurdy-gurdy [8’] 1999

Commissioner: Bill James and Art in Open Spaces
Funder: The Laidlaw Foundation
Premiere: Vilma Vitols, Juliet Palmer & Martin Arnold, Water Sources 2, Art in Open Spaces, Toronto, July 23, 1999.
Note: music choreographed by Bill James for Shannon Cooney, Dancemakers, Toronto, Canada, November 16-20, 1999.
Program note:

When I dropped by in the springtime, there was a futon in the sphere. Someone had moved in and made it their bedroom. Vilma’s song is inspired by the Beach Boys’ classic tune, ‘In My Room’, along with a little snippet of Schubert’s ‘The Hurdy-Gurdy Man’ (from Die Winterreise).

‘In my room

No-one sees me, no-one hears me…

Now it’s dark and I’m alone

But I won’t be afraid.’

W is for
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2 sopranos, clarinet, trumpet, drumset, keyboard, violin & double bass [9’] 1997, revised 1999

Commissioner: Dogs of Desire, Albany Symphony Orchestra
Funder: Albany Symphony Orchestra
Premiere (revised version): Marty Elliott & Susan Lewis sopranos, Michael Lowenstern clarinet, Charles Lazerus trumpet, Danny Tunick drumset, Elizabeth di Felice keyboard, Andrea Schultz violin Maureen Llort double bass, Steve Mackey conductor, Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, October 20, 1999.
Program note:

Recently my curiosity was sparked as to the origins of Maori action songs — a hybrid form combining traditional movements, borrowed Western melodies and Maori lyrics. It seems that I owe my encounter with them to an enthusiastic physical education specialist in the late 1940’s who introduced them into the public school system along with Maori childrens games, noting that they were ‘exceedingly good for the body of the pakeha’ (non-Maori).

 

W is for is my response to that early time spent dancing and singing in a language which we were never taught to speak. The text is an excerpt from a Maori-English dictionary. It begins at waka (canoe) and passes through wakainga (true home, far distant home) and warawara (yearning), arriving finally at wareware — forget, forgotten, forgetful. The final line comes from the Belgian singer Jacques Brel’s ballad ‘On n’oublie rien’ — you forget nothing. 

bone-flower
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2 sopranos, clarinet, trumpet, drumset, keyboard, violin & double bass [9’] 1997, revised 1999

Commissioner: Dogs of Desire, Albany Symphony Orchestra
Funder: Albany Symphony Orchestra
Premiere (revised version): Marty Elliott & Susan Lewis sopranos, Michael Lowenstern clarinet, Charles Lazerus trumpet, Danny Tunick drumset, Elizabeth di Felice keyboard, Andrea Schultz violin Maureen Llort double bass, Steve Mackey conductor, Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, October 20, 1999.
Program note:

Recently my curiosity was sparked as to the origins of Maori action songs — a hybrid form combining traditional movements, borrowed Western melodies and Maori lyrics. It seems that I owe my encounter with them to an enthusiastic physical education specialist in the late 1940’s who introduced them into the public school system along with Maori childrens games, noting that they were ‘exceedingly good for the body of the pakeha’ (non-Maori).

 

W is for is my response to that early time spent dancing and singing in a language which we were never taught to speak. The text is an excerpt from a Maori-English dictionary. It begins at waka (canoe) and passes through wakainga (true home, far distant home) and warawara (yearning), arriving finally at wareware — forget, forgotten, forgetful. The final line comes from the Belgian singer Jacques Brel’s ballad ‘On n’oublie rien’ — you forget nothing.