The voice is the central inspiration for most of my instrumental music, and choral and vocal music have become increasingly significant in my work.
My earliest choral piece, OSMOSIS, from the 70’s, is for 16 singers who make various dramatic vocal sounds and realize a short original poem.
THE SHIELD OF ST. PATRICK from 1995 is based loosely on the Hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate, and uses the text of the “Lorica”, attributed to St. Patrick. It is inspired by the magical, partially Druidic world of early Irish Christianity.
YOU SHOULD NOT MOURN was commissioned by England’s wonderful Hilliard Ensemble, and reflects my interest in the ancient world, both Eastern and Western. The two texts are by Roman emperor/philosopher Marcus Aurelius and by the mysterious author of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, Vyasa. They reflect on death and rebirth from conflicting perspectives, but with perhaps surprising similarities. The music is based on the harmonic series scale, and treats the four voices like independent chamber instruments. The Hilliard Ensemble has performed this piece around the world, from their Summer Festival in Cambridge to the Musikverein in Vienna to the Ilkhom International Festival in Tashkent.
THE SICKLE CHARIOT, written for a millennium concert in Manitoba’s provincial legislature, also has 2000-year-old sources: the Bhagavad Gita, the amazing Irish epic The Tain, and the New Testament. It’s about dealing with anger and violence. THE SHIELD OF ST. PATRICK takes its text from the poem attributed by some to St. Patrick, warding off evil spirits as his followers ascend the Hill of Tara. A kind of variation-set on the hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate, it combines Christian and Druidic sensibilities in one world, a very magical one.
IN MEMORIAM WALTER KLIMKIW for SATB choir, SATB soloists and solo violin, is written in memory of a long-time conductor of Winnipeg’s Oleksandr Koshetz choir, Walter Klymkiw. The text is in Ukrainian Cyrillic. It has five sections, four of them from the Ukrainian Orthodox Liturgy, and the central one from the writing of Taras Shevchenko. The violin symbolizes the spirit, and links the various movements. This piece allowed my to revisit my Ukrainian ancestry (on my mother’s side), as well as to pay tribute to a person I respected a great deal.
PATER NOSTER and AL PARADISO both take inspiration from Corsican Polyphonic Chant, which I studied while living in France in 2010/11. PATER NOSTER is a Latin setting of The Lord’s Prayer, and AL PARADISO is inspired by the experience of singing, as a member of our Corsican Chant workshop, a mass in a French prison. The texts for the latter piece come from a variety of sources, edited so as to describe a progressive metaphor of mind as prisoner in body, moving gradually towards freedom, with the opening verse of the Corsican hymn Dio Vi Salvi Regina acting as a solace-giving refrain.
List of vocal works
AL PARADISO for SATB choir, bass clarinet and violin (2013). Texts are excerpts, some revised by the composer, from Hermann of Reichenau/trad. Corsican, Donne, Sophocles, Rimbaud, Dumas. Written with a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council. Premiered by Canzona, Lori Freedman and Karl Stobbe, cond. Henry Engbrecht, March 3, 2014, Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, Winnipeg.
PATER NOSTER for SATB choir including soloists (2011). Text from Latin liturgy. Written as part of a Major Arts Grant from the Manitoba Arts Council. Premiered by Camerata Nova, March 10 and 11, 2012, Eglise du Precieux Sang, St. Boniface, Manitoba.
IN MEMORIAM WALTER KLYMKIW (SATB choir, SATB soloists, solo violin) (2006) Texts in Ukrainian Cyrillic, from the Ukrainian Orthodox Liturgy and the poetry of Taras Shevchenko. Commissioned by the Oleksandr Koshetz Choir with the assistance of the Manitoba Arts Council.
Premiered Nov. 26, 2006 by the Oleksandr Koshetz Choir, Irena Welhasch, Kirsten Schellenberg, John Martens, Theodore Baerg, and violinist Gwen Hoebig, cond. Laurence Ewashko; at Jubilee Place Auditorium, Winnipeg.
NIGHT ON AN OLD TRADE ROUTE (SATB choir) (2005) Text by Brenda Schmidt. Commissioned by the Flin Flon Community Choir. Premiered by the Flin Flon Community Choir, scheduled Fall, 2007; Flin Flon, Manitoba.
IMAGES for tenor and cello (2000) Text by Richard Aldington, from poem “Images”. Premiered Feb. 13/01 by James Fast and Yuri Hooker, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
A ROSE-YELLOW MOON (SATB) (2000) Text by Richard Aldington, from poem “Images”. Premiered Nov. 22-26/00, by the Providence College Choir of Otterburne, Manitoba, cond. Henry Schellenberg; in the Manitoba Choral Association’s ChoralFest; at Sturgeon Creek United Church, Winnipeg. Commissioned by the Manitoba Choral Association for ChoralFest.
THE SICKLE CHARIOT for SATB choir and strings (min. 2-2-1-1-1) (1999) Written with the assistance of the Manitoba Arts Council. Premiered Feb. 22/00, by the University of Manitoba Singers and string ensemble conducted by Henry Engbrecht, in the Rotunda of the Manitoba Legislative Building.
LIKE A GONDOLA for SATB choir (1999) Text by Richard Aldington, from poem “Images”. Premiered by the Steinbach Regional Secondary School Singers, conducted by Ed Hildebrandt, Apr. 23/99, at Steinbach Regional Secondary School, Steinbach, Manitoba.
YOU SHOULD NOT MOURN (countertenor, two tenors, and baritone) (1997) Text from the Bhagavad Gita and “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. Commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble. Premiered by the Hilliard Ensemble, Aug. 7/98, at Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Cambridge, England as part of the Hilliard Summer Festival.
THE SHIELD OF ST. PATRICK (mezzo-soprano, violin, viola, cello, and bass) (1995) Text from various translations of the “Lorica”, an invocation attributed to the Irish Saint Patrick but likely written down in the eighth century. Commissioned by Karen Jensen with the assistance of the Manitoba Arts Council. Premiered by Karen Jensen, Gwen Hoebig, Daniel Scholz, Arkadiusz Tesarczyk, and Zdzislaw Prochownik, conducted by Earl Stafford, Oct. 15/95, at Young United Church, Winnipeg. Premiere of version for soprano by Valdine Anderson, Gwen Hoebig, Daniel Scholz, Arkadiusz Tesarczyk, and Moragh Parks Jan. 26/03 in the WSO New Music Festival, Winnipeg.
OSMOSIS (sixteen vocalists: 4S, 4A, 4T, 4B) (1972) Text by composer.