In accordance with our mandate, the Canadian Men's Chorus has been privileged to premiere new works by the following composers:
SEAN KING Biography
Sean King is a Canadian composer, born in Toronto in 1987. He is currently working toward his Master’s degree in composition at the University of Toronto, where he also completed his undergraduate work. He is studying with Norbert Palej, and has studied previously with Alexander Rapoport and Dennis Patrick. He has taken lessons with visiting composers R. Murray Schafer and Michael Tenzer. Sean’s most recent projects have included a scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet for UofT's opera program, a symphonic work for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and a work for chamber orchestra regarding the recent G20 summit in Toronto, tentatively titled "the city is burning and i am alone here."
Composition O Magnum Mysterium, premiered on November 26, 2010, is a Latin text about the birth of Christ. The mood of the work portrays the constant mystery surrounding his birth. The darkness and homogeneity of men’s voices contribute to the mystery. The work moves to a climax in a consonant harmony, marking the arrival of Christ, then fades out.
AVALON RUSK Biography
Canadian composer Avalon Rusk blends together divergent musical styles and cultural idioms to create new sound experiences. His music draws upon performing in varied styles of music including contemporary chamber and choral music, jazz/fusion, world music and various kinds of electronic music. Mr. Rusk is currently studying composition at the University of Toronto.
In choosing a text to set to music, Mr. Rusk prefers to look for something so off the beaten track that audiences are unlikely to have ever read or even heard of before. In this way, listeners will likely have no preconceived notions or expectations, allowing him the freedom to begin as if with a blank canvas. Given this, setting to music two of the most commonly read poems in English and American literature presented an interesting challenge. Two, premiered on March 23, 2012, sets to music Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and Shelley's "Ozymandias", each of which explores the subject of duality on several levels. Frost's poem contrasts different paths in a forest woodland and is popularly interpreted as an allegory of the choices one makes in life. Shelley's describes a bare desert scene in which the wrecked remains of a statue bears testimony to the inevitable downfall of even the mightiest empires. The subject of time is central to both works and is the duality Mr. Rusk has chosen to depict. The mood of the music shifts at times abruptly as each poem likewise shifts between recollection of the past and commentary in the present moment.
The first movement of A New Star was premiered on November 26, 2011 and then all three movements were premiered on December 10, 2012 . The first movement tells of the joyous and miraculous appearance of a star in the night sky over two thousand years ago. It is followed by the depiction of the unending prayer in every heart for another star to come, bringing peace and a release from the Earth’s suffering. The final movement is an exclamation of love and appreciation upon the arrival of a new Star – a divine answer to prayer.
JOHN LAING Biography
John Laing is a conductor, composer, and organist. Born in London, England, he received his early training as a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, under Sir David Willcocks. Later, as Organ Scholar of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, he obtained his Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts degrees. Mr. Laing has had a distinguished career in several musical fields. He has directed choirs in Montreal, Ottawa, Oakville and Hamilton where the John Laing Singers have maintained a widespread reputation for their exquisite sound, vibrant performances and recordings, and have represented Canada at several international festivals. He has had a long and successful career as a church musician, which has included Directorships of Music at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton, and St. Jude’s Church in Oakville, where he was Founder and Director of the renowned “Celebration of the Arts” concert series during its inaugural decade. In recent years, Mr. Laing has also devoted much time and energy to musical composition. His works have received several acclaimed premiere performances, and they have been presented by top-class artists both in concerts and on CD recordings, including the choral suite, A Garland of Carols.
Mr. Laing composed the song cycle, A Paean of Honour, for the Canadian Men’s Chorus to premiere on October 16, 2011.
From Canada’s rich heritage of war poetry he selected six texts to form A Paean of Honour in commemoration of the many brave Canadians who have served their country proudly and nobly in times of conflict. The stirring words of D. Ross Campbell in “Remember Them" form both the introduction (#1) and the epilogue (#7) to this work. The second movement is written for tenor soloist, and it sets the poem "In Flanders Now", which is Edna Jacques' apt reply to “In Flanders’ Fields” by John McCrae. RCAF Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee wrote the sonnet "High Flight" (#3), for which he will always be remembered. These young explorer's words of zest and boundless exhilaration have inspired generations of aviators. Earlier Magee wrote another excellent poem, "Sonnet to Rupert Brooke" (#4), an elegy to the celebrated war poet. The words are doubly haunting in that one can imagine them serving also as a memorial for Magee himself, who was tragically killed in an air training accident over Lincolnshire, England, at the age of only nineteen. The stark horrors of trench warfare are captured vividly in Hartley Munro Thomas’ "Festubert" (#5), the place of a murderous ten-day battle on the Western Front in May 1915, that eventually saw the Canadians advance a mere 900 metres (to claim victory) while losing as many as 661 dead. Life in the trenches is captured also in an equally memorable poem "No Man's Land" (#6) by A. Audette, a soliloquy set as the second tenor solo in the cycle.
A Paean of Honour is dedicated to the memory of Flying Officer James Allan Mitchell of the Royal Canadian Air Force, a stalwart pilot and gentleman, a true Canadian, who in his later years was also a great supporter of music and the arts.
PATRICK MURRAY Biography
Patrick Murray is equally active as a composer, conductor, pianist, and music educator. Patrick’s compositions have premiered at the Atlantic Music Festival in Maine, the Gardiner Museum and Faculty of Music in Toronto, the Kitchener-Waterloo Kiwanis Festival, and recently won the DaCapo Chamber Choir NewWorks Competition. As a conductor, Patrick has collaborated with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Hart House Choir, and served as music director for several musical theatre productions. A proud supporter of emerging artists in all disciplines, Patrick frequently conducts and performs new music by Toronto composers. He has also contributed to the development of music education programs with the Canadian Opera Company, Pathways to Education and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. Patrick currently studies at the University of Toronto with Henri-Paul Sicsic (piano), Norbert Palej and Gary Kulesha (composition), and Ivars Taurins (conducting). He is the recent recipient of the University of Toronto Student Engagement in the Arts Award. His music can be found at patrickmurraymusic.net.
Based on a poetic prayer from a series by St. Gregory of Narek (c. 950-1003), Book of Lamentations is a moving work that evokes the frailty and weaknesses of mankind, yet stands as a testament of hope, conviction, and unwavering dedication to God.
The works of Saint Gregory of Narek (951-1003) occupy an important position in the development of the language and literature of Armenia. Written near the end of his life, Narek’s Book of Lamentations is a collection of ninety-four intensely personal prayers, each beginning with the phrase “Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart.” In Prayer 88, the text of this setting, Narek offers a passionate plea for forgiveness and recognition after his own death. It is a
profoundly human work that struggles to reconcile the fallibilities and conceits of human nature with the beauty and goodness of God. The music of greatest anguish came first: “This book will cry out in my place, with my voice, as if it were me…”
Book of Lamentations was commissioned and premiered on May 13, 2012 by the Canadian Men’s Chorus, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My deepest thanks goes to the chorus and conductor Gregory Rainville for bringing this piece to life.
For additional information about obtaining any of these scores for performance purposes, please contact Arlene Jillard at email@example.com.