Here are three recent pieces by younger Canadian composers who have made interesting musical lives outside the academic sphere. Their music is accessible without being bland. Each piece makes reference to different traditions without sounding derivative.
There are many more composers and works where these came from — a veritable bumper crop of ripely waying notes vying for our ears across this improbable, 145-year-old patchwork of diverse and disparate communities separated by way too much geography.
1. Kevin Lau
Lau was just named associate composer of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for the next two seasons. In this fully made-in-Toronto effort, here is cellist Rachel Mercer with the Sneak Peek Orchestra and conductor Victor Cheng performing the “Illusion” third movement movement from the cello concerto Foundation, at the work’s February premiere:
2. Andrew Ager
Ager, who now writes full-time from a farm somewhere in the Gatineau hills near Ottawa, represents the long and honourable tradition of the organist-composer.
Here is Les Coucougnettes du vert galant (an almond-and-raspberry candy from the south of France. Coucougnettes is also a euphemism for testicles), followed by his anthem New Jerusalem, sung by the choir of men and boys from Ottawa’s Christ Church Cathedral at St John’s College, Cambridge, in 2009:
3. Djinuk Wijeratne
Halifax-based Wijeratne maintains an interesting and eclectic working life as a composer, jazz improviser and teacher. Here is Soleia di Diomira, a work inspired from a passage in Italo Calvino’s magical, multifaceted evocation of Venice, Invisible Cities. Wijeratne, at the piano, is joined by accordion master Joseph Petric and percussionist Nick Halley.
This is the passage from the book that inspired Wijeratne:
“Leaving there and proceeding for three days toward the east, you reach Diomira, a city with sixty silver domes, bronze statues of all the gods, streets paved with lead, a golden cock that crows each morning on a tower. All these beauties will already be familiar to a visitor, who has seen them also in other cities. But the special quality of this city for the man who arrives there on a September evening, when days are growing shorter and the multicoloured lamps are lighted all at once at the doors of the food stalls and from a terrace a woman’s voice cries ooh!, is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time.”
We can only hope that our very own Canada Days finish on such a beautiful note.