This time of year and the ensuing holiday cheer inevitably result in a rash of Messiahs, Nutcrackers, and other ubiquitous advent events. But those with a taste for the new shouldn’t fear. There’s still plenty to satisfy now and into the new year. In fact, Toronto music presenters have produced such a rich arrangement that curious ears will be challenged in deciding what to hear.

p16December 3 is a good case in point, when the calendar is triple booked with new music. Wind enthusiasts will want to make their way to MacMillan Theatre to hear the U of T Wind Ensemble perform Christos Hatzis’ Tongues of Fire. This eclectic percussion concerto was originally commissioned by the Scotia Festival in 2007 for full orchestra and soloists Beverley Johnston and Dame Evelyn Glennie. The work caught the ear of conductor Glenn Price, who commissioned Toronto composer Kevin Lau to arrange a wind ensemble version for an international assortment of eleven ensembles. Beverley Johnston serves as soloist for this Toronto premiere, part of an all-contemporary programme, with works by Americans Joseph Schwanter and Morten Lauridsen, and Canadian John Estacio. Call 416-978-3744 for more info.

Those with a taste for French music should visit the Alliance Française, where pianist Adam Sherkin, soprano Jennifer Taverner, flautist Tristan Durie and toy pianist Stéphanie Chua perform a sonic architecture of music by Iannis Xenakis and Philippe Leroux. Details are available by phone at 416-922-2014. Meanwhile, those seeking the latest sounds from New York City can shuttle over to Gallery 345 to hear Canadian pianist Vicky Chow. An internationally accomplished soloist and new-music collaborator, Ms. Chow has worked with top-tier composers such as John Adams and Louis Andriessen. In addition to being a member of the illustrious Bang On A Can All-Stars, she is the pianist for the Chicago-based avant-garde Opera Cabal and NYC’s ai ensemble. For her visit to Toronto, Ms. Chow performs an assemblage of world and Canadian premieres by the likes of Bang on a Can colleagues David Lang and Evan Ziporyn, as well as works by early-career composers Ryan Anthony Francis, Daniel Wohl, Eliot Britton and Andy Jakub Ciupinski. For more info visit or call 416-822-9781.

Those who want to avoid selection stress should wait until December 4, when the San Agustin Duo appears at Gallery 345 in an all-Canadian programme of music by women composers. Violinist Emma Banfield and pianist Diana Dumlavwalla perform a gamut of Canadian violin literature, from pioneer Gena Branscombe through to contemporary classics from Kelly Marie Murphy and Alice Ho.

On December 10, there’s a mixed double bill to challenge your choice-making skills. Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz appears at Koerner Hall with a programme including Stravinsky and Shostakovich, but more notably a recent work by world-famous Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. Tüür’s music isn’t often heard in Toronto, and I can’t really describe it well myself, but this Conversio for violin and piano has been compared to a cross between Steve Reich and Messiaen. Sounds intriguing. Meanwhile, over at the Isabel Bader Theatre, New Music Concerts continues its decades-long relationship with the long-lived American composer Elliott Carter, who continues to create at a remarkable rate. This concert features the Canadian premieres of several new works written within the last two years, among them the long-awaited Flute Concerto. Carter gets his tribute concert on the eve of his 102nd birthday no less! More details are available at

p18We arrive at mid-month with a simple selection of demanding but mesmerizing music by Hungarian composer György Kurtág. On December 16, mezzo Krisztina Szabó and pianist John Hess offer a programme of vocal and chamber works in tribute to this most important Hungarian composer. The noon-hour concert at the Richard Bradshaw Theatre will feature Kurtág’s harrowing Attila József Fragments for solo voice, Three Old Inscriptions for voice and piano, as well as works for solo piano and piano four hands. More details are available at

Then you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the holiday season and rest up before the New Year. And I assure that you will want to recharge your batteries, because the January new-music schedule is jam-packed with not-to-be-missed events.

We start with the spectacular, Victoria-based Aventa Ensemble, which returns to Toronto on January 4 to launch their 2011 Canadian tour at the Music Gallery. The programme includes a word premiere from Vancouver-based Jordan Nobles for spatialized ensemble, alongside works by Quebec’s quirky André Ristic and a contemporary classic from Pierre Boulez.

New Music Concerts opens the second half of their season on January 14 at the Music Gallery, with the renowned Diotima Quartet in a programme of recent works by 21st century, heavy-hitting composers like James Dillon, Emmanuel Nunes, Roger Reynolds and Thomas Larcher. This music selection – all Canadian premieres – has been carefully curated in co-operation with NMC to represent the range of international composers that both groups have worked closely with over the years.

On January 16, Mooredale Concerts pairs trombonist Alain Trudel and organist Peter Webb for an unique afternoon concert. The programme includes works by well-known 20th century composers Holst, Schnittke, Messiaen and others, but also features the world premiere of Flow for trombone and organ by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Scott Good. More details are available at and 416-587-9411.

The following day, Continuum launches its season with a one-two punch. On January 17, soprano Carla Huhtanen joins Continuum’s ensemble to release Raw, the Centrediscs CD of James Rolfe’s chamber music, marking in the process a 20-year partnership between the presenter and one of Canada’s most accomplished composers. A scant week later, on January 24, Continuum collaborates with students from OCADU to explore associations between visual and musical arts. Choosing from some of Continuum’s best repertoire – including thirteen works by the most adventurous Canadian and international composers – students filter music through the visual in various curatorial fashions. For more info visit or call 416-924-4945.

In between, on January 22, Tapestry New Opera Works delves back into its library of contemporary stage works to pick the most memorable arias for “The Tapestry Songbook.” The selections have been carefully made by long-time Tapestry collaborator Chris Foley and will be performed by members of the Tapestry New Work Studio Company alongside recent workshop participants. For more info, visit or call 416-537-6066.

Spanning the last week of January is the ever-expanding University of Toronto New Music Festival, which this year hubs around distinguished visiting composer Chen Yi. Now based in the USA, Chen is a prolific and highly awarded Chinese composer who blends musical traditions from the East and West, thus transcending cultural boundaries. The ten events that cover the January 23-29 festival dates include composer talks, student recitals, faculty concerts and multimedia events, and feature no less than six concerts of Chen’s music. For full details visit

Once again, on January 25 we arrive at a choice challenge. At noon, wind and string ensembles from the Glenn Gould School fill the Richard Bradshaw Theatre with a celebration of the Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. In addition to select Golijov works – Lullaby and Doina for mixed chamber ensemble and a new work for violin and piano – the programme includes pieces by Ginastera and Prokofiev that reflect Golijov’s rich cultural heritage. And while Chen Yi gives a talk at Walter Hall, Soundstreams will be presenting works by other Chinese composers at Koerner Hall, most notably fellow American Tan Dun and his Ghost Opera. This chamber work for string quartet and pipa explores ancient Chinese shamanism. Surrounding Ghost Opera are a premiere from Canadian composer Dorothy Chang and works by Chen Xiaoyong. You can find details at

The month closes out without conflict (but perhaps very full ears) on January 30 at Koerner Hall, where Esprit Orchestra will partner with the Elmer Iseler Singers for a powerful programme hinging on Giya Kancheli’s Styx for orchestra, chorus and viola. Haled as a 21st- century choral masterpiece, Styx is dedicated to departed composer colleagues Schnittke and Terterian. The masterful violist Teng Li joins Esprit as soloist. The programme is completed with a counterbalance of works from Ligeti and Canadians Douglas Schmidt and José Evangelista. More details are available at

From cheer to lament, new expressions through music never cease. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote’s concert listings, here and online at

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at

Emerging and early career composers are making their mark all over the November concert calendar. No less than half a dozen upcoming Toronto events feature fresh and fascinating works by new, international and increasingly noticeable local names – sometimes in showcase formats, but just as often tucked into more traditional programming.

p22bOne of those more noticeable locals is composer Kevin Lau, who will have his symphonic work Artemis performed by the Sneak Peek Orchestra on November 6 at the Calvin Presbyterian Church. Lau is a remarkably prolific young composer, gifted with a strong control of his craft and an easily approachable musical voice. As a result, he already holds to his credit commissions and premieres from the likes of the Esprit Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Toronto Philharmonia and the Cecilia String Quartet. He’s also co-founder with conductor Victor Cheng of Sneak Peek, one of Toronto’s fastest-rising symphonic ensembles, and one that specifically showcases the talents of this city’s emerging professionals.

Lau describes Artemis as “a musical portrait of the Greek goddess in the manner of Holst’s The Planets, whose seven movements are based on the Greek deities’ Roman counterparts. The movement “Mars, the Bringer of War” was particularly influential in the conception of this piece. At the same time, I sought to emphasize qualities which I thought would befit a more feminine warrior: speed and swiftness, lightness, agility.” Artemis will sit alongside Glenn Buhr’s slow and spacious symphonic miniature Akasha, and more classical fare from Brahms and Berlioz. For more info visit

The following afternoon marks the beginning of Alain Trudel’s appointment as the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s principal guest conductor. Oddly enough, the programme will include a brass band arrangement of Holst’s The Planets and a new work from another of our local emerging talent, composer Rob Teehan. We heard a lot about Teehan last month during his residency at the Colours of Music Festival in Barrie, where he had no less than three world premieres, including two for major choral and orchestral forces.

When I asked him about his latest work, titled Wildfire, he explained “It’s very fast, very rhythmic, aggressive, somewhat dark, and it will push the players to their limit. I think I wrote it because I spent the summer writing beautiful, slow music and I needed a change of pace. It was nice to get back to brass writing, since that’s my original background, as a tuba player.” This is Teehan’s second time working with Trudel. The first was for his orchestral work Dream of Flying, which was premiered and recorded by the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and subsequently nominated for a 2010 Juno. For more info about the concert and to get tickets, visit

p24aOn November 10 and 11, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra brings back the distinctive voice of early-career composer Krystof Maratka. We first heard of Maratka in 2004 with the world premiere of his Otisk, a TSO commission that came only two years after this Czech-born, Paris-based composer started making a significant mark in Europe. Now 38 years old – still an early age in any composer’s creative development cycle – Maratka has amassed commissions, premieres and residencies with some of the world’s leading cultural institutions, not to mention two CDs dedicated to his music. He returns to Toronto with his 2002 viola concerto Astrophonia, which has been described as a “poetic voyage on the origins of the cosmos.” The two-movement work is dedicated to his wife, violist Karine Lethiec, whose strong interest in the alliance between music and the universe has clearly inspired the concerto’s theme. At 23 minutes in length, it’s a substantial work around which Peter Oundjian has built this Slavic Celebration concert, including works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Janáček. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit

The centerpiece of this month’s emerging composer theme falls on November 14, when New Music Concerts plays host to Ensemble contemporain de Montréal +, and their biennial “Generation” tour. Building on its mandate to encourage and support musical creativity, ECM+’s project offers a unique and extensive professional development platform for composers under the age of 35. Since 1994, it has been discovering and nurturing the next generation of Canadian music creators, most of whom go on to make significant marks on the national and international music scene. The only project of its kind in Canada, Generation encourages musical research through live experimentation. Over the course of two years, four carefully selected young composers explore their musical voices by developing new works in collaboration with the ECM+ ensemble and their remarkable director Véronique Lacroix. The results are then presented in a cross-Canada tour, which – in addition to creating major exposure – builds new professional networks for these emerging talents.

The 2010 Generation composers are Simon Martin (Montreal), Christopher Mayo (Toronto/London, UK), Cassandra Miller (Victoria) and Gordon Williamson (Toronto/Bloomington, Indiana). Despite their young age, all of them are Associate Composers of the Canadian Music Centre, and many carry a cache of international experience and high-level accolades. For example, Gordon Williamson was a finalist in the CBC’s recent “Evolution” Young Composers Competition and Simon Martin has been a finalist in the prestigious Jules Léger Prize for Chamber Music. Chris Mayo and Cassandra Miller both already have international careers, most notably in the UK and the Netherlands respectively. Consequently, the Generation tour is a rare chance to hear some of the absolute best up-and-coming Canadian voices. For more info about the Generation program visit To purchase tickets for the November 14 concert at the Music Gallery visit

p24bBut the discovery of new musical voices doesn’t stop there. Both York University and the University of Toronto showcase new music by their student composers on November 16 and 30 respectively. On November 18, 32-year-old Polish-American (and now Canadian) composer Norbert Palej – a recent addition to the U of T faculty – joins clarinetist Peter Stoll on stage at Walter Hall in a free lunchtime concert of his works for clarinet. That same evening, the Gryphon Trio performs selections from their Young Composers Program alongside core repertoire by Ives, Beethoven and Dvorak for the Music Toronto series. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote’s concert listings here.


Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at

October continues to be a crossover month in the new-music calendar, with four festivals overlapping with several season openers.

p15We start north of Toronto at the closing weekend of Barrie’s Colours of Music Festival, where Toronto composer Rob Teehan is in residence. These two days include no less than three world premieres from the prolific early-career composer. On October 2 in the afternoon the extremely talented Duo Concertante – violinist Nancy Dahn and pianist Timothy Steeves – perform a new work by Teehan alongside pieces by Prokofiev, Schubert and Chan Ka Nin. If you can’t catch them here, you can also hear Duo Concertante at Walter Hall in Toronto on October 7, where they will premiere a new work by Chan, which incidentally also appears on their recently released Wild Bird CD on the Centrediscs label (reviewed in this month’s WholeNote). The following afternoon, the combined forces of the Primus Men’s Choir and Brassroots ensemble deliver an all-Canadian programme, featuring Teehan’s latest creation in combination with work by Western composers Stephen Hatfield and Allan Gilliland. The festival wraps up Sunday evening with a gala concert featuring Sinfonia Toronto and a stellar roster of soloists ranging from harpist Judy Loman to flautist Marc Grauwels and – you guessed it – an orchestral world premiere from Teehan.

Those who can make it to the festival a little earlier should catch violist Rivka Golani’s concert with the fantastic young TorQ percussion ensemble on October 1. Golani single-handedly established the viola and percussion combo as a made-in-Canada genre through her many commissions, and this programme offers some of the best in the bunch. You can find full festival details online at or by calling 705-725-1070.

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche will just be getting underway as Colours of Music closes up. This overwhelmingly successful, all-night contemporary art extravaganza gains more sonic content every year. For its fifth edition, which starts in Toronto at sundown on October 2, there are no less than five new-music projects worth mentioning. The Canadian Music Centre explores the interface between art and music in its Intimate Music project. Berlin-based Chiyoko Szlavnics pursues intimacies through her minimalist composition drawings, while Toronto’s John Oswald creates musical experiences for cozy spaces in Chalmers House.

Over at the ROM, you can find Laurel MacDonald’s sonic video installation XXIX, which depicts 29 singers performing in 29 languages, their voices emanating from 29 speakers. A few doors down, the Royal Conservatory will pulse with live music and projections all night long, including a series of videomusic performances. Travel over to the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre to catch the junctQín keyboard collective tackling Douglas C. Wadle’s Invention in Three Parts performance installation. Simultaneously, a sound artist will create a live mix from the sounds of a performing solo cellist.

Push further west to catch Micheline Roi’s Obsolescence at 601 Christie. This sound installation inverts the roles of current and outmoded technologies to question the ever-evolving means by which music reaches us. Loudspeakers become antique ornaments while an antique piano evolves into a transducer for other sounds. Get full details for these and other works at

New Adventures in Sound Art’s annual SOUNDplay festival overlaps its opening with Nuit Blanche. Roi’s Obsolescence is just part of their extended line-up of installations and concerts that cross paths between sound art and new media, all leading to new avenues for exploration. As artistic director Darren Copeland explains “Sound artists are continually challenged to reevaluate their artistic practice in the light of changing technologies. SOUNDplay is a starting point for exploring new possibilities of sound in relation to other artistic media and sensory experiences.” To date, confirmed artists include Mike Hansen, the Off-Centre DJ School with Erik Laar, Eric Powell, Helen Verbanz, Deb Sinha, Krista Martynes, Julien-Robert Legault Salvail and the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse with Tina Pearson. More programming details are to be announced, so stay in touch with to learn more.

Those who didn’t catch Rick Sacks’ spectacular conveyer belt percussion performance at last year’s Nuit Blanche can get an earful of his unique music creations on October 13 when New Music Concerts gives Rick the stage at Gallery 345 for “The Musical Theatre of Rick Sacks.” This fundraising concert features no less than three Toronto premieres of Sacks’ percussion performance pieces, including Light at the End of the Tunnel, Mbira Sketch for MalletKat and MalletKat Sketch II on a Bohlen Pierce Scale, the last performed with guest Peter Hannan. Details are available through and tickets can be purchased at 416-961-9594.

p16But the really big talk of October is the Music Gallery’s fifth X-Avant festival, which attempts to answer the question “What is real?” Guest curator Gregory Oh has been brought in to offer an answer through his wide-ranging programming that pulls at the threads of musical authenticity – letting them unravel enough to see what lies behind our presumptions of what makes music “real.”

X-Avant was originally conceived as the Music Gallery’s season-opening celebration, cutting across programming lines to showcase the depth and breadth of its myriad annual offerings. Oh has taken that intent to heart, bringing together a cross-section of artists, but in much more wildly unusual combinations. Take for example the festival-opening concert on October 16, which pairs Detroit techno pioneer Jeff Mills, whose electronic experiments meld with live acoustic performance and IRCAM inspired sound collage, with Montreal percussion band Big Zang, whose repertoire is inspired by the sound of DJ culture that Mills helped invent. It’s this type of cross-pollination that pervades X-Avant from beginning to end.

On October 22, X-Avant presents a madrigal ensemble, the RCM New Music Ensemble, and blues band Deep Dark United who will all join forces to re-interpret Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. The closing “Dance Dance Revolution” collides live choreographic projects inspired by John Oswald’s Plunderphonics, George Aperghis’s dramatic music, and a virtual ballet created for a popular multi-player gaming environment. No convention is safe from Oh’s wild imagination, as you’ll see at

This is by no means all there is to hear. For example, Esprit Orchestra opens its season on October 17 at Koerner Hall with a long-awaited local premiere of Thomas Ades’ Asyla, among a stack of other great works. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote concert listings here and online at

Finally, I must end with a correction and a clarification, both for my September column. First, the correction: one of the works appearing on Esprit Orchestra’s May 15 concert is indeed by music director Alex Pauk (not “Paul,” as printed.) The clarification is to say that, despite its longevity, Les Percussion des Strasbourg is a slightly rejuvenated ensemble. In the mid-to-late 70s, the founding members “sold” the name to some of their students. To be accurate, it is these students and their successors who are celebrating the ensemble’s 50th anniversary this year. Many thanks to percussionist Robin Engelman for supplying that detail.

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at:

Selecting highlights of the new-music season is a difficult task. There are so many great composers to discover, such great programming on offer, so many performers and ensembles to hear, and yet so little space to do them all justice. In September alone there are three major events across the space of a week that could easily take up all the words of this column. But in an effort to be helpful, I will dive in to my pile of press releases to help set a course for your concert-going.

So, let’s have a look at that action-packed opening week. It actually starts on Friday September 17 with “Red Brick,” a celebration of the artistic legacy of composer Michael J. Baker. Chartier Danse and Arraymusic, in association with Harbourfront Centre, are collaborating to revive some of Baker’s most outstanding works for both dance and the concert stage, ten years after his tragic passing. To do so, “Red Brick” brings together a roster of Baker’s close collaborators, including luminary dance artists Peggy Baker, Serge Bennathan, James Kudelka, Heidi Strauss and Jeremy Mimnagh. Toronto’s Arraymusic, led by artistic director/percussionist Rick Sacks, is joined by soprano Carla Huhtanen to provide the live music. Those unfamiliar with Baker’s legacy should definitely add this date to their calendar.

P18Quick on the heels of “Red Brick,” is New Music Concert’s season-opener, “Let’s Hear from Beckwith.” You’ve guessed it – this is a tribute to one of our country’s pioneering music creators, most diligent music historians and fiercest arts advocate. Now 83 years old, John Beckwith maintains an active writing and composing career. The concert on September 19 at Walter Hall will feature premieres of a number of his more recent, smaller chamber works for wind instruments. It will also prominently feature one of his many NMC commissions, namely his Eureka for woodwind quintet, two trumpets, trombone and tuba. The piece is classic Beckwith, complete with choreography. You can get a sonic peek at Eureka through the Canadian Music Centre’s online CentreStreams audio player.

The following Saturday, Contact Contemporary Music joins the national Culture Days movement with a return to Yonge-Dundas Square and their Toronto New Music Marathon. Starting at 2pm and holding strong until 10pm, Contact is going to turn Toronto’s top visitor destination into a hub of contemporary sound creation. A stream of remarkable performers – pianists Christina Petrowska Quilico and Alison Wiebe, saxophonist Wallace Halladay and guitartist Rob MacDonald – bring us music from a range of top-tier creators like Ann Southam, Steve Reich and Jordan Nobles. New Adventures in Sound Art will re-create their real-time Three Sided Square sound project, while sound sculptor Barry Prophet will showcase his interactive Rotary Mbira. Get there early to get a seat.

P19Passing over “Nuit Blanche” (which you really shouldn’t do, especially because Anthony Keindl is curating “Sound and Vision” in the Queen West neighbourhood, and the CMC is hosting projects by John Oswald and Chiyoko Szlavnics), we land on the Music Gallery’s “X Avant Festival,” which is packing in eleven events over nine days under the banner “What is Real?” Guest curator Gregory Oh has done an astounding job of assembling a remarkable range of talent in a series that questions theories of authenticity and the sanctity of new music. Quick highlights include “Will The Real Pierrot Please Stand Up?” featuring Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire performed by Deep Dark United, RCM New Music Ensemble and Renaissance Madrigal Group on October 22; The 50 Minute Ring Cycle performed by Myra Davies on October 23; and a Plunderphonics 25th Anniversary Lecture by John Oswald on October 24. Be sure to check in with the Music Gallery website for full details (

In the new year, the University of Toronto New Music Festival starts up on January 23, playing host to Distinguished Visiting Composer Chen Yi and American new music pianist/composer Keith Kirchoff in a series of concerts, workshops and forums. Chen blends Chinese and Western traditions to form abstract canvases of sound that transcend cultural and musical boundaries, and her work will appear on no less than four festival concerts. The young Kirchoff (not yet 30) has already premiered some 100 new works, which he champions in concerts of unusual, neglected and new repertoire. During his stay in Toronto he’ll premiere winning works from the Kirchoff/U of T International Composition Competition.

We’ll intersect with Soundstreams’ season at the midpoint on February 24 when they invite Les Percussions de Strasbourg to Koerner Hall as part of the ensemble’s 50th anniversary tour. Co-founded in 1962, this sextet is the oldest Western percussion group. Their exceptional longevity, artistry and commitment to new music have inspired the creation of hundreds of works, including 250 world premieres. The anniversary programme includes Xenakis’ iconic Persephassa (written for the ensemble in 1969 to premiere at the historic Persepolis in Iran), a world premiere from innovative Canadian composer Andrew Staniland, who has a strong command of percussion writing, and John Cage’s seminal Credo in US.

The TSO returns with the seventh edition of its New Creations Festival March 2-10, focusing on cross-border exchanges with music by American composers John Adams and Jennifer Higdon, performed by top tier guest artists. I’m particularly looking forward to the festival finale concert with guest artists, eighth blackbird. This dynamic new music ensemble will join the orchestra in a freshly commissioned chamber concerto from Higdon, which will sit alongside the world premiere of our own R. Murray Schafer’s latest symphonic work.

On March 20, Continuum will reprise “Step, turn, kick,” a programme prepared for Montreal Nouvelles Musique that highlights the idea of “dancing in the mind.” Composers Cassandra Miller, Nicolas Gilbert, Linda C. Smith and Lori Freedman each contribute a movement to a larger work based on the form of a French baroque dance suite. Also featured is the premiere of Marc Sabat’s John Jenkins, a work inspired by the prolific 17th-century dance composer, and written for Continuum.

Music Toronto has coaxed violinist Julie Anne Derome away from her regular Trio Fibonacci project for a solo recital on March 24 at the Jane Mallett Theatre. A well known new music specialist, Derome has assembled a nicely mixed contemporary programme, ranging from strong selections by compatriot Quebec composers Jean Lesage and Yannick Plamondon to demanding works with live electronics and video by Pierre Boulez and Laurie Radford. Chan Ka Nin’s favourite Soulmate completes the mix. At $15, this recital is a sure bet.

Finally, we catch up with the Esprit Orchestra for their final concert of the season on May 15 at Koerner Hall. While all four concerts in their season present an intriguing offer, the new commission from Chris Paul Harman is a particular draw. The concert theme looks at the many forms of human inspiration, from cosmic and mythological to historical and purely musical, through works by Sofia Gubaidulina, Alex Paul and Denis Gougeon.

But this is by no means all there is to hear! As always, there is much more new music all season long, so be sure to get in with the new via the WholeNote concert listings here and online at

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at:

You’d do well to keep your frequent flyer card handy over the next two months. I know I will. We new-music seekers are going to be bouncing between Toronto and Ottawa a lot if we want to catch all the excellent programming promised by the mainstay festivals, as well as a few new offerings in a sizzling summer concert calendar.

We’ll start in Toronto with the 12th edition of New Adventures in Sound Art’s Sound Travels festival, which has a healthy run from June 26-September 26. Sound Travels takes a more grounded focus to sound and space than other NAISA festivals, bringing together a mix of interactive installations, performances, sound walks and workshops at their home in the Artscape Wychwood Barns. Featured artists include Toronto’s own Rose Bolton alongside Marcelle Deschênes, David Eagle, Ned Bouhalassa, D. Andrew Stewart, Satoshi Morita and Rob Cruickshank, among others. Full programming details are available at

Next, we bounce over to Ottawa, where the adage seems to be “enough is never enough.” While our nation’s capital is already home to the world’s largest chamber music festival, it will welcome a new contender this summer, Music and Beyond. Running from July 5-14, Music and Beyond’s 85 concerts will forge links between music and other art forms in concerts featuring some of the greatest names in classical music. While new music from many countries can be found throughout the festival programming, those of us looking for a “bang for our buck” will want to pay attention to the mid-festival dates.

P18On July 8, CBC Radio 2, the National Gallery of Canada and Music and Beyond will unveil the results of their Gallery Project – the culmination of a national contest to choose five works of art from the Gallery to inspire new compositions. The programme includes works by a cross-country collection of Canadian composers, including Jocelyn Morlock, Denis Bédard, Michael Conway Baker, Colin Mack, Scott Macmillan, Elizabeth Raum and Kelly-Marie Murphy. The following day, Music and Beyond partners with the Ottawa New Music Creators to celebrate local composers Gabor Finta, Steven Gellman and Patrick Cardy at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Across both days, the National Arts Centre Orchestra will open its afternoon rehearsals to the public with two new music reading sessions. Conductor Gary Kulesha will lead the orchestra in explorations of new orchestral works by both emerging and established Canadian composers. For full Music and Beyond festival details, and to purchase passes, visit

Back in Toronto, the lovely Queen of Puddings Music Theatre will unveil its latest project from July 29-31 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour comprises three distinct chamber operas sung in three languages (Mandarin, English and medieval French), exploring three cultures and three historical periods within the music of three Canadian composers: Fuhong Shi, John Rea and Pierre Klanac. Written for soprano, mezzo-soprano and accordion, these three premiere pieces are connected by the universal theme of love, and will be presented as one fully staged opera work. Two Toronto new opera pros, soprano Xin Wang and mezzo Krisztina Szabo, share the stage with accordionist John Lettieri. Tickets to Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour can be purchased through or 416-866-8666. To learn more about Queen of Puddings visit

Meanwhile, running parallel to Beauty Dissolves is the Ottawa premiere of Christos Hatzis’ wildly successful Constantinople, featuring the Gryphon Trio with the extremely talented cabaret/opera singer Patricia O’Callaghan and renowned world music vocalist Maryem Tollar. This multimedia, concert-length chamber work, which has been presented to sold-out audiences on two continents, is a feature presentation of the 17th  Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, on July 29.

While the Ottawa festival gets underway on July 24, the real new music activity starts up on August 2 with the annual New Music Marathon. This year’s version offers no less than six concerts under the New Music Dialogues banner, all housed at the handsome St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts near Ottawa’s bustling Byward Market. Highlights include the world renowned Penderecki String Quartet performing new music by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich; the world premiere of 9 Dances for Flute and Accordion by Toronto-based composer Juliet Palmer; Alexina Louie’s spellbinding Take the Dog Sled for two Inuit throat-singers and ensemble; and the Gryphon Trio performing works by Gary Kulesha. Adventurous listeners will want to explore the Late Night at St. Brigid’s series, where Montreal composer Nicole Lizée pushes musical boundaries with turntablist DJ P-LOVE and the maverick trio Toca Loca. Full festival details, tickets and passes are available through

Finally, we return to Toronto, where the Toronto Summer Music Festival will be underway July 20 – August 14. July 30 seems to be a very popular date in the festival calendar. This time, we get to hear the Penderecki String Quartet, strong champions of new music, in a programme of five new string quartets. Waterloo-based composer Glenn Buhr gets special attention in this year’s festival:  the Pendereckis will perform his Quartet No. 4 and the composer himself will give a pre-concert talk on all five new works. (I was hoping that we would get an earful of the results from Toronto Summer Music’s Composer Workshop, but this young addition to their academy programming seems to have been inexplicably and sadly cancelled.) On August 7 at the University of Toronto’s MacMillan Theatre the festival will premiere Buhr’s Song of the Earth, a companion piece to the well known and loved Mahler song-cycle. Both will appear in versions for chamber ensemble with soloists Roxana Constantinescu and Gordon Gietz. For full festival details, and to purchase tickets, visit

After all of our city and concert-hopping, we can finally take advantage of the late summer weather and rest up for the concert season ahead. But not for too long! New music makes its return on September 26 with the Toronto New Music Marathon – eight hours of continuous and contemporary sounds from Toronto’s new music creators in the lively Yonge-Dundas Square.

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at:


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