It’s been a while since I’ve written something about my current projects and activities, so here’s a mid-year update for 2018.
I recently completed a new solo piece entitled Vespers for my partner Emily. The piece, which will be included on her upcoming debut recording of the same name, features some new things for me. One area of my composing that I tried to expand on in writing this piece was my handle on new colours and textures. While I discovered what were new effects and colours for me, I tried to make conservative use of them and save them for special moments – hopefully this makes them even more impactful. I also discovered a nice tuning for the second movement (6th string to C and 5th string to A-flat), which really helped me access the slightly haunted and unsettling atmosphere I was going for. Anyway, I won’t spoil any more…you’ll have to look for Emily’s recording when it comes out!
I’m very fortunate to have received a handful of new requests for pieces over the past few months, so here’s what’s on my plate as far as new commissions go:
Large work for the Guitare Alla Grande Festival
I’ll be writing the guitar orchestra piece for the upcoming Guitare Alla Grande Festival here in the Capital Region in 2019. I got the go-ahead from festival organizers to do something a little unorthodox, which is to feature an electric guitar soloist with the large guitar ensemble. I’ve been wanting to write a piece for my friend Alexandre Bougie for a couple years now, and I also wanted to try this ensemble combination out, so I’m glad I found the chance to finally do both and feature Alex on the electric. He’s a musician that really digs in deep and has a broad stylistic awareness and ability, so I’m excited to see what we’ll come out with. As of now I know the piece will be titled Dark Dwellings and will feature the John Dowland song In darkness let me dwell. (And yes…Britten has already set a nice example for treating Dowland in a modern context, but I’m confident my approach is different enough to be worthwhile)
Violin and guitar pieces
I’m happy to get the chance to write for violin and guitar again. In fact, I’ll get three chances.
Over the next 6 months, I’ll be writing a piece for Duo46, who have a long standing reputation in the guitar world for commissioning new music. I’ve had the chance to hear them a few times in just the last two months and was pleasantly surprised when the idea of writing a piece came up when I was talking with Matt Gould (guitar) at the recent GFA convention in Kentucky (more on that later). The concept I’m working on developing now is a piece based on the visual poetry of E.E. Cummings. I’ve been checking into his poetry more lately (I have a friend who is somewhat of an expert on him) and I think there are interesting musical opportunities with these poems that play with words on the page. The tentative title is Wordplay. (I don’t always come up with the title first, but lately I seem to be doing that…I think it helps to give me focus in some way)
I’m also looking forward to writing a piece for Daniel Ramjattan and his duo partner Marlena Pellegrino. Dan is a current DMA candidate in performance at the University of Toronto and I got to know him well when we were both completing our masters degrees at the University of Ottawa. I’ve never met a more committed musician and am confident this will be another great experience for me. No specific concept for this piece yet…I might just be writing music.
Finally, I’ll be finishing this violin and guitar marathon of pieces with a piece for Trio Tangere. This new trio consists of Louis Trépanier, Jérôme Ducharme, and Marc Djokic, all of whom are well-established and respected musicians here in Canada (Djokic just won the prestigious Prix Goyer). Needless to say, this is another incredible opportunity for me to write for musicians of the highest calibre. This piece will likely take me into 2019.
Recording In Transit
In August, my friend and colleague Julian Bertino will be recording my trio piece In Transit, which was written for him as a part of his final masters recital. This piece, for clarinet, marimba, and guitar (10-string originally) is a two-movement work that was inspired by two very different types of trains (one real, one fictional). The second movement, which is brash and quirky at times, features what I think is some of my stronger writing to date, so I will be excited to share the finished product sometime in September.
Guitar Foundation of America Convention
I recently returned from the GFA convention in Louisville, Kentucky, where I gave a lecture on Canadian guitar music. My lecture time was unfortunately first thing in the morning on the last day, so there was a modest turnout for my talk, but it all went well and I was happy to have gone. Of course I got to meet new people, discover some amazing new ensembles in concert, and attend other really fascinating lectures (one by fellow Canadian Amy Brandon). Some stand out performances (that were discoveries for me) included two guitar quartets: the New Zealand Guitar Quartet and the Erlendis Quartet. The ensemble playing that both groups displayed was just astounding and they even had clear personalities as well (not easy to come by with an ensemble of four guitars). If you have a moment, you should listen to them on Youtube. Also, of course look up the winner of the competition this year, French guitarist Raphael Feuillatre. Needless to say how good and incredibly musical he was.
Another nice addition to the convention was the honouring of David Russell and Leo Brouwer with lifetime achievement awards during the final awards ceremony. Also, seeing Russell in concert and Brouwer in masterclass wasn’t too bad either.
Summer Music Academy at the University of Ottawa (July 23rd-27th)
This year will be the first year the University of Ottawa includes a guitar session in their annual summer music academy, and I’m happy to be helping to run it. I’m joining program director Louis Trépanier and my partner Emily to run a week of lessons, workshops, and concerts out of the school of music. It will be an interesting teaching challenge for all of us as we have to cram a lot of stuff into a week and make it work for a group of diverse ages and abilities. All lot of work…but it will be a fun week.
That’s all for now – stay tuned for more updates and recordings of my music…have a great summer!