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ClassicsOnline Home » Choral Music (Canadian) - CORLIS, T. / ENNS, L. / TIEFENBACH, P. / WATSON HENDERSON, R. (I Saw Eternity) (Elora Festival Singers, Edison)
This recording brings together eleven leading composers whose origins in or strong associations with Canada are manifest in their central position in Canadian musical life. In a programme through which the power of tradition and faith flows strongly, themes are explored ranging from paradise and heavenly fulfilment to tragic loss; and from timeless hymn and psalm texts to an exploration of the brevity of human existence in the title work, I Saw Eternity. One of the finest chamber choirs in Canada and beyond, the Elora Festival Singers’ ‘must-have’ (Gramophone) programme of Eric Whitacre (8.559677) is just one of their many acclaimed recordings.
By David Vernier
I Saw Eternity
The music of Timothy Corlis is instilled by his background of community singing in the south-western Ontario (Canada) region of Kitchener-Waterloo. He holds a Master of Arts in Social and Political Thought from York University and a Masters of Music from the University of Toronto. Currently, he is completing a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, as well as being a busy freelance composer, teacher and choral director. His music, described as “atmospherically striking” and “bursting with vigour and truth” is drawing a lot of attention in North America and is now being performed and broadcast by some of Canada’s most prominent artists and ensembles. Reflecting his belief that music can be a strong power for social change, the Gloria is the emotional heart of the Missa Pax by Corlis, a full half-hour Mass, given its première in 2009 by the Elora Festival Singers. The popular excerpt from A Shropshire Lad by AE Housman, To See the Cherry Hung With Snow, has also been set by Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth, John Ireland and Ivor Gurney.
Leonard Enns is active as a Canadian composer, teacher and choral director. He obtained undergraduate degrees in music from Wilfrid Laurier University and The Canadian Mennonite Bible College, a Master’s degree in choral conducting and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Northwestern University in Chicago. On faculty at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo, Enns is the founding director of the Da Capo Chamber Choir. As part of winning the 2008 Polyphonous Choral Competition in Seattle, Washington, Enns was commissioned for a piece that explored the concept of time. I Saw Eternity, set to a text by the seventeenth-century Welsh physician and metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan, explores the Platonic idea of human time as a mere shadow of eternity. The choir, divided into sections, is used antiphonally to create the sense of shifting walls of sound, representing time.
Peter Tiefenbach studied music in Canada, the United States and England, before settling in Toronto, where he is a busy pianist, accompanist, composer, vocal coach, teacher and broadcaster. He has collaborated with noted Canadian singers such as the late Maureen Forrester, Russell Braun and Donna Brown, and is now on faculty at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He composed his Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis on commission for the Elora Festival Singers in 2005. The Nunc Dimittis is the Latin of the Song of Simeon, from the second chapter of St Luke. Simeon exclaims he is now ready to die after seeing what he has long been waiting for, the promised Messiah. Paired with the Magnificat or Song of Mary, the canticles traditionally form part of the Evensong service of the Anglican Church.
Ruth Watson Henderson is a popular and respected name among the Canadian choral community. A graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music and the Mannes School of Music in New York, she originally planned on a career as a concert pianist. Always a lover of choirs and choral music, she was the longtime pianist for the Festival Singers of Canada, later the Elmer Iseler Singers, and the internationally-renowned Toronto Children’s Chorus. Her choral music is now performed across North America, and the Ontario Choral Federation has created a choral composition competition in her name. The Missa Brevis is one of her most popular works. Lacking a Credo, it was written in 1974 for the Elmer Iseler Singers.
Paul Halley has led a fascinating and varied career. Born in England, he undertook his early musical training in Ottawa, Canada, before returning to his homeland as organ scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1977 to 1990 he was Organist and Choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. While there, Halley was also a principal member of the Paul Winter Consort, the innovative and experimental musical group led by American saxophone player Paul Winter. The group’s most popular album Missa Gaia or Earth Mass included the traditional Mass text, among others, with the instruments of the Paul Winter Consort, vocalists and the sounds of wolves, whales, eagles and other animals. Halley was associated with the consort as a performer and composer for almost twenty years, earning five GRAMMY® Awards for his work on several of the group’s recordings. In 1999 he moved to rural Connecticut, continuing his work with choirs and church music by establishing the children’s choir, Chorus Angelicus and the adult ensemble, Gaudeamus. Since 2007, Halley has been based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is the Director of Chapel Music at the University of King’s College and University Musician at the Atlantic School of Theology. He is regularly commissioned to compose new music in a variety of genres, styles and instrumentations. The Chronicle Herald of Halifax has described Halley as, “A perfect storm of energy and creativity”. He has had a long, close and fruitful relationship with the EFS Founding Conductor, Noel Edison. The anthem Bring Us, O Lord God was commissioned by the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys in San Francisco to honour the twenty-fifth anniversary of their Cantor. The texts, by John Donne and Isaac Watts, deal with the dream of paradise and fulfilment in heaven.
A native of British Columbia, Craig Galbraith holds a Bachelor of Music in Composition from UBC and a Master of Music from the University of Toronto where he is now a candidate for a Doctor of Music Composition. Although he has long had a love of singing, vocal and choral music, his broad interests have also taken him into the worlds of electroacoustic, chamber, opera and orchestral music. Dedicated to nurturing and supporting young composers, Galbraith serves as an Artistic Director of the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop. He has received many prestigious commissions, including those from the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence was commissioned in 2005 by the Elora Festival Singers. The ancient hymn has inspired many composers, most famously Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Born in Italy to Slovenian parents, Marjan Mozetich emigrated to Canada as a child. After earning music degrees from the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, he studied privately with Luciano Berio in Rome. He is now on the music faculty at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Over his career Mozetich’s music has evolved from avant-garde expressionism and minimalism into an original spiritual style of post-modern romanticism, especially popular with contemporary dance companies as well as the layman. When his 1997 Violin Concerto, ‘Affairs of the Heart’, was broadcast on CBC Radio in Canada, the telephone switchboards lit up from coast to coast. Although much of his music has been instrumental and orchestral, Flying Swans, for choir and cello is an exception. The text is by the Nobel prize-winning Bengali poet and polymath, Rabindranath Tagore. It was commissioned by the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston, Ontario, who gave the première in 2010 directed by Mark G. Sirett.
The founding director of the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston Mark Sirett graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, before going on to earn both Master’s and Doctoral degrees in choral conducting and pedagogy from the University of Iowa. He has been on faculty at the University of Alberta, the University of Western Ontario and Queen’s University. He established the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston in 1996, and under his direction they have won numerous awards and distinctions at regional, national and international choral competitions. He acts frequently as a choral clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor. His many choral compositions, sacred and secular, are often performed across Canada, and he has been commissioned by the likes of the National Youth Choir of Canada, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Elora Festival Singers. The text of Bless the Lord for the Good Land comes from chapter eight of the Book of Deuteronomy.
Choral music is just one of the many interests of Glenn Buhr. His compositions show influences that range from the classical tradition to jazz, Broadway and music of the near East and India. A composer, music curator, producer, band leader, teacher and improvisational pianist, he holds degrees in music from the University of Manitoba, UBC and the University of Michigan. In the 1990s, as Composer-in-Residence with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, he co-founded and acted as curator of the Winnipeg New Music Festival, one of the most successful of its kind in the world. He has composed on commission for the Montreal and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, and his works have been performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony, the London Sinfonia, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and pianist Louis Lortie. As well as a talented jazz pianist and recording artist, Buhr has also composed several scores for film and theatre. He is currently on faculty in the Contemporary Music Program at Wilfrid Laurier University, and the artistic director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s New Orchestra Series and NUMUS concerts. The Agnus Dei is the last movement of Buhr’s Missa Brevis, The Ritchot Mass. In the spring of 1997 the Red River, south of Winnipeg, flooded its banks, causing many to lose their homes and possessions. Glenn Buhr was among them, living in the town of Ritchot, Manitoba. He recalls, “Grieving after the loss of our house, I wrote the Mass.” The Ritchot Mass was commissioned by the Elora Festival Singers and dedicated to those who suffered.
Born in Latvia, Imant Raminsh has lived in Canada since 1948. After a diploma and a degree at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, he studied for two years at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. For more than thirty years Raminsh has been Principal Second Violin of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. He founded the Youth Symphony of the Okanagan in the interior of British Columbia. He is also the founding conductor of the Prince George Symphony Orchestra in northern BC. In 2007 his homeland honoured him by making him an officer of the Three Stars of the Republic of Latvia. He is known especially for his many choral works. Psalm 23 is one of two psalms settings for women’s voices and piano composed in 1984.
Stephen Chatman is one of Canada’s most prolific and well-known composers. His teachers included the prominent United States composer William Bolcom and the late innovative German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. With an undergraduate degree from Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and graduate degrees from the University of Michigan, he is the Head of Composition at UBC’s School of Music in Vancouver, where he has taught since 1976. A multiple award-winner, he has been commissioned by many of Canada’s choirs, orchestras, ensembles and artists, but is especially known for his numerous choral works. Before 1982, his music tended to be complex and atonal, but since then it has shown influences of many musical styles, becoming more accessible, moving away from modernism and embracing a world of spirituality, reaching out to a broader audience. He has been quoted as saying, “It’s easy to enjoy all types of music—I don’t want to be pigeon-holed. A composer must be true to himself.” Remember is the second of Two Rossetti Songs commissioned by the Vancouver Chamber Choir in 1999. The text is by the nineteenth-century English poet Christina Rossetti, perhaps best known for her words to the popular Christmas carol, In The Bleak Midwinter.
This recording was made possible by a generous donation from Ellen Pearson.
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