(Very Hard)

Voices of Vimy (2017)

for SATB (divisi) choir and cello

Duration: 30 minutes

Text: Grahame Davies (b. 1964)

Written in collaboration with composer Tom Harrold and poet Grahame Davies. Co-commissioned by Pro Coro Canada and the John Armitage Memorial to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

First performed by the BBC Singers (Daniel Cook, cond.) with cellist Jamie Walton at the JAM on the Marsh Festival in July 2017. First performed in Canada by Pro Coro (Michael Zaugg, dir.) with cellist Rafael Hoekman in November 2017. Also performed in London by the Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge (Michael Bawtree, cond.) with cellist Molly Parsons-Gurr in March 2018, and in Dorset by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir (David Gostick, dir.) with cellist Philip Daish-Handy in November 2018.

In 2016, I was commissioned, along with Tom and Grahame, to create a work commemorating the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a seminal World War I conflict which saw the successful collaboration of Canadian and British troops. Our finished work, Voices of Vimy, is a complex and idiosyncratic piece. My music, which begins and ends Voices of Vimy, is structured entirely around Grahame’s text, capturing the raw emotion of each stanza through a varied landscape of musical episodes. Part I, which follows the soldiers from the trenches to the grave, uses hymnsong and chant in dense homophony to imbue the music with weight and sorrow. Part III, which gives voice to the widows and survivors of the war, reflects these musical elements with renewed hope and passion. As a Canadian, this is our heritage and our identity: not loud or forceful, but soft, caring, resilient.

Click here to see the complete score.

The audio below is from the first Canadian performance by Pro Coro (Michael Zaugg, dir.) in November 2017.

Prairie Bound (2016)

for SSSAAATTTBBB choir, a cappella

Duration: 5 minutes

Text: Adapted from Pauline Johnson [Tekahionwake] (1861-1913)

First performed by Pro Coro Canada (Michael Zaugg, dir) in June 2017.

As we head towards the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, Prairie Bound stands as my own work of Canadiana. This piece is based on a short poem by the nineteenth-century poet Pauline Johnson, which describes the promise of the Canadian landscape to settlers, and the power of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In my setting, Johnson's text cuts through with incredibly dense and lush chords, while the train is personified though a constant syllabic motor, driving the music forward with insistent repetition. The tension reaches its pinnacle in the final moments, where the music explodes into an ecstatic declaration: "I am prairie bound!"

Now available for purchase as a digital octavo in the Pro Coro Canada Choral Series.

Click here to see the complete score.

The audio below is from the first performance by Pro Coro Canada (Michael Zaugg, dir.) in June 2017.

Resurrectio (2015)

for SSAATTBB choir, a cappella

Duration: 8 minutes

Text: John Donne (1572-1631) and the Latin Vulgate Bible (1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 24-26 & Hebrews 10:5-7)

Commissioned by Michael Zaugg for the National Youth Choir of Canada. First performed in May 2016.

Resurrectio is a difficult a cappella setting of "Resurrection, Imperfect" by the English poet and priest John Donne, juxtaposed with several Latin scriptural excerpts. The music is structured in the form of a dialogue between mankind and the heavens, each declaring the glory of Christ's resurrection in their own distinct language, rhythm, and harmony. At the moment of His ascension, the two voices are reconciled, and the choir explodes with insistent declarations of "Amen, Alleluia!" The final cadence expresses the infinite glory of heaven.

Now available for purchase as a digital octavo in the Pro Coro Canada Choral Series.

Click here to see the complete score.

The audio below is from the first performance by the National Youth Choir of Canada (Michael Zaugg, cond.) in May 2016. [This recording © Choral Canada. Used with permission.]

The Ascension of Ganymede (2014)

for SATB double choir, a cappella

Duration: 4 minutes

Text: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and excerpts from Carmina Burana (adapted by the composer)

First performed in workshop by musica intima (Vancouver, BC) in April 2017.

The Ascension of Ganymede uses the poem "Ganymede" by Goethe as a basis for transforming the original myth (that of Zeus' pederastic abduction of the young Ganymede) into a positive and affirming narrative of Ganymede's salvation. Choir I, representing the voice of Zeus, maintains a constant divide in key, rhythm, and language throughout the piece, only being united in harmony with Choir II at the final cadence (the titular ascension).

Click here to see the complete score.

Solomon and His Bride (2014)

for SATB (divisi) choir and piano

Duration: 4 minutes 30 seconds

Text: Latin Vulgate Bible (Song of Solomon 1:9-17)

First performed by the Choral Arts Initiative (Brandon Elliott, dir.) in February 2015.

As I have always been attracted to Latin texts (especially sacred ones), setting an excerpt from the Song of Solomon seems like an obvious choice. The Song of Solomon is itself a deeply passionate work celebrating love, and the concluding verses of the first chapter specifically drew me in with its sensuous and fragrant language. In the opening to Solomon and His Bride, I used pitch collections in the voice and piano to create curtains of sound, which drape lusciously over the male harmonies. In the second section, ecstatic syncopated rhythms and mixed metres gradually build to a passionate chorale on the words, "Behold! You are beautiful, my love!"

Click here to see the complete score.

Pange Lingua (2014)

for SSAATTBB choir, a cappella

Duration: 10 minutes 30 seconds

Text: Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and the Latin Vulgate Bible (Psalm 118:26-29 & John 6:54)

First performed by Pro Coro Canada (Michael Zaugg, dir.) in February 2016.

Pange Lingua is a 10‐minute choral meditation on the events of Maundy Thursday from Jesus’ Last Supper to His betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane. The core framework of the piece comes from the eponymous hymn by Thomas Aquinas; the first four stanzas of text are each treated as distinct musical episodes, exploring varied textures with dense and uncompromising harmonies. Punctuating each stanza is a chanted verse from Psalm 118; while the piece is still ostensibly ‘about’ Maundy Thursday, this diversion also serves to reflect more deeply on Christian identity on the eve of Jesus’ passion. At the central divide of Pange Lingua, a male trio ecstatically chants a verse from the Gospel of John, as if a single, richly-harmonic voice declaiming from heaven. This direct quote from the moment of Jesus’ Last Supper, in tandem with constant references to Psalm 118 (itself a much older work), creates a strong temporal contrast against Aquinas’ text, which dates from the thirteenth century. In the latter half of Pange Lingua, the original hymn tune by Aquinas is solemnly stated by the Altos, surrounded by an unceasing flurry of activity in the rest of the choir, culminating in a climactic and almost desperate declaration of faith. However, after a staggeringly powerful ‘final’ chord, the piece instead ends with a harmonized chant, setting an entirely different text by Aquinas: “O Sacrum Convivium”. Although this expression of unity and grace should come as a relief following such chaos, it is instead harmonically distraught, closing with an anguished and broken “Amen” – in the moments leading to Good Friday, we know how the story must continue.

Now available for purchase as a digital octavo in the Pro Coro Canada Choral Series.

Click here to see the complete score.

The audio below is from the first performance by Pro Coro Canada in February 2016.