Category Archives: Piano

In Sweet Music: Live recording with Vancouver Cantata Singers

This spring, I’ve been able to perform two of my pieces with the amazing ensembles that bring them to life.

Last weekend, Vancouver Peace Choir gave two concerts that included “Grant Us Peace”, with me at the piano and Brian Wismath conducting. A month earlier, I sang “In Sweet Music” from the tenor section with the Vancouver Cantata Singers (Paula Kremer, Artistic Director).

“In Sweet Music” tells the legend of Orpheus, whose music had the power to move mountains, among other superhero-like qualities. Even more importantly, Orpheus’ music could change people by helping them forget their troubles, putting them to sleep, or even killing them. For a composer, these are troubling thoughts.

I’m grateful to be able to share this live concert recording of “In Sweet Music” from Vancouver Cantata Singers’ “Full Fathom Five” concert in April 2017. Listen and watch the score, with a few of my notes and sketches. Singing in the tenor section with this group has been amazing and I look forward to next season, coming soon!

In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart,
        Fall asleep, or hearing, die.

“In Sweet Music” won DaCapo Chamber Choir’s 2015 Young Composers’ Competition. I’m grateful to DaCapo Chamber Choir and Leonard Enns, who gave the premiere performance in 2016.

Composers in concert with Vancouver Peace Choir

Some rehearsals make me especially glad to have written some music. This was one of those times.

On Sunday I joined Vancouver Peace Choir to rehearse for their Canadian Landscapes concerts – two shows devoted to Canadian choral music and led by artistic director Brian Wismath. At those concerts, I’ll be at the piano to collaborate on pieces by fellow Vancouverites Stephen Chatman and Amy Stephen, and also my “Grant Us Peace” (SATB + piano, score available from Cypress Choral Music).

This was not the first time I’ve enjoyed hearing and working with “Grant Us Peace” since its 2014 premiere, but it was a privilege and a joy to have 30 or 40 people sing this music back to me at the piano in true surround sound.

Amazing sounds or not, I’m convinced that the satisfaction stemming from releasing a work into the world is one of the strange, rewarding sensations that keeps composers alive. We’re happy that our ideas are out there. We believe that they’re interesting, no matter what happens to them. Sometimes we are simply glad to have written something, anything. But when the music results in beauty beyond the page, when people are engaged and expressive and musical, it is wonderful. That’s what happened here.

I’m not sure which of us was happiest to be at rehearsal. It was probably a draw. (L-R: Chris Sivak, composer; Brian Wismath, artistic director; me, composer/pianist)

After my rehearsing had finished for the night, I tagged composer Chris Sivak into the ring and watched as Brian led the choir through Chris’ newly commissioned a cappella piece called “Fierce Green”. The choir made inspiring sounds. (Read the story of “Fierce Green” on Chris’ blog.)

Vancouver Peace Choir
Composer composing, conductor conducting, choir singing. (Chris Sivak, left, at the piano; Brian Wismath, centre; Vancouver Peace Choir, everywhere)

This was a rehearsal of firsts for both of us composers: me on the piano for “Grant Us Peace”, and Chris hearing his new dots vibrating the air around him for the very first time.

You can hear those vibrations in Richmond or Vancouver on May 26-27, 2017. Join us for the music; get tickets for Vancouver Peace Choir’s Canadian Landscapes.

Learn the story behind Grant Us Peace, and get the score from Cypress Choral Music.

Goals and Motivation

The neat thing about hitting a big milestone is that it can cause you to look back at where you were, and ahead to where you’re going. Music has always given me something to strive for. I’ve been making music for 20 years, and most of the hours spent practicing piano have been a small part of a bigger project, whether it was a performance (in a hotel lobby, for example) or in learning a new ability. It’s the completion of small goals (ie: I’ll practice this Chopin piece for 20 minutes at half-tempo) that eventually lead to something bigger.

About ten years ago I decided that I wanted to compose music on a regular basis. I was captivated by the orchestral film scores of John Williams and the quirky music of Danny Elfman, among others, and dreamed of one day doing the same for the cinema. I knew that one day my scores could be played by a professional orchestra.

That day is close at hand! On March 23, the Victoria Symphony will give me the chance to hear some of my work come to life. The long wait just makes it sweeter.

What keeps you motivated to keep working?