We Are All Collaborators

“This is about as glamorous as it gets for a choral composer – flying to another city to hear a premiere.”

I said something like this while introducing “In Sweet Music” during the concerts last weekend in Kitchener-Waterloo. Leonard Enns led DaCapo Chamber Choir in the premiere of this new a cappella work for mixed voices, which won DaCapo’s Canada-wide NewWorks composition competition in 2015. I was there to hear the result in person, and the two beautiful and nuanced performances made the visit so worthwhile!

St. John Church
Our first concert venue: The Church of St. John the Evangelist, Kitchener

The trip from Vancouver was a whirlwind – I love visiting new places and there were so many wonderful experiences and people to meet here. Between rehearsal with Leonard Enns and the choir, two concerts, brunch with politicians and key funders of the choir, reconnecting with an old friend, and having the special bonus of watching Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan lead his own music in rehearsal, there was also a little time to explore Waterloo, which seems to be filled with creative energy and community spirit.

Observing rehearsal led by Sir James MacMillan
Sir James MacMillan happened to be in town leading a dress rehearsal of his own music

It’s a mental game

Composing often feels like an individual task but a group effort. The labour of writing happens alone at my desk, on the bus, out walking, or with a cup of coffee somewhere. It usually takes a long time to see or hear the live results of my work. In this case, 13 months passed from inception to first performance, and I’m still getting used to this ultra-delayed gratification. Writing is a mental game, and life happens in all the spaces in between.

It would be impossible to write anything meaningful without the emotional and more tangible support of a wide community of friends and family. Sometimes this arrives as empathy and encouragement, much-needed advice, or a timely favour. Occasionally support arrives in dollars as a commission or purchase, and that works too!

And then there are my fellow musicians – the directors and performers who actually do the hard work of bringing the music to life. In this grand scheme a composer’s job seems quite small, relying upon a huge network, which for me now includes some very kind choristers and others in KW.

Waterloo houses
A walk in Waterloo

You’re each a strand of the network that keeps me going, and I’m grateful. Not only in the “you’re all an inspiration to me” sense but also a “this really could not happen without tangible support from a healthy group of humans around me” sense. 

In short, keep enabling the composers and artists in your lives – you never know what could happen.

We are all collaborators.

Conductors: Want to read the award-winning score to “In Sweet Music”? Download a sample copy. (SATB, some divisi, ~5′, designed for chamber choir) I hope to have an archival recording available soon.

Leonard Enns
With director Leonard Enns (right), after the final concert with DaCapo Chamber Choir

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