Back in April, I was invited to participate in Opera from Scratch, hosted by Vocalypse Productions in Halifax. The workshop will be taking place in August, but currently I am in the midst of writing the piece for the workshop. Each selected composer must write a work centred on a piece of Nova Scotian history or folklore. For my piece, I decided to write about the Shag Harbour UFO sighting from 1967.
UFOs and aliens have been on my brain as of late. My mom recalled a story of her seeing a UFO with my grandfather back in the 1970s when I was visiting at Christmas. Her parents lived on a farm just outside of Sackville, New Brunswick. The story intrigued me because I hadn’t really heard her talk about it before. What intrigued me more was the dream that she had the night she saw the strange flying object.
When selecting a subject for this opera, I thought back to the UFO sighting my mom had described. I began to search for a similar sighting in Nova Scotia, and discovered the Shag Harbour incident. It was so fascinating to me. But I knew I didn’t just want to recount the events of that night. I wanted to include something creative as well. I decided to add in my mom’s dream, but with some modifications for dramatic effect.
It was also interesting to write my own libretto. I fear I may have overcompensated, having thought I wouldn’t have enough material for a ten-minute piece. But looking at it now, I realize I wrote too much. It’s been interesting knowing where to cut things, and I’m glad that I’m the sole creator of the text and can cut away as I please. I’m keeping my favourite parts, though.
The piece should be finished soon. After that, it may be time to start working on a secret project again…
At the beginning of this past month, I had the great opportunity of seeing my work Abandoned performed by the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra Winds. It was part of a workshop and reading program that they had begun 2016. The participants would write a piece for the SPO Winds and work with composer mentors to help shape the work. Finally, the piece was read by the SPO Winds and the performers delivered feedback on playability and general musical structure.
The experience as a whole was invaluable for me. I had a lesson with Elizabeth Raum and Alex Eddington, who both provided fantastic advice that helped me see my composing and this work in a completely different way. I also found the feedback from the players helped me create a better piece that was both more playable and more concise musically.
Leading up to the performance, I revisited this work and edited it heavily. I took the quite a bit of the advice from the performers and went very in-depth in the analysis of my score. I am much happier with the end result than I was at the initial reading in the winter of 2017, and I am very grateful SPO Winds gave me and the other participants from the reading the chance to have their works performed by a skilled ensemble.
At the performance, the participants in the 2017-2018 workshop as well as the 2016-2017 workshop stood together for a photo. I am hoping that the SPO Winds will perform some of the works from this year’s workshop in the future.
I’m pleased to announce my piece Letters will be performed on December 7th at 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media & Education. The performance is presented by The Music Gallery, working with the Sounds of Silence Initiative.
The Sounds of Silence Initiative was formed just last year, and has brought together over fifty musicians, composers, and poets together to create new art song that celebrate the diverse cultural identities of Canadians. The concert features four sets of song cycles.
Letters is the setting of three works by transgender poet Charlie Petch for piano and tenor. Each poem is addressed to a different person. They are filled with comedy, tragedy, and bittersweet feelings.
I was very excited to write this piece as soon as I read the text. I haven’t had much opportunity to write vocal pieces using comical texts, and it proved to be a welcome challenge. Another interesting challenge was in setting the poem “Dear Ivan,” which featured a long text and varying emotions. The question then became “how do I keep this piece fresh despite its length? Which parts of the text should be spoken, and which should be sung?” In the end, I’m quite pleased with the answers I found to these questions.
For more information on the event, check out the Facebook page here.