NotesTowards: music of Timothy Corlis (tracks 1-5), Heather Taves (tracks 6-9), and Leonard Enns (track 10).
Featuring the DaCapo Chamber Choir (directed by Leonard Enns), Ben Bolt-Martin (cello), Jerzy Kaplanek (violin), Heather Taves (piano), and Brandon Leis (tenor).
Nominated for a 2008 JUNO Award - Best Classical Composition of the Year
"Occasionally we find a CD that truly stands out from the rest, and here is one, certainly." - WholeNote Magazine
"Timothy Corlis is a composer of great depth and passion, not to mention a pristine, polished craft." - WholeNote Magazine
"a shattering experience of Margaret Atwood’s nearly brutal poetry, linked with Corlis’ masterful writing. It is twenty-five of the most intense minutes of listening you are likely to experience." - WholeNote Magazine
"an artistically engaging and emotionally moving album" - Robert Reid, The Record
“atmospherically striking.” - Daniel Ariaratnam, The Record, reviewing the premier of "Notes Towards a Poem That Can Never Be Written"
“An Important Work.” - Christos Hatzis, two-time Juno Award winner describing "Western Projections"
Commissioned by the DaCapo Chamber Choir with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council, "Notes Towards A Poem That Can Never Be Written" is a twenty-six minute choral work based on the poem by Margaret Atwood. The choir premiered the piece on March 4th, 2006 to an audience with a deep respect for the subject matter. This community support became the seed for a recording project that aims to speak out about the injustices of our modern world in a way that is uniquely possible through music and poetry.
The poem begins with the text “This is the place you would rather not know about…” and ends with a mirror image “Elsewhere, you must write this poem…” For me, these words describe an inner journey, a journey that begins with the stark reality of the here-and-now and moves gradually towards what is possible to imagine – towards potential and hope. In writing this composition, I hope to offer a reading of Atwood's poem that immerses the senses in sound, so that we might become entangled in her words. Rather than dwelling on words and concepts as "facts" to be scrutinized, this music aims to focus our attention on the immediate sensual experience. Here, we come close to suspending the distance that our privilege grants us. Instead of being overwhelmed by information or merely interested in statistics, we become involved and vulnerable.
"Notes Towards A Poem That Can Never Be Written" is a centre-piece and a defining artistic statement for the disc. After spending months sitting with Margaret Atwood’s text and writing music that responds to it, I still find that it speaks powerfully about a loss in the modern soul. I find myself grieving this loss and at the same time encouraged to confront it when I hear in my mind, “Elsewhere, this poem must be written…” This sense of simultaneous grief and hope is what defines my experience of writing the piece and in general, my experience of working with Leonard Enns and the DaCapo Chamber Choir.
"Western Projections" is an earlier composition that in many ways marks my struggle with the question of how the Western art tradition can learn from other forms of art that are essentially different. As a composer, how can I remain rooted in my own Western tradition while maintaining an openness to the art of other cultures, acknowledging that when I become open to being immersed in another culture’s aesthetic, I may change irreversibly? The piece also struggles with the potential for violence that emerges when regarding culture from the outside. Particularly, in an artistic landscape where a diverse pallette of cultural expressions is readily available, I run the risk of objectifying culture by projecting my own fear and aggression instead of first embracing what is fundamentally innocent, fragile, and beautiful.
The first track, "Prelude for the Night of the Lunar Eclipse" acquired its title from a unique experience. During the recording session, we were delayed for several hours because of unexpected noise that interfered with the process. We finally were able to begin recording shortly after 9:00pm on February 20, normally a very late hour to begin recording a piece that requires intense concentration. Just as we were about to record take one, Heather Dawn Taves asked, “What time is it? We should see if the full lunar eclipse is happening.” Without a doubt, there it was.
The contributions by Leonard Enns ("Cello Sonata") and Heather Dawn Taves ("As Through a Glass Darkly") are offerings by two musicians who have both mentored me as a composer.
In Heather Taves' own words:
"As Through a Glass Darkly" is a musical setting of four poems from a book of the same name by my father, G. Victor Toews. These poems bring to a close a set of poetry entitled "Contemplative Poems", the last that he wrote. They deal with challenging questions raised by his Christian faith in the context of a lengthy struggle with Parkinson's disease. The relation between the singer and the piano in these songs is that of a father-daughter dialogue. As a young man, Mr. Toews had a fine tenor voice, singing in many Mennonite choirs. The music, written for tenor and piano, is constructed from elements such as a motive from a Schubert song which Mr. Toews sang as a lullaby to us as children. The last poem, "Laugh", was originally published in the graphic form of the Cross. When composing it, I recreated this graphic in the musical form of the song.
Leonard Enns' description:
The first movement of my "Cello Sonata" recorded here, is affected by what I have learned of the intense violence and heart-rendering loss of revolutionary times; the music is not narrative, nor in any way program music, but it is imbued with a sense of desolation, and a deep lament for a people who suffered terror, execution, starvation, and whose experience is echoed daily in our world. The work is unapologetically melodic; in this, perhaps the Sonata reflects my personal history of choral and congregational singing. I have always loved the cello – in my imagination, it has a human voice.
Timothy Corlis, composer
The music of Timothy Corlis emerges from a choral tradition where composition is all about singing in the community. Corlis began his career as a music director at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church where he enjoyed writing for church and community choirs in Waterloo region. His music has since received performances and broadcasts across North America by some of Canada's most prominent performers including: Roman Borys and Annalee Patipatanakoon (Gryphon Trio), Erika Raum, Scott St. John (St. Lawrence String Quartet), Jerzy Kaplanek and Simon Fryer (Penderecki String Quartet), Lydia Wong, Heather Dawn-Taves, and Laura Pudwell.
Corlis' Music has been described in the media as “atmospherically striking”, “Superb. . . bursting with vigour and truth”, and received a “five star” review from Rick Phillips of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A growing number of Canadian ensembles have taken an interest in his artistic voice with recent commissions from Noel Edison and The Elora Festival Singers, The Elektra Women's Chorus directed by Morna Edmondson and Diane Loomer, and The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bramwell Tovey.
Heather Dawn Taves, composer & pianist
Canadian pianist Heather Taves was born in Winnipeg and raised in Prince Edward Island. She attended McGill University, graduating at age 19; her graduation recital was broadcast nationwide on CBC Radio. She subsequently received a Masters degree from Indiana University and a doctorate degree from SUNY - Stony Brook. Dr. Taves is active internationally as a performer, composer and improvisor, and has presented concerti with Canadian orchestras from coast to coast.
She is an Associate Professor of Piano at Wilfrid Laurier Unversity in Waterloo. Her first solo piano CD, "Song Without Words", presented music written as a dialogue between musicians, including works by Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, Beethoven and Brahms. Her latest solo CD, "Ocean Women", includes her own compositions and improvisations for piano and voice, featuring soprano Meredith Hall.
Leonard Enns, composer & conductor
Conductor and composer Leonard Enns holds a PhD in Music Theory from Northwestern University (with a dissertation on the choral music of Harry Somers), a Master of Music in choral conducting (supervised by the late Margaret Hillis), and undergraduate degrees from Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo), and Canadian Mennonite University (Winnipeg).
Enns has been on faculty in the Music Department at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo since 1977. He is the director of the Conrad Grebel College Chapel Choir, and served as Chair of the Music Department for many years. He is the founding director of the DaCapo Chamber Choir of Waterloo.
An associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre, Enns has nearly a hundred acknowledged works to date, many of them multi-movement extended works, ranging from works for solo piano to full choral/orchestral forces. Many of Enns’ compositions involve the voice, either solo or choral. Recent performances of his works include Nocturne, commissioned by the Guelph Spring Festival and premiered there in 2005; the most recent recording of his works is the 2006 CD NorthWord, recorded by the Elora Festival Singers on the Canadian Music Centre Centrediscs label.
Jerzy Kaplenek, violinist
Jerzy Kaplanek received a BMUS degree at the Conservatory in Bytom ,Poland , and a MA from the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music, where he studied with Janusz Skramlik, Stanislaw Lewandowski, and Aureli Blaszczok. He has been a member of the Penderecki String Quartet since 1987. With the Quartet, and also as a soloist and chamber musician, he performs internationally.
His discography includes a dozen CDs with the Penderecki Quartet and Schoenberg’s Perrot Lunaire with the Blue Ride Ensemble. His chamber music partners have included talents such as pianist James Parker and cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi. He is frequently heard on CBC Radio and in the fall of 1997 was featured soloist at a concert held in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, as a tribute to Karol Szymanowski. Pursuing his interest in Baroque performance practice, Kaplanek has also worked with the Custodian of Period Instruments at the Smithsonian Museum , Jaap Schroeder.
Ben Bolt-Martin, cellist
Ben Bolt-Martin is in his ninth season with the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada where he performs live and records original music for stage plays. Ben was also, until recently, principal cello with the Georgian Bay Symphony.
Since the age of eighteen Ben has been making guest appearances on albums for performers, composers and singer-songwriters, most recently on The Theatre Music of Marc Desormeaux and Every Three Children by Carol Ann Weaver. Ben is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Western Ontario and directs Instrumental Chamber Ensembles for the University of Waterloo.
Brandon Leis, tenor
Tenor, Brandon Leis, has just recently graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with an honours degree in vocal performance and an opera diploma. Brandon is a sought-after performer as an opera, oratorio, recital, and concert soloist in Ontario and Michigan. As an educator, he works regularly as an adjudicator, voice, and conducting teacher. Brandon enjoys and works frequently with composers of new works, in opera, song, and choral genres. Brandon is currently (at the time of this recording) an adjunct professor of music history and voice at Heritage College in Cambridge, director of music at Stirling Avenue Mennonite church in Kitchener, and curator of the Brubacher House Museum in Waterloo.
Sheila Dietrich, soprano
Sheila is a graduate of the Opera Diploma Program at Wilfrid Laurier University where she studied with Victor Martens. She currently sings with the Elora Festival Singers, The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the parish choir of St. John the Evangelist in Elora, Ontario, as a chorister and soloist.
Sheila has also been the featured soloist in several oratorios including the Messiah, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Mozart’s Requiem and Passio by Arvo Pärt. Her operatic roles include Belinda (Dido and Anaeus), Peep-Bo (The Mikado), Abigail Williams (The Crucible), Helen (Britten’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream), and La Petite Chaperon Rouge in the Canadian premiere of Louis Aubert’s La Foret Bleu.
Bruce Dow, Narrator
Born in Seattle, Washington USA; raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Bruce is truly a North American performer. His parents took him to all forms of theatre (Musicals, Shakespeare, Ballet, Opera, Bunraku, etc.) and at an early age he was hooked. Bruce studied drama in high school, and decided to pursue acting as a career by joining the University of British Columbia's BFA in Acting program. Upon graduation with both a BFA in Acting and an MFA in Directing, Bruce auditioned for the Original Canadian Company of LES MISERABLES, for a hoot -- he was cast as a swing -- and the rest is history.
Now in his ninth season with the Stratford Festival of Canada, Bruce has three Broadway credits to his name: JANE EYRE, THE MUSIC MAN and ANYTHING GOES (a benefit for Lincoln Center Theater). He was nominated for a Dora Award in 2004 (Toronto's TONY®) for his performance as Adolpho Pirelli in SWEENEY TODD (CanStage). He has appeared in leading roles across Canada and the U.S.
The DaCapo Chamber Choir
The DaCapo Chamber Choir, established in 1998, is dedicated to exploring challenging repertoire, focusing primarily on music of the past century and particularly of the recent past. The performance season consists of three annual concerts in Kitchener-Waterloo: one in the fall around Remembrance Day, a mid-winter, and a spring concert. In addition, the choir performs on an ad hoc basis at other events.
The choir has garnered consistently favourable reviews from the press, along with high praise from musicians in the region. DaCapo was a finalist in the Contemporary Category of the CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs in 2004, and advanced to the semi-finals in that category in 2006.
While the group typically performs unaccompanied repertoire, DaCapo has also collaborated with other choral and instrumental ensembles: TACTUS Vocal Ensemble (Waterloo); Lachan Jewish Chamber Choir (Toronto); Waterloo Chamber Players; Penderecki String Quartet (in March 2007). Guest soloists have included Lori Gemmell (harp), John Helmers (cello), Ben Bolt Martin (cello), and Stephanie Kramer (soprano), among others.
The choir has given a number of invited performances, including for the Guelph Spring Festival and the Kitchener Open Ears Festival, and has been invited to perform on the 2008 Encore Concert Series at Brock University.
Their CD, STILL, was released by the choir in 2004. In her review of the disk in Anacrusis, the publication of the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors' executive director Patricia Abbott prefaces her complimentary remarks with: “Everything about this recording is elegant.” The DaCapo Chamber Choir also appears as the second choir for one work on the Elora Festival Singers 2006 Centrediscs recording of the choral music of Leonard Enns, entitled NorthWord.