Gold Mountain Elegy
for SATB, erhu (or violin) and piano

Composition Date: 2004
Genre: Choral (9 + Voices), With Chamber Ensemble (2 - 9 Performers), , Keyboard / String Bowed


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Mixed chorus
  • 1 x Ethnic bowed strings
Programme Note:
There is a saying that one Chinese man died for every mile of railroad that was built in Canada.
Gold Mountain Elegy is dedicated to those men who lost or risked their lives building the railroad so that we all would benefit.
Chinese workers first immigrated to Canada in the 1850's during the gold rush days and they called North America "Gold Mountain", or "Gum San" in Cantonese. In the 1880's Chinese-Canadians helped to build a railroad which was to connect all of Canada for the first time. These workers were given the hardest and most dangerous jobs such as setting off explosives to move rock and create flat land for the railways. They were also exploited in that they worked for less money than the white workers. Because of this, white Canadians felt that these workers were taking their jobs. The government responded by first creating a head tax which went as high as five hundred dollars in 1905. The Chinese were the only immigrant group in Canada that had to pay a tax based on their race. Women were discouraged from immigrating to Canada because officials wanted to keep Canada as a "white" and "British" nation. The men that stayed here existed in large bachelor communities and many dreamt of a day when they could either afford to return home or bring their wives to Canada. In 1923 the Canadian Parliament passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which placed even further restrictions on Chinese immigration to Canada. This act was not repealed until 1947.
The text for Gold Mountain Elegy is written by two anonymous authors who were immigrants to
Canada. The first poem was originally found in a book of folk songs published in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1915. The second poem was carved onto a prison wall in the immigration building of Victoria, British Columbia in 1919. Many new Chinese immigrants were brought to the immigration building to be questioned, have medical examinations and pay their head taxes. If too many came at the same time they would be detained in the prison for several days until they could be processed. Many people did not understand why they were being imprisoned. A man waiting in this prison carved this second poem.
Gold Mountain Elegy combines Chinese melodies, modern harmonies and traditional folk tunes to express the feelings of these men. Two of the folk songs that are used: Black Bamboo Tune and I Long for My Sweetheart Day after Day both express the longing of a loved one to return home to China after years of hard labour overseas. The Jasmine Flower, another traditional folk song is briefly quoted when the sojourner reminisces of home.

Premiere Information:
07/04/2006 Brock University St. Catharines Brock University Chamber Choir Conductor: Harris Loewen


  • Call Number:
  • MV 6205 T772go
  • Genre:
  • Choral (9 + Voices), With Chamber Ensemble (2 - 9 Performers), , Keyboard / String Bowed
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • July 31, 2009
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (35 p.) + 1 part (3 p.) ; 28 cm.
    35 Pages
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
    Parts page count: 3
  • Language Information
  • Language of libretto: English
  • Additional Information:
  • SATB Choir
    Erhu or Violin
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Gold Mountain Elegy Satb, Erhu (or Violin) and Piano: Score
(downloadable PDF)
Gold mountain elegy SATB, erhu (or violin) and piano by Matthew Tran-Adams (Score)
Printed on demand
Gold mountain elegy SATB, erhu (or violin) and piano by Matthew Tran-Adams (Score and Parts)
Printed on demand
Gold Mountain Elegy for SATB, erhu (or violin) and piano
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