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News from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra -- A world premiere of a work by Stephen Chatman with another commission announced for next season

News from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra -- A world premiere of a work by Stephen Chatman with another commission announced for next season

May 2, 2014

Last night a packed house at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary was treated to an old favourite (Beethoven's 9th) and a brand new work by CMC Associate Composer Stephen Chatman. The CPO has embarked on a project to commission a companion work for Beethoven's 9th symphony every two years and Stephen's piece, A Song of Joys, is the first in the series.

The collaboration began in 2012 when Chatman was approached by Director of Artistic Planning, Heather Slater. Chatman had met the CPO's percussionist, Tim Rawlings, in 2009 at a performance of Chatman's Earth Songs and first conceived the work as a percussion concerto. Soon the work grew in size to include the CPO chorus, a children's choir and an additional soloist, the CPO's timpanist Alex Cohen (the timpani part was performed by Aaron McDonald on May 1 due to illness).

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Dress rehearsal of Chatman's Song of Joys

The text of Walt Whitman was particularly attractive and Chatman had used Whitman's texts in the past. For A Song of Joys, Whitman's Leaves of Grass was chosen. Chatman says, "(A Song of Joys and symphony 9) emphasize two ideals: the universal brotherhood of man through joy and the love of the heavenly father. From Whitman’s opening line, “O to make the most jubilant song!” to his concluding lines, 'With the love of comrades, With the life-long love of comrades,' the spirit of love, universal brotherhood, transcendentalism and joy pervades the work.

"A Song of Joys (also the title of one of Whitman’s poems) is unique in the sense that it balances two distinct entities: a frequently virtuosic, multi-timbral, poly-stylistic 'double concerto' versus large chorus with soli and orchestra. These two elements are either separated or combined throughout the contrasting movements. For example, movement one includes soli playing two sets of timpani in a fast, loud choral/orchestral tutti texture. Two movements, One Hour to Madness and Joy! and I dance with the dancers, feature timpani/percussion soli with orchestra, only, and an array of percussion instruments, including Balinese gongs, bongos, conga, drum set, xylophone, marimba, chimes and various bells. The final movement, With the love of comrades, builds to the resounding climax of the work."

Before the concert Slater announced the CPO's 2014-15 season. While the audience will have to wait until the 2015-16 season for the next installment of the Beethoven 9 companion works, the CPO has another commissioning project up its sleeve. Last season Abigail Richardson was commissioned to create a children's show based on the popular story The Hockey Sweater and the work is already gaining traction with other orchestras across Canada. As part of the CPO's committment to commission new children's works based on Canadian literature, next season Richardson will be back with a brand new work based on Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie. "Alligator pie, alligator pie, if I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die!" Join the CPO on May 31 for the world premiere.

Related Compositions: The hockey sweater