Composer Aaron Manswell wins Canada-wide composition competition with a new work  inspired by gospel and civil rights

KITCHENER — Aaron Manswell of Toronto is the winner of a Canada-wide composition competition, with Stick with Love, a gospel-style choral work that uses text from Martin Luther King Jr.The competition, sponsored by the Kitchener-based Grand Philharmonic Choir, is in its fifth year and had a record number of entries this year from young Canadian composers across the country.The winning work will be premiered May 28, 2022, at a concert at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Kitchener.An honourable mention also went to Candace Bustard of Ottawa for her work, It’s All Love. “I am delighted by the response of this year’s composition competition,” said Dr. Mark Vuorinen, artistic director of the Grand Philharmonic Choir and Elora Singers, and also chair of music at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo. Vuorinen led the team of three jurors who assessed the 26 entries.“The overall quality of works was quite high, making it a challenge to choose a winner.  Nevertheless, the winning work, Stick with Love, is an inspiring gospel-style piece with a wonderfully rhythmic piano part and memorable, singable melodies. Its poetry, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is topical and timely.” Manswell said:  “Stick with Love is a song meant to further the requisite message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.“I’m honoured for this piece to win the competition, but I’m more so proud that his legacy will continue in this forum.”Manswell is a native of Toronto, Ontario. He has earned music composition degrees from Oakwood University and the University of Memphis. He is the former Wind Band Conductor at Crawford Adventist Academy, leading the concert bands to city-wide awards. He composed the original score for the sci-fi film “H.E.N.R.I” (Katarzyna Kochany & Ryan Singh) and “Soap Dish” (Troy Crossfield & Sheronna Osbourne), premiered at the Toronto and Montreal Black Film Festivals.Manswell’s style of writing is heavily influenced by the genres of R&B, classical, and gospel music. He has worked and produced for various artists including being the Music Director for JUNO award-winning R&B artist Savannah Ré.Currently, he is the composer-in-residence for the McMillan Singers at the University of Toronto, where he is completing his Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition.The choir’s composition competition is intended to foster the work of emerging Canadian composers and carries a $2,000 prize. Entrants must be 30 or under. Winners and entrants have come from across the country and have worked in both English and French.In addition to Vuorinen, the jurors were: Dr. Melissa Morgan, assistant professor of choral music at University of Regina, and director of the university’s concert choir and chamber singers; and Dr. Kari Turunen, artistic director of the Vancouver Chamber Choir. They judge the submitted works without knowing the identity of the entrants. All contestants receive assessments of their work.Candace Bustard received an honourable mention for her poignant It’s All Love. It is an a cappella work with “interesting rhythmic cross-relations and dark and dissonant harmonies.  This inspiring work is personal and intimate,” the jurors said.Bustard is an emerging composer and pianist based in Ottawa, Ontario. She has recently won first place in Jâca’s emerging composer competition with her piece, Melodies from my Mother. She is currently earning her Master of Music in composition at the University of Ottawa. Her bachelor’s degree is from University of Waterloo, where she studied composition with Dr. Karen Sunabacka and Dr. Kelly-Marie Murphy.“I am so thankful and delighted to receive recognition for my piece, and I want to thank the jury for this great honour. It’s All Love is a piece very close to my heart; written after the passing of my grandmother in November 2021. This piece was my expression of grief, and the sentiment of hope, peace, and praise I know she would have wanted conveyed.”The Grand Philharmonic Choir gratefully acknowledges the support of the Ontario Arts Council, the Wallenstein Feed Charitable Foundation, the Region of Waterloo and the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo for their support of the choir’s activities, including this competition.For more information, please contact:Mark Vuorinen, artistic director, Grand Philharmonic Choir: Aaron Manswell, competition winner:

© 2022 Grand Philharmonic Choir