A spellbinding new choral and orchestral work about water – and a community’s struggle to protect this precious resource – will be premiered at the final concert of the 100th season of the Grand Philharmonic Choir on May 28 in Kitchener.
Water: An Environmental Oratorio is written by composer Stephanie Martin, with lyrics by playwright Paul Ciufo and guidance from Indigenous environmental activist Vicki Monague. It tells the story of a small community that has the chance to bring in an industrial development that would create jobs, but would also pose a risk to the environment.
This evocative oratorio describes the wrenching debate that ensues, but also explores water on other levels – as an entity with a voice of its own, surrounded by water spirits; and as a life-giving element that has inspired Hildegard von Bingen, Confucius and Goethe, among others.
For the past two years, the oratorio’s creators have worked with the Philharmonic Choir singers and choir artistic director, Mark Vuorinen, while the piece was taking shape. There have been workshops, conversations and recounting of personal history.
Monague, whose own work as a water protector activist provided inspiration for the piece, has brought guidance throughout the creative process. She also is a founder of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages working group.
“It’s been a very collaborative process,” said Vuorinen. “It’s always both exciting and daunting to bring life to a new work.”
“Water is everywhere, around us and in us, yet we rarely stop to consider how much we rely on this essential element,” Martin said.
“We assume it will always be there when we need it, but we don’t appreciate how fragile and threatened this resource is.
“It’s helpful to disrupt our stagnant modes of thinking and consider this Anishinaabe teaching: it is a sacred duty to protect Water. Our existence depends on it.”
Martin is a composer of note, whose works have been performed across North American and internationally. Her cantata, Winter Nights; an opera, Llandovery Castle (about nurses who perished in the First World War); and Babel: a choral symphony, written for the 40th anniversary of the WiIfrid Laurier University faculty of music, have been performed in Waterloo Region by the Philharmonic Choir, other choral ensembles, and opera and choral students at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Martin said she’s excited to start a conversation about water with this new work, which was commissioned thanks to a donation from Dan Leader and Deborah Finlayson of Toronto.
She said she expects listeners to see themselves in some of the roles and complex relationships expressed in the oratorio.
Martin asked, “What will you do when confronted with a difficult decision?”
Water: An Environmental Oratorio will be performed Sunday May 28 at 3 p.m. at the Centre In The Square in Kitchener, by the 140 combined voices of the adult, youth and children’s choirs, the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony, and soloists: Katy Clark, soprano; Marion Newman, mezzo-soprano; Jean-Philippe Lazure, tenor; and Phillip Addis, baritone.
Bruckner’s powerful Romantic work, Te Deum, opens this concert, which is the final performance by the choir in the year it celebrates 100 years of continuous singing.
Tickets ($10 to $40) are available at www.centreinthesquare.com or 519-578-1570.
A chamber version of the work will be performed June 4 at the Huron Waves Music Festival, 3 p.m. at Trivitt Auditorium in Exeter. A six-metre-wide sculpture of the Earth accompanies this performance. For more information, visit huronwaves.ca
For more information contact:
Mark Vuorinen, choir artistic director, Grand Philharmonic Choir: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie Martin, composer: email@example.com
Paul Ciufo, lyricist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vicki Monague, adviser: email@example.com
Our Raffle (Licence # 853779) had its final grand draw on February 6, 2023.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this fundraiser for the choir!
The winners are:
Kathy Stephenson of Woodstock, ticket number 1621, $1,000 prize
Sarah Moroz of Waterloo, ticket number 0190, $800 prize
Shannon Blake of Toronto, ticket number 0274, $700 prize
Erich Rueb of Kitchener, ticket number 0572, $500 prize
Early bird draw winners:
Janet Craik of Kitchener, ticket number 0491, gift basket from Vincenzo’s, value $100
Jenny Shantz of Waterloo, ticket number 0964, $200
Roger Musselman of Kitchener, ticket number 1320, tour and gifts from Together We’re Bitter Brewery
Tereza Korbel of Waterloo, ticket number 1532, $100
Ellen Couchman of Newmarket, ticket number 0998, $200 gift certificate to Sole Restaurant
Paul Marchment of Kitchener, ticket number 1137, $300
Meet our new Assistant Conductor!
“Tom brings infectious enthusiasm and strong musicianship to his work on the podium, and he will strengthen the organization’s ability to take on outreach and educational opportunities,” said Mark Vuorinen, who is artistic director and conductor of the choir.
Corken began in November, and his term will continue until June 2023, with the possibility of being engaged with the choir for an additional year.
He will lead sectional rehearsals and enrich other aspects of the choir’s concert preparation. He will also take on outreach and other public events; and he will choose the repertoire and conduct a full concert in March 2023 with the choir’s Chamber Singers ensemble.
“I am thrilled to start my work with the Grand Philharmonic Choir,” Corken said.
“I am a great supporter of Canadian choral music, and relish the opportunity to share music with the singers from a variety of contemporary composers. I look forward to sharing my love of choral music, and I hope to learn more about my craft as a conductor.”
Corken is currently completing a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting at Western University, where he is the assistant conductor of Chorale, a mixed-voice ensemble. He is a Canada Graduate Scholar and was awarded the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the Deral Johnson Legacy Award in Choral Conducting. He completed his undergraduate work at McMaster University, and has also worked with the Hamilton Children’s Choir, as co-director of its changing-voice ensemble Profunda, and as a rehearsal assistant for several years with Zimfira Poloz.
Tom is currently the assistant conductor of the Pride Men’s Chorus of London, and sings with the Huron College Chapel Choir as a choral scholar. He is Kodály Level One certified, and has contributed to Dynamic, Choir Ontario’s online magazine.
The Grand Philharmonic Choir manages four choirs in one organization: adult symphonic; adult chamber; youth; and children. We present a total of eight formal concerts a year, and our singers also perform at other events such as Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony concerts, and at Christkindl Market in December. Our choirs also provide music education to singers of all ages, and we share our deep love of music with the public through outreach events.
Vuorinen has been the choir’s artistic director since 2010. Under his leadership, the choir has presented some of the most innovative and ambitious programming in the country, while also offering the well-loved classic choral works to appreciative audiences.
This season, the choir is also celebrating its 100th anniversary with a rich array of concerts and special events.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org Aaron Manswell, competition winner: email@example.comThe 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:
Singers ages 7 – 14 are welcome to join the children’s choir NOW. Register for the 2022-23 season at this link GPCC registration
Ella Latta Suazo is a singer-songwriter, a student in the community music program at Wilfrid Laurier University, and the assistant conductor of the Grand Philharmonic Children’s Choir.
During the pandemic lockdowns, this choir has connected online with eight other children’s choirs in India, South Africa, Scotland, Germany and the United States. The project is called Children’s Choirs Connecting.
“Each choir takes a turn, teaching us music of a celebration in their culture,” said Andrea deBoer-Jones, conductor of the Grand Philharmonic Children’s Choir and the organizer of this project.
On Sunday, local children will share photos and videos of themselves playing in the snow, and the online group will sing Latta Suazo’s “Winter Canon” together, using Latta Suazo’s recording as a guide.
The children joining from abroad will be from such far-flung places as the Cape Town Children’s Choir in South Africa; the Singing Tree children’s choir in Mumbai, India; the Glasgow Youth Choir in Scotland; and Young Voices of Colorado in the United States.
“I’m really excited to have my song sung by kids around the world in this workshop,” said Latta Suazo.
“It’s also very special to have it be a musical representation of our Canadian winters, and to help show kids in places without snow what we like to do in the snowy weather. This opportunity to connect children across the globe is so unique, and a huge positive to learning how to build community online.”
“Winter Canon” is a round, in which a musical line or verse is repeatedly sung at different times by different voices (think of “Row, row, row your boat”).
The song recalls snowflakes softly falling, and hot chocolate to share. On Sunday, a recording made by Latta Suazo will be played and each child will join in from home.
During the pandemic, choirs everywhere have had difficulty rehearsing and performing in person. The Grand Philharmonic youth, children’s and adult choirs have responded by reaching out online to make connections with other choirs across Canada and around the world.
DeBoer-Jones said it’s a great experience for children to experience music from around the world. They also get to meet and chat with young singers worldwide, talking about choir and everyday life in their country.
“It has been an amazing experience and we’re hoping to do it next year,” said deBoer-Jones.
“The great thing is that the conductors (who have also never met), are now great friends and have choirs to exchange or visit with for the future! More collaboration!”
Singers ages 7 – 14 are welcome to join the children’s choir NOW. Register at this link GPCC registration