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June 10, 2023: Premiere of Chanson Courante with the Arcady Ensemble
On Saturday, June 10, at 7:30 pm, as part of Arcady’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Concert, the Arcady Ensemble premiered my newly composed Chanson Courante for choir and string orchestra. The work is a rousing setting of Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Le Pont Mirabeau” (1912) and Marceline Desbordes-Valmore’s “Les Roses de Saâdi” (1860) inspired by French folk song and art song from the early 20th century. Click here to view the recording; full text and program notes are in the video description.
June 3, 2023: Arcady Emerging Artist Recital
On Saturday, June 3, at 4 pm, I accompanied (on piano) Arcady’s “Emerging Artist Recital in the Gardens,” featuring the art songs of Arcady director Ronald Beckett, my art-song setting of E.E. Cummings’ poem i carry your heart with me, and songs by other young composers. The program was sung by sopranos Roanna Kitchen, Sophia Korz, and Olivia Maldonado, and mezzo-soprano Maria Milenic, who performed my Cummings setting. This unique concert took place outdoors in the beautiful Whistling Gardens just south of Brantford, ON.
March 14, 2023: Premiere of “Nigun of Four Gates”
On Tuesday, March 14, at 7:30 pm, in Walter Hall at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music (80 Queens Park Crescent), I premiered my Nigun of Four Gates for seven cellos as part of the Faculty’s final Student Composers’ Concert of the academic year. The piece is a reimagining of “The Alter Rebbe’s Nigun of Four Gates” (aka “The Nigun of Four Stanzas”), a wordless nigun attributed to 18th-century rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. In the original tune (which is sung), each of the four musical phrases (“stanzas”) is meant to correspond to one of the four Kabbalistic spiritual realms, through which the singer’s spirit is raised by the recitation of the nigun; it is my hope that this 15-minute interpretation of the melody for cello ensemble might uplift its listeners in the same way. Click here to read the full program notes and click here to view the recording of the performance.
February 5, 2023: Performance of “Toward Eternity”
On Sunday, February 5, at 7:30 pm, in Walter Hall at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music (80 Queens Park Crescent), I will be presenting my art song “Toward Eternity” for soprano and piano as part of the U of T New Music Festival’s Canadian Art Song Showcase with the Student Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (SNATS). The song is a setting of Emily Dickinson’s well-known poem #479, “Because I could not stop for Death…”; you can read the full text and my program notes here. Originally premiered in 2019, the song will be presented here by soprano Monica Lindsay, accompanied by me on piano. The rest of the concert will feature works by other student composers, as well works by celebrated Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Concert admission is free.
November 26, 2022: Premiere of “Conditor alme siderum”
On Saturday, November 26, at 7:30 pm, in St. Andrew’s United Church in Brantford, Ontario (95 Darling St.), I premiered my “Conditor alme sidreum” for soprano and string orchestra as part of Arcady’s “Christmas with Arcady” concert. The work was performed by soprano Vivien Illion and Arcady’s string orchestra, with me conducting. The text, derived from a 7th-century Latin advent hymn—whose title is often translated along the lines of “Creator of the Starry Heavens”—has been set to an original melody, carried on sweeping string lines that paint the descent of Christ from Heaven to Earth. Click here to watch the recording of the performance and click here for the cover pages of the score, which include the full text and program notes.
November 22, 2022: Premiere of “Crepuscule”
On Tuesday, November 22, at 7:30 pm, in Walter Hall at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music (80 Queens Park Crescent), I premiered my “Crepuscule” for mezzo-soprano and piano as part of the Faculty’s second Student Composer Concert of the 2022/23 academic year. I played piano and my friend and colleague Maria Milenic sung the formidable vocal part. The work is a setting of E. E. Cummings’ poem of the same name, which strikes me as a vivid description of the state between sleeping and waking. By utilizing a range of colourful effects, including plucking and strumming the strings inside the piano, I sought to depict the ethereal journey through the poem’s strange worlds and visions. Click here to watch a recording of the performance and click here for the cover pages of the score.
September 9, 2022: Recording of “for Freedom”
Last month, I traveled to the riverside town of Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly in Quebec to make a recording of my piece “for Freedom” for solo violin with my friend and colleague Marie-Claire Cardinal. After Marie-Claire commissioned the piece earlier this year and premiered it at her graduating recital at McGill University on May 2, we decided to make a definitive recording, which may now be viewed here. This was performed and filmed in the beautiful Église de Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, a historic 18th-century church on the bank of the St. Lawrence River.
Program notes in both English and French are included in the video description on YouTube.
August 6, 2022: Performance of “Musette” with Arcady
On August 6, 2022, my “Musette” for clarinet and piano (2018) was performed as part of Arcady’s “Voices of Summer Concert” at the Whistling Gardens in Wilsonville, Ontario. The recording of the performance may be viewed here.
May 2, 2022: Premiere of “for Freedom” (2022)
My new piece for solo violin, “for Freedom,” was commissioned by violinist Marie-Claire Cardinal and premiered by her as part of her graduating recital at McGill Schulich School of Music in Montreal, Quebec, on May 2, 2022. The recording of the performance may be viewed here. I also encourage you to read my program note about the piece here.
December 23, 2021: Premiere recording of “O Great Mystery” (2018)
With premieres and performances having recently been so few and far between—especially in-person ones—it gives me great pleasure to be able to share a recording of one of my choral works made last month under the direction of my friend and colleague Victor Daoyuan Cheng. The recording was arranged by Victor with his Toronto Voice Lab, an ad hoc 19-person ensemble, as part of a set of recordings made for his conductor’s portfolio. Made up of some of the best choral singers in Toronto, the ensemble rehearsed the piece for little more than 20 minutes before nailing this fantastic recording in a single take.
The work, “O Great Mystery,” is a bilingual choral setting of the liturgical Latin Christmas chant “O magnum mysterium,” where the original Latin text (sung by the choir) is combined with an English paraphrase (sung here by soprano soloist Lindsay McIntyre). The recording is published with a scrolling score on my YouTube channel here, and a video recording is published on Victor’s channel here. I’m thrilled with how well it all turned out, and I am enormously grateful to Victor for his skilled direction and enthusiasm that made this possible.
April 17, 2021: Virtual premiere of “The Answer” (2021)
On Saturday, April 17, my choral setting of Humbert Wolfe’s (1895 – 1940) poem The Answer was premiered by MacMillan Singers as part of the University of Toronto Choirs End-of-Year Showcase Concert. Click here to watch the concert and click here to read Wolfe’s poem.
August 8, 2020: Virtual premiere of “so comes love” (2020)
On Saturday, August 8, 2020, “so comes love,” my a cappella SATB choral setting of a short poem by E. E. Cummings, was premiered virtually at the Mississauga Summer Chorale’s online Cabaret Concert. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/8eBEjVNu1k4.
May 23, 2020: Virtual premiere of “And so the night became” (2020)
This choral setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem #106 (“The cricket sang…”), was composed, performed, and recorded in Canada during the COVID-19 lockdown. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/T4Z7uY0ObCI.
This piece was written in May 2020 for JM Canada’s “Do Mi Si La Do Ré Contest,” where it was awarded an Artistic Prize as one of the top 10 entries. The aim of the competition was to write a piece of music utilizing the musical phrase “Do Mi Si La Do Re,” (“domicile adoré”/”home sweet home”) as a reflection on the COVID-19 lockdown in Canada. For more information, see the full competition information here.
January 31, 2020: “Annabel Lee” performance with Concreamus Choir
If you missed this concert, a video recording may be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/t7ASRciF8ZY. On Friday, January 31, 7:30 p.m., in Seeley Hall in U of T’s Trinity College, Concreamus Chamber Choir, directed by Kai Leung, will present its debut solo concert in cooperation with Green Room Music, featuring an entire program of original choral music by U of T Faculty of Music student composers. Alongside several amazing works by my colleagues, we will be presenting my setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” for choir and piano, which was premiered at the November 2019 Student Composers’ Concert (a recording of this premiere can be viewed here). Seeley Hall is located at 6 Hoskin Avenue, Toronto; admission by donation (recommended: $5 student / $10 general). The poster can be viewed here.
Concreamus is a fantastic ensemble comprising many student composers like myself and some of U of T’s best choral singers, formed last fall with the intention of providing a voice (so to speak) to student composers of choral music. We look forward to presenting many more concerts in the future!
DECEMBER 15, 2019: “Prelude to Winter” premiere with Musicata Choir
On Sunday, December 15, 3 p.m., at Central Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Musicata Choir, directed by Dr. Roger Bergs, and special guest artist, virtuoso accordionist Michael Bridge, will be premiering my piece “Prelude to Winter” for SATB choir and accordion. The work is a setting of Elizabeth Stoddard’s poem “November” (1895) and will be presented as part of Musicata Choir’s “With One Accord” concert. Tickets available at the door: Regular $25 / Seniors $20 / Students $5. Central Presbyterian Church is located at 165 Charlton Avenue West in Hamilton, Ontario.
DECEMBER 6, 2019: “Toward Eternity” premiere at U of T Faculty of Music
If you missed this performance, a video recording may be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHZlE19gNb0. On Friday, December 6, 7:30 p.m., in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, my colleague Claire Latosinsky, soprano, will be premiering my piece “Toward Eternity” for piano and voice, as part of her year-end recital. The song is a setting of Emily Dickinson’s well-known poem #479, “Because I could not stop for Death…” The recital will take place in the Edward Johnson Building at 80 Queens Park, in room 330 (on the third floor), and is free to attend.
NOVEMBER 19, 2019: “Annabel Lee” at U of T November Student Composers Concert
If you missed this performance, a video recording may be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM70fO1ssDQ. On Tuesday, November 19, at 7 p.m., in Walter Hall at the University of Toronto, my setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” for SATB choir and piano will be performed by Concreamus chamber choir, conducted by Kai Leung (I will be on piano), as part of the Faculty of Music’s November Student Composers Concert. The event is free to attend.
OCTOBER 15, 2019: “Sous l’abside du ciel d’été” at U of T October Student Composers Concert
If you missed this performance, a video recording may be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsr9YbZaLVo. On Tuesday, October 15, at 7 p.m., in Walter Hall at the University of Toronto, I will be presenting (and conducting) my a cappella vocal piece Sous l’abside du ciel d’été as part of the Faculty of Music’s October Student Composers Concert. The piece is a setting of Léon-Paul Fargue’s “Romance” (1919) and will be performed by ten of my talented singer colleagues from the Faculty, several of whom premiered the piece earlier this year at the Arts and Letters Club’s annual new music concert. You can watch a recording of the premiere on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpcwEPCZ8Zo. The October 15 concert is free to attend and will feature several other original compositions by my Faculty colleagues. Walter Hall is located at 80 Queens Park, in the lower basement of the Faculty of Music.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2019: Toronto Public Library recital
On Thursday, September 26, 2 p.m., at the Toronto Public Library’s Northern District branch, my U of T colleague, soprano Claire Latosinsky, and I will be presenting an hour-long concert of solo piano and vocal music. Repertoire will include works by Schubert, Fauré, Poulenc, Clara Schumann, Jean Coulthard, and original compositions by me. Click here to view the full concert program. Free admission. Northern District library is located at 40 Orchardview Blvd., Toronto (https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/northerndistrict/).
JUNE 2, 2019: St. James Cathedral performance
On Sunday, June 2, 4:30 p.m., at St. James Cathedral, my setting of E. E. Cummings’ poem “i thank You God for most this amazing day” will be performed by the St. James Cathedral Choir as part of the Cathedral’s Evensong service. This piece was one of two winning works in the St. James’ Cathedrals inaugural 2018 Choral Composition Competition. You can hear a recording of it by the Cathedral Choir here, from a workshop conducted earlier this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTuW1vnLuWQ. A full schedule of the Cathedral’s music for the month of June, including the order of service for the June 2 Evensong service, can be viewed here: https://stjamescathedral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/June-2019.pdf. St. James Cathedral is located at 106 King Street East, Toronto (https://stjamescathedral.ca).
MARCH 30, 2019: Music for a Saturday Afternoon
On Saturday, March 30, (2:00 – 4:00 p.m.), two of my University of Toronto colleagues and I will present a concert at Jubilee United Church, 40 Underhill Drive, in Toronto. The concert, “Music for a Saturday Afternoon,” will feature piano, organ, and vocal repertoire by Nicholas Wanstall (organist and composer), Claire Latosinski (soprano), and me (pianist and composer), including works by Massenet, Mozart, Schumann, Bach, and Ravel. The program will also feature original compositions, including Nicholas’ “Lullaby” for soprano and piano and my setting of E. E. Cumming’s “i carry your heart with me” for soprano and piano (premiered at Toronto SongSLAM this January), along with my “Variations on a Theme by Beethoven” for piano solo. Admission is $15.00 regular / $10.00 students (tickets at the door); refreshments will be offered after the concert. The concert poster is posted online here: www.benjamingabbay.com/music/mfsa.pdf. More information about the venue, Jubilee United Church, can be found on their website, www.jubileeunited.ca.