Benjamin Gabbay

Writer | Digital Designer | Composer


Benjamin Gabbay is a classical pianist and composer. He holds an ARCT in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music and a Master’s of Music in Composition from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, having studied under Profs. Gary Kulesha, Alexander Rapoport, and Roger Bergs. He is currently an Associate Composer with Arcady, a contemporary music ensemble in Brantford, Ontario (

Benjamin’s compositions have received recognition by Toronto’s St. James Cathedral (for i thank you God for most this amazing day, one of two winners of the cathedral’s 2018-2019 composition competition), the Amadeus Choir International Seasonal Song-Writing Competition (honourable mention, 2015, for Ave Maria) and the Ruth Watson Henderson Choral Competition (honourable mention, 2017, for Lux Aeterna). In 2018, he was commissioned to write a highlight premiere for the Mississauga Summer Chorale’s end-of-season concert (Requiem l’homme armé). His works have been described by conductors and composers as filling a demand in the Canadian choral scene for compositionally and technically adventurous choral music that still follows in a tradition with mainstream appeal. Through U of T, he has been the recipient of the Faculty of Music Graduating Award (2023), the Lothar Klein Memorial Fellowship (2020), the Gwendolen M Grant Music Scholarship (2019), the Robert and John Elliot McBroom Scholarship (2017, 2018, 2019), the Lobodowsky Choral Scholarship (2018), and the Susan Cale Award (2017).

Below is a selection of recordings of Benjamin’s compositions and piano playing. All these and more may be viewed on his YouTube channel at


Chanson Courante (2023)

“Chanson Courante” (2023) for SATB choir and strings combines the texts of “Le Pont Mirabeau” by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) and “Les roses de Saâdi” by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859) in a lively, folk-like song setting. This premiere performance was presented by Arcady Ensemble on June 10, 2023, in St. Andrew’s United Church in Brantford, ON, Canada and conducted by director Ronald Beckett as part of Arcady’s 25th Anniversary Celebration concert. Please see the YouTube video description for full list of performers, program notes, and complete texts.

Nigun of Four Gates (2021)

“Nigun of Four Gates” is a reimagining of “The Alter Rebbe’s Nigun of Four Gates” (aka “The Nigun of Four Stanzas” or “Nigun Daled Bavos”), a wordless nigun attributed to 18th-century rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. In the original tune, 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. In this interpretation for cello ensemble, each stanza undergoes extended thematic metamorphoses intended to reflect the improvisatory, meditative, and intimate manner in which a nigun is typically performed. Colour and momentum are built up with each stanza before culminating in the spiritual ecstasy of the fourth stanza. Please see the YouTube video description for full credits and program notes.

for Freedom (2022)

“for Freedom,” a piece for solo violin, was commissioned in early 2022 by violinist Marie-Claire Cardinal for her graduating recital at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she premiered it on May 2, 2022. This recording was made on August 24, 2022, in the Église de Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, a historic 18th-century church on the bank of the St. Lawrence River in Québec, Canada. Please see the YouTube video description for program notes in both English and French. The May 2 premiere of the piece may be viewed here:

“Musette” for clarinet and piano (2018)

On August 6, 2022, as part of Arcady’s Voices of Summer concert, my “Musette” for clarinet and piano was performed by Kaye Royer (clarinet) and me (piano) at the beautiful Whistling Gardens in Wilsonville, Ontario, Canada.

This clarinet-piano duet is based on an early piano composition of mine and inspired by the bal-musette French popular music style of the early 20th century. Combining a languid “chanson” and a quick valse, it seeks to evoke a folk-like pastorality reminiscent of La Belle Époque.

O Great Mystery (2018)

“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 by a soloist).​ It was recorded under the direction of conductor Victor Daoyuan Cheng, performed by soprano Lindsay McIntyre and Toronto Voice Lab choir on November 27, 2021 at St. Basil’s Catholic Parish in Toronto. Full text, program notes, and list of performers can be found in the YouTube video description.

The Answer (2021)

“The Answer” is a setting of a little-known poem of the same name by Italian-British poet Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940). The piece was written in my role as composer-in-residence with the University of Toronto’s MacMillan Singers in 2020-2021 and recorded virtually due to the COVID-19 lockdown in Canada. It was originally premiered on April 17, as part of U of T Choir’s End-of-Year Showcase concert, which can be viewed here: Full text, program notes, and full list of performers can be found in the YouTube video description.

Annabel Lee (2019)

My setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s last completed poem, “Annabel Lee” (1849), for SATB choir and piano, performed by Concreamus Chamber Choir at the November 2019 Faculty of Music Student Composer Concert in Walter Hall, University of Toronto. Full text and program notes can be found in the YouTube video description.

Conductor – Kai Leung
Piano – Benjamin Gabbay

Sous l’abside du ciel d’été (2019)

My setting of Léon-Paul Fargue’s poem “Romance” (1919) performed at the October 2019 Student Composers Concert in Walter Hall, University of Toronto.

Performed by Claire Latosinsky (Soprano I), Abigail Bugden-Sinclair (Soprano II), Sarah Mole (Soprano II), Elizabeth Legierski (Alto), Francesca Hauser (Alto), Nathan Gritter (Tenor), Ricardo Ferro (Baritone) Kai Leung, (Baritone), Nicholas Wanstall (Bass), and Dante Mullin Santone (Bass). Conducted by Benjamin Gabbay.

Full program notes and lyrics can be found in the YouTube video description.

​i thank You God for most this amazing day (2019)

A setting of E. E. Cummings’ poem “i thank You God for most this amazing day” for a cappella SATB choir. This work was one of two winning entries in St. James Cathedral’s inaugural (2018/2019) Choral Composition Competition, premiered and recorded by the St. James Cathedral Choir in Toronto, Canada.

Conducted by St. James Cathedral Director of Music, Robert Busiakiewicz
Soprano solo: Rachel Allen
Alto solo: Rebecca Claborn

Full program notes and lyrics can be found in the YouTube video description.

The Lake (2019)

A setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Lake” for two voices and piano, premiered at the 2019 TILT Composers’ Collective concert in Victoria Chapel, University of Toronto, on April 9, 2019.

Voice 1: Claire Latosinsky
Voice 2: Anika France
Piano: Benjamin Gabbay (with assistance from Kai Leung)

Full program notes and lyrics can be found in the YouTube video description.

Requiem l’homme armé (2018)

Toronto premiere of my “Requiem l’homme armé” for SATB choir and piano. Performed in Walter Hall, University of Toronto, on November 20, 2018. Commissioned by the Mississauga Summer Chorale for their 2018 concert “Reminiscence.” Full program notes and lyrics can be found in the YouTube video description.

Conductor: Victor Cheng
Pianist: Hyejin Kwon
Soloist: Nila Rajagopal
SOPRANOS: Anika France-Forget, Nila Rajagopal
ALTOS: Julia Barber, Claire Latosinsky
TENORS: Ricardo Ferro, Benjamin Gabbay, Nathan Gritter, Kevin Mulligan
BASSES: Kai Leung, Dante Mullin Santone, Nicholas Wanstall, Tristan Zaba

i carry your heart with me (2019)

The premiere of “i carry your heart with me” for mezzo-soprano and piano, my setting of the well-known E. E. Cummings poem, at the Toronto songSLAM art song competition in Walter Hall, University of Toronto, on January 16, 2019.

Mezzo-soprano: Maria Milenic
Pianist: Benjamin Gabbay

Full program notes and lyrics can be found in the YouTube video description.

Piano playing

Academic Papers

  • To Speak Is to Sing: Melodrama, Lulu, and the power of the spoken voice in opera (2022) [Click for PDF]
  • Flying Fish and Falling Stars: Adynata and other forms of hyperbole in Irish and Scottish ballad literature (2018) [Click for PDF]
  • “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget ihr Saiten!”: A study of Bach’s third Weimar cantata and the spirituality of his musical
    language (2018) [Click for PDF]
  • In Paradisum: The Unique Spirituality of Fauré’s Requiem (2017) [Click for PDF]
  • The Locked Door: Viennese Modernism and Its Place in a Disinterested Modern World (2016) [Click for PDF]