When an orchestral composer hears one of their pieces performed live for the very first time, it can be a thrilling experience—but also a constructively illuminating one. Through the orchestra’s interpretation of their score, the composer is able to listen with new ears and identify those elements of the music they’re pleased with and those they may wish to revise, much like how a chef tastes their food while preparing it.
Knowing how valuable such a learning opportunity can be, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with the Canadian Music Centre (CMC), holds annual composition-reading sessions, called Explore the Score, for emerging Canadian composers. Combined with our robust commissioning program—which includes the NextGen Composers initiative and our series of Celebration Preludes written for our Centennial—these workshops reflect our ongoing commitment to cultivating homegrown talent and promoting the creation of new repertoire.
This year’s instalment of Explore the Score was held on Saturday, October 22, at Roy Thomson Hall, where the Orchestra, under the baton of Composer Advisor Gary Kulesha, rehearsed works by four gifted composers:
Coreen Morsink: Call of the Dove (Symphony No. 2)
Coreen Morsink is inspired by unusual microtonal tuning systems and ancient Greek music, which are a springboard for her compositions. Her works have been performed in Canada, the US, the UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Greece, and played on BBC Radio 3. In 2021, she was part of the PIVOT emerging-composer program, and her Timbral Winds for alto flute duo was presented at the National Flute Convention. Her music is published by Tetractys Publishing. Coreen is a music teacher in Athens and enjoys life in Greece with her husband and their daughters, spending her spare time tending her flowers and swimming in the sea.
Call of the Dove depicts the summer sounds of Greece, including a motif based on that of the Eurasian Collared Dove, which can be heard frequently in the morning. The work uses modes and rhythms from ancient Greece as a starting point, as well as natural sounds, while calling to mind the imagery and stories of doves in many cultures.
Véronique Noël: Les grands espaces
Introduced to the piano at age 4, Véronique Noël quickly developed a strong interest in all musical instruments. As a teenager, she practised on a variety of them, eager to acquire their singular language. Between classical piano lessons, she also performed the hits of the ’70s and ’80s with her friends. During her undergraduate studies in instrumental composition, Véronique’s desire to write for large ensembles led her to compose High and Low for jazz band, which was sight-read by the Université de Montréal Big Band. Last spring, she completed a graduate degree in instrumental composition at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal.
Les grands espaces expresses the wonderful yet unspeakable freedom experienced while looking at a wide landscape. The continuous lines of scales going up and down represent the beautiful curves of the mountains. The three-part form signifies a constant ascent: it’s like we’re all trying to climb to the summit just to taste that feeling of freedom the great outdoors can offer us.
David Occhipinti: Saturnia
Composer and guitarist David Occhipinti’s musical accomplishments have earned him two Chalmers Arts Fellowships and multiple JUNO nominations. His album Camera (2012) features his chamber music compositions and guitar improvisations, and these out of infinite (2019) includes his works for the voice with text by historical literary figures. In 2021, David was commissioned by the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra to compose a piece for brass and percussion, En Passant, and other compositions have been commissioned or recorded by artists including Beverley Johnston, Arraymusic Ensemble, and the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus. David has performed and toured internationally but is based in Toronto.
Saturnia is David’s first piece for full orchestra—a maiden voyage. While writing it, he thought of a large ship going on an adventure into unfamiliar waters, and he named it after the ship his father sailed on from Italy to Canada in 1952. His father didn’t know what kind of life he would build—he, too, was in unfamiliar territory—but he lived well until his passing in 2015.
Hsiu-Ping (Patrick) Wu: Whispers of Jukai
Taiwanese-born Patrick Wu is an award-winning composer, violinist, and multimedia artist constantly in search of musical language that bridges his multicultural identity. His music ranges from his own style of neo-romanticism to avant-garde soundscapes, fusing theatrical elements and improvisational techniques. His pieces have been premièred at numerous festivals, and he has worked with renowned composers including Jérôme Blais, Dinuk Wijeratne, and Vivian Fung. Patrick has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and titled member of orchestras in Taiwan and Nova Scotia. He holds a master’s degree in violin performance/composition from Bard College and a bachelor’s degree in music from Dalhousie University.
Whispers of Jukai is a symphonic poem that depicts a journey through death and rebirth—all through the life cycle of a forest. Like civilization, the forest contains its own ecosystem. Death is only the beginning of a journey to rebirth and transcendence.
Explore the Score was also attended by Music Director Gustavo Gimeno; the Ontario Regional Director of the CMC, Joseph Glaser; RBC Affiliate Composer Alison Yun-Fei Jiang; and renowned Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, who was in Toronto for the Canadian Première of his Piano Concerto No. 3, performed by Yuja Wang and the TSO. Following the reading, these participants—along with Gary Kulesha and members of the Orchestra—provided invaluable feedback on the pieces.
This event was the culmination of a larger career-development opportunity, which was initiated in June when the TSO put out a Call for Scores. The submissions received in August from rising-star composers across the country were reviewed by a jury comprising representatives from the TSO and the CMC, who ultimately selected Morsink, Noël, Occhipinti, and Wu. Then, on September 8, a library session was held at the CMC, where Principal Librarian Christopher Reiche Boucher and Alison Yun-Fei Jiang shared part-preparation techniques with the composers, in anticipation of them extracting and printing parts for the reading session. Each composer will also receive an archival recording of their piece to review and, if desired, submit with grant applications.
It’s our hope that the new works envisioned by these inspired creators will excite, challenge, and stimulate curiosity in our audiences and musicians in the years ahead.