LIZZY HOYT IS AN EXTRAORDINARY mezzo-soprano and Celtic songwriter, a powerhouse in the Canadian folk and classical worlds alike.

On an operatic performance, Opera Canada writes, “Her deeply felt performance infused the entire production with aching humanity” while Bluegrass Unlimited gushes about her “sweet and angelic” and “mournful” delivery in her folk performances. At this concert, Hoyt performs a new work by our composer-in-residence Kevin Lau, one of Canada’s brightest young composers.

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Like Lizzy, Kevin is an artist for whom the boundary between popular and concert music is more often something to be stepped over than observed. It sounds as though Kevin may be composing a work for this concert that allows Lizzy to shine as both folk and operatic singer. No matter what path this collaboration takes we know the destination will be a spectacular, vital new Canadian work.

In that connection, this concert also features reprise performances of works proudly commissioned by the MCO: Jeffrey Ryan’s gorgeous Earthshine (2017) and Karen Sunabacka’s poignant Never to Return (2013). We’ve premiered some excellent pieces over the years, if we may say so, and with works this strong, a second, third, or tenth performance still feels like a true event. An inspiring start to our 2023 Spring Series.

The concert begins at 7.30pm on Thursday, March 2nd, in Crescent Arts Centre / Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, 525 Wardlaw Avenue. There will be no intermission for this concert. Casual tickets will be available 10 August 2022 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.

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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Crescent Arts Centre / Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
7.30pm, Thursday, 2 March 2023
Online presentation 22 June 2023

Julian Pellicano, conductor
Lizzy Hoyt, mezzo-soprano

Jeffrey Ryan

Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts; premiered in 2017.

Karen Sunabacka
Never to Return

Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council; premiered in 2013.

Luigi Boccherini
Symphony G 517, Op. 37, No. 3, in D Minor

Kevin Lau
The Ruins of Time

Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts; world premiere performance.

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Media sponsors / Classic 107, Golden West Radio & Winnipeg Free Press

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Julian Pellicano

Known for his versatility across a broad spectrum of genres, dynamic interpretations and meticulous technique, American-Canadian conductor Julian Pellicano is the Principal Conductor of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Associate Conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Bringing an incisive musicality and collaborative spirit to every performance, he has built a wide-ranging international career leading the Winnipeg Free Press to proclaim that “his versatility is truly astonishing.”

As a guest he has conducted orchestras in North America and abroad including the Seattle Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Orquestra de Valencia, Edmonton Symphony among others. Upcoming ballet performances include a debut with the National Ballet of Canada, a return to Orlando Ballet as well as extensive performing and touring with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Mr. Pellicano is also a specialist in performing films live with orchestra.

Julian Pellicano studied conducting at the Yale School of Music, the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. His career grew out of unconventional beginnings, performing as a primarily self-taught percussionist, timpanist, drummer and accordionist. He studied percussion at the Peabody Conservatory, the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, and the Yale School of Music. He also holds a degree in philosophy from The Johns Hopkins University.

Lizzy Hoyt

A nationally recognized Celtic songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, guitar, harp), Lizzy Hoyt has released five independent albums and two music videos, and has given countless concert tours across Canada. She was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award by the Governor General of Canada for her outstanding contribution to commemorating Canadian veterans and history through music. Her fifth album, The Parting Glass (2022), is a collection of her favourite traditional songs and features Lizzy’s sublime vocals and poignant arranging.

Passionate about classical song repertoire, Lizzy has performed with Symphony of the Kootenays, Lethbridge Symphony and Concordia Symphony and has given recitals for Skywalk Concerts (Virtuosi), Edmonton Recital Society, St. Albert Chamber Music Society, Flipside Opera and Art Song Collective, Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society, and Arts on 817. Opera Canada praised her “delicious, tongue-in-cheek characterization infused by keen comedic gifts” as she brought to life Julia Child in Hoiby’s one-woman opera Bon Appétit for Little Opera Company. Lizzy’s upcoming season includes an exciting professional debut in the title role of Rossini’s La Ceneretola (Cinderella) for Manitoba Opera.

Lizzy holds a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma with distinction from the University of Manitoba and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the University of Alberta.

Jeffrey Ryan

Jeffrey Ryan was almost an accountant. Three months into his first semester at Wilfrid Laurier University, he begged to transfer into the Music Faculty to become a composer. After growing up training his ear with Petula Clark, The Partridge Family, and Captain and Tennille; playing saxophone and flute in high school bands; singing in two choirs; and writing his own songs for voice class, the move surprised absolutely no one.

Now, as a freelance composer based in Vancouver, Ryan finds inspiration in the world around him and creates music that runs the gamut from orchestral and chamber works to opera, art song, and choral music.

Praised for his “strong personal voice” (Globe and Mail), “masterful command of instrumental colour” (Georgia Straight), and “superb attention to rhythm” (Audio Ideas Guide), Ryan’s music engages audiences in concerts and broadcasts around the world. His commissions include works for the Cleveland Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Victoria Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Tokyo String Quartet, Penderecki String Quartet, and Kokoro Dance. His song cycle Everything Already Lost won the 2021 NATS Art Song Composition Award, making him the first Canadian to take first prize in this international competition.

Recent collaborations include Seasons of the Sea with Coast Salish/Sahtu Dene storyteller Rosemary Georgeson for Vetta Chamber Music; Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation with poet Suzanne Steele for the Calgary Philharmonic; and Scar Tissue with poet Michael Redhill for Nordic Voices and Gryphon Trio. Recordings of Ryan’s music have garnered multiple JUNO and Western Canadian Music Awards nominations.

Ryan was the Vancouver Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence (2002-2007) and Composer Laureate (2008/09). He was an Affiliate Composer with the Toronto Symphony (2000-2002), and is currently Composer Advisor for Music Toronto. He holds degrees from Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Toronto, and Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with acclaimed composer Donald Erb.

He still enjoys doing his taxes.

Karen Sunabacka

Composer Karen Sunabacka finds inspiration in the everyday beauty, sounds and stories of the places she’s lived. She enjoys the challenge of finding a balance between teaching, composing, performing and keeping up with the latest sci-fi and fantasy media. In recent years, her works have been performed and/or commissioned by such groups as Orchestre Métropolitain (with soloist Mélanie Harel and conductor Alondra de la Parra), Texas State University, Conrad Grebel University College, Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Through her 2017 collaboration with the Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra, the orchestra premiered her work The Prairies (part of a bigger piece, De Natura Sonorum), a commissioned work with four other composers. De Natura Sonorum was nominated for Composition of the Year at Québec’s 21e Prix Opus. Karen has also collaborated with hyper-flutist Cléo Palacio-Quintin to create a piece titled All Night A Dark Wind Blows for flute, voice and electronics. Cléo premiered the work in Montreal and toured western Canada in February 2016.

Along with pieces about the prairies’ natural beauty and winds, Karen has recently been exploring her Métis heritage through various musical works. Karen, who has deep roots in Manitoba, is now an Associate Professor of Music at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo. She has also taught theory and composition and took a turn as the Music Department Chair at Providence University College from 2007-2017. In 2018 she was a Mentor Composer for the WSO’s Composers’ Institute. An active member and past board member of the Canadian New Music Network she continues to be on the board of GroundSwell, Winnipeg’s new music series (currently serving as President) and NUMUS, Kitchener-Waterloo’s New Music Series. She founded Pressure Waves in Winnipeg, a regular part of GroundSwell’s Emerging Composer program.

Kevin Lau

Described as a “self-assured voice” (Barczablog) with a “masterful control over his idiom” (Classical Music Sentinel), Kevin Lau is one of Canada’s most sought-after composers. Awarded the 2017 Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynn-Staunton Award for outstanding achievement in music, Kevin’s work has been commissioned and performed by ensembles across North America, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Tampa Bay Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Made in Canada, Octagon, Hannaford Street Silver Band, and the Houston-based River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. He currently serves as Composer in Residence for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra.

In 2016, he composed the score for the National Ballet of Canada’s full-length ballet Le Petit Prince, featuring choreography by NBOC Principal Dancer Guillaume Côté. His second ballet, Dark Angels, commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra and also choreographed by Côté, was described as “riveting” (Ottawa Citizen) and “extraordinarily accomplished and expressive” (Artsfile). His most recent large-scale work Bound, an opera-film hybrid commissioned by Against the Grain Theatre, was hailed by the Globe and Mail as “a brilliant creation.”

Kevin’s discography includes two JUNO award-winning albums—Detach (Redshift, harpist Angela Schwarzkopf) and Mosaïque (Ensemble Made in Canada)—and his music has been featured on three other celebrated albums.

Born in Hong Kong, Kevin received his doctorate in 2012 from the University of Toronto under the supervision of Christos Hatzis; shortly after, he was appointed Affiliate Composer of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra until 2015. He is also an active film composer, and has written the scores to over a dozen films, including Charles Officer’s acclaimed documentary Invisible Essence: The Little Prince (2018).

Jeffrey Ryan

The composer has provided the following note:

Earthshine is sunlight that is reflected off the Earth onto the dark part of the Moon as seen in our night sky. Particularly when the Moon is in a crescent phase, it is possible to see both the crescent brightly illuminated by the Sun, and the rest of the Moon faintly illuminated by the Earth. In this way, earth- shine is an impact that our Earth has on something beyond the Earth, while metaphorically, it is a reflection of ourselves that brings light into darkness. Earthshine is a single-movement work for string orchestra exploring light and shadow and the space in between.

Never to Return
Karen Sunabacka

The composer has provided the following note:

Never to Return explores the story of my great-great-grandmother, Mathilda Clouston (née Johnson), who was admitted to the Manitoba Asylum (the Selkirk Mental Health Centre) in the 1880s.

Mathilda was born in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, in 1847. She married Joseph Clouston, an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who had traveled back and forth between Orkney and Lower Fort Garry before their marriage. He brought his new bride back to Canada with him in the late 1860s to settle in the Red River Colony, which later became Manitoba.

Life was hard for these early settlers. In one particularly difficult and disease-stricken winter, two of Mathilda’s children died. Unable to dig into the frozen ground, her husband Joseph wrapped the bodies and placed them in the woodshed. Feeling isolated and alone, Mathilda was unable to cope with this loss. She went out to the woodshed and brought her deceased children back into the house, warming them by the fire, insisting that they were not dead. Joseph then took their bodies back to the woodshed. After this happened a number of times, Joseph committed her to the Manitoba Asylum, where she would spend the rest of her life.

Never to Return explores Mathilda’s life through three Scottish melodies. The first melody I use is a fiddle tune titled Da Bride’s a Bonnie Ting. Through research, I found that this tune was played at Orkney weddings during the nineteenth century. Although altered rhythmically, the melody forms the basis of the first and most consonant section of the piece. I use the tune to depict the happiness of Mathilda’s wedding day and her happy memories of life on Orkney.

The second melody is an ‘air’ from the book Ancient Orkney Melodies, compiled by Colonel David Balfour of Balfour and published in 1885. The air is called ‘The Braid, Braid Sea,’ but Balfour adds his own words about a woman he meets “on the Ness of Stromness.” She had lost her mind because of the death of her lover at sea and so wanders on the beach collecting seaweed. I thought the story and the air had a haunted quality that fit Mathilda’s descent into mental illness. This melody is used in the middle of the piece and is the hardest to hear as it depicts pain, suffering and Mathilda’s loss of reality.

The final melody I use is a traditional Scottish melody titled Ye Banks and Braes. It is common and can be found in a number of books, recordings and YouTube videos. The original text is by Robert Burns. I also found a sacred modern version arranged by John Bell and Graham Maule. Both versions of the text are about love, pain and loss. The modern version also talks about healing and faith. Ending the piece with this tune is how I want to complete Mathilda’s story—with healing and hope. Even though Mathilda never left the Mental Health Centre, I hope that she found some peace, but she ultimately left her suffering behind through her own death.

Never to Return is a kind of lament—the cry of Mathilda, whose mind was broken by the loss of her children. Her loss and sacrifices gave me life. Her story is part of my story and our story. Giving voice to her pain, her suffering, and to her sacrifices is a way for me to reconcile her story with my own and the history of the early Manitoba settlers.

Symphony, G 517 Op. 37, No. 3 in D Minor
Luigi Boccherini

Equally celebrated as composer and cellist, Boccherini spent most of his life outside his native country of Italy. In 1766, he embarked on a concert tour that took him first to Paris, where he earned considerable acclaim, then on to Madrid in 1769. He won additional accolades at the Spanish court, where he received the patronage of Infante Don Luis, brother of King Carlos III. He spent the years 1787-1797 in Berlin, as court composer to King Frederick William II of Prussia, himself a good amateur cellist. After the king’s death, Boccherini returned to Spain and spent the rest of his life there.

His music has much in common with Haydn’s. Musicologists of the day noticed the resemblance, but having formed the opinion that the Italian’s compositions lacked the depth and fire of the Austrian’s, they dismissed Boccherini as “the wife of Haydn.” In a letter that Boccherini wrote in 1798 to Ignaz Pleyel, his Paris publisher, he offered the following more temperate self-appraisal: “Everyone who knows me does me the honour of regarding me as a man of probity, honourable, sensitive, good-natured and affectionate as my musical compositions show me to be.”

His numerous chamber music compositions are widely counted his finest creations. Especially valued are the attractive quartets (102 of them) and quintets (125) for strings. In an act of innovation, the latter pieces feature a second cello rather than the more common second viola. The result is music of exceptional tonal warmth and richness. Franz Schubert would use the identical instrumentation in the glorious quintet he composed in 1828.

In addition to hundreds of chamber works, Boccherini composed about 30 symphonies.

They are gracious and appealing works which are at once original, unfailingly melodic, sophisticated and intriguingly exotic, a legacy owed in part to his living the second half of his life in Spain, removed from the more obvious eighteenth-century centres of musical development.

The symphony you will hear at this concert has four compact movements. The first is bright and vivacious, tinged ever-so-slightly with shadows thrown by its minor tonality. A moderately-paced Minuet follows, then an exceptionally sweet slow movement where Boccherini effectively showcases the oboe, and an energetic finale.

The Ruins of Time
Kevin Lau

The composer has provided the following note:

The Ruins of Time is a multi-movement song cycle, featuring texts by classic poets like William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Rabindranath Tagore. These texts are united by the theme of time, and in particular our existential relationship to time—a theme which is reflected in the music’s ever-shifting stylistic landscape. The work will be sung by mezzo-soprano Lizzy Hoyt, whose unusual ability to inhabit both classical and folk idioms makes her the ideal soloist to helm this piece.