“Lontano” Selected as the Winner of the 2013 Trio Anima Mundi International Composition Prize


It was a thrill to be notified by the jury last week that my work Lontano (for piano trio) was selected as the winner of the 2013 Trio Anima Mundi International Composition Prize in Australia.  Each year Trio Anima Mundi runs the Trio Anima Mundi Composition Prize. In its fourth year, this is an international competition and attracts entries from across the world from composers of all ages. The winning work is performed as part of Trio Anima Mundi’s final concert programme in their subscription concert series and the Melbourne performance is recorded by ABC Radio National for broadcast. The composer of the winning work also receives AUD $1,000.00 in prize money.

Lontano for piano trio (2013)

Written during a time when friends of mine were facing the loss of family members, Lontano is a rich and romantic work for violin, cello, and piano that narrates the sorrows of being distanced from a loved one. The piece is tempestuous and stormy at times, yet is interspersed with moments of reflection and intimacy.  Meaning “far away” in Italian, Lontano attempts to summarize an indescribable feeling of longing and nostalgia.  This piece is dedicated to my friend Steven in memory of his brother, Daniel.

recital centre
The Melbourne Recital Centre – Pretty cool architecture!

Performance Details

Lontano will receive two performances on Trio Anima Mundi’s Subscription series concerts.  The premiering performance will take place on the 27th of October at the Keith Humble Centre for Music and the Performing Arts, Geelong Australia.  The second will take place on the 2nd of November at the world class Melbourne Recital Centre in Melbourne, Australia.  You can find more details about Trio Anima Mundi and its concert activities on their website.

©Roydon Tse 2013


Wrapping up the array of Summer Festivities…

So a lot of things have happened since I last posted about piano works being published.  There was the Bozzini Quartet’s Composers’ Kitchen (Jun 3 – 11), then a premiere by the Vanguard Voices in Michigan (Jun 7 – 9), and a month later, I am at the Atlantic Music Festival (July 8 – 21) that is happening right now in Waterville, Maine.  Its unbelievable that there is only two months to go before I begin my masters at the University of Toronto, and there are still many pieces to be written…

I have recently uploaded the performance of “Glorify!” by the glorious Vanguard Voices onto YouTube for you to check out.  The piece received its world premiere in Dearborn, Metro Detroit at their Henry Ford Performing Arts Centre just last month.  I was very fortunate to be there for the premiere and to hear the fruition of a piece that was written almost two years ago, performed by extremely enthusiastic choristers from all backgrounds.

To know that there are people who sacrifice months and months of practice to learn and perfect my work is a moving and humbling thought, and I am ever grateful for the ensemble for their work, encouragement, hospitality (they supplied me with Kebabs for dinner, which apparently was a Detroit special), and their love for music.  Here it is, “Glorify!” performed by the Vanguard Voices and Brass, directed by G.Kevin Dewey.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra to read “Three Musings – a triptych for chamber orchestra” for New Creations Festival 2013

The logo of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my dreams ever since I began to compose was to have an orchestra of international reputation perform my works, and that dream of mine is slowly becoming a reality, thanks to very supportive family, friends, mentors, and the education I received at UBC.    My piece “Three Musings – A triptych for chamber orchestra” will be read by none other than the world renowned Toronto Symphony Orchestra in late February as part of the 2013 New Creations Festival at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, Canada.  It was selected by TSO composer affiliate Kevin Lau from submissions across Canada and will be conducted and rehearsed by TSO composer advisor and composition professor Gary Kulesha on Feb 26th or 28th (TBA).

The piece was a revision from the previous suite for chamber orchestra, “Three Musings and  a Dance”, which was read by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 2011 and won the inaugural Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra’s National Student composers competition in 2010.  Information for the original suite can be found here along with sample tracks.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $157 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous voudrons remercier le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 157 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

Victoria Symphony to read “Down the Rabbit Hole” for string orchestra at BC Composers Readings 2013

vsoMy recent composition “Down the Rabbit Hole” for String Orchestra was recently selected by conductor Tania Miller and VS composer in Residence Michael Oesterle to be read by the Victoria Symphony on March 16th, 2pm, Alix Goolden Performance Hall in Victoria BC.  This free event will feature 6 new compositions from emerging BC composers, and it will showcase the Victoria Symphony led by Tania Miller rehearsing and recording the 6 pieces.

“Down the Rabbit Hole” is a short 6 minute composition for string orchestra.  Here is a short description that I wrote to accompany the piece:

­­­­Down the Rabbit Hole (2013) is not in any way connected programmatically to the popular novel “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.  The piece is in a loose ternary form, opening with a fast and exuberant dance for the strings in 5/8 and 7/8.  This is followed by a slow but elegant theme and variations section on a melody with vague oriental overtones.

The title captures the movement and energy of the opening section, as one can imagine falling into the earth as the tremolo figures of the strings whirl around and around.  It is also symbolic however of a voyage to find ones identity, as the protagonist in “Alice in Wonderland” also does through the falling into the hole.  As a composer of Asian heritage, I have never directly explored the music of my background in my pieces.  ‘Down the Rabbit Hole” is in no way an authentic representation of music from Asia, but is the first in I hope many attempts to find a balance between the music of my culture and my artistic voice.  The middle section is written in a quasi Asian style, similar to Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherazade and Gustav Holst’s Japanese Suite.  At times, it is strangely dissonant with references to the American-Chinese composer Bright Sheng, and I use pizzicato and glissando to capture the expressive playing techniques in Asian music.  This imaginary world is snatched away abruptly as the music transitions back into the dance like recapitulation.

Roydon Tse

‘Remembrances’ wins Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Canadian Call for Scores Competition

1213-TSYO-HeaderI am very excited to announce that my piece “Remembrances” was selected as the winning piece for the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra‘s ‘Canadian Call for Scores’ Competition.   The Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO) is a high-level orchestral training program for talented musicians aged 22 and under, and it is a great privilege to have my orchestral work receive its East Coast premiere with them.

‘Remembrances’ was originally written for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, under the Young Composers’ Project initiated by composer and mentor John Estacio.  It was heavily inspired by orchestral sounds of Ravel and Stravinsky, and was written at a time when I just left England and Hong Kong to begin living in Canada.  The piece was premiered by the ESO under Robert Bernhardt at the ESO’s Symphony Under the Sky Festival, and it was then quickly taken up again by ESO music Director Bill Eddins for two performances at the Winspear Centre for the Arts in Edmonton, Alberta.

The East Coast Premiere of the work will take place on Sunday February 3rd, 7:30pm at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts.  It will be included in a program with Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture and Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky (orc. Ravel), led by TSYO conductor Shalom Bard.  Click here for more info on the concert.

Here is a short audio excerpt of Remembrances, performed by the ESO.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra presents “Towards Light”, Jean Coulthard Readings March 2013

The Jean Coulthard readings were named after the late BC composer, Jean Coulthard, and aims to give young emerging composers exposure to orchestral writing and a chance to hear their works performed by one of the major orchestras in Canada.  It is my incredible privilege and honor to be once again selected for these readings and to work with Bramwell Tovey and the musicians of the VSO in shaping my new piece ‘Towards Light‘ for large orchestra.

My work, along with several others by emerging BC composers, will be read by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 10:00am–1:00pm.  Please come to hear some fabulous music being made at the Orpheum for the price of nothing!

Check out music and scores to find out more information on my two previous works, ‘Capriccio’ (09′) and ‘Three Musings and a Dance’ (10′) which were also read by the VSO.

March 19th Update:

Since writing this post, there has been a slight change in the event.  Gordon Gerrard, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor will be conducting the readings instead of Bramwell Tovey.

Atonal Hits a Montreal Presents – Toccata for solo piano

Atonal Hits a Montreal - Program
Atonal Hits a Montreal – Program

Composers from this summer’s Orford Academy are getting together again, this time to write pieces for a new music concert hosted by composer and curator Maurice-G. Du Berger at the Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste on Dec 8th 2012 in Montreal!

Pianist Illya Filshitinskiy and violinist Katha Zinn will be performing some new repertoire by up and coming composers such as Maurice-G. Du BergerSophie Dupuis, Genevieve Dupuis, Carolann DeYoung, and myself.  My piece Toccata for piano solo (2′) will be performed in Montreal in this concert.


Ziggurat – Continual Awakening – RedShift Album Preview

It has been three years since I wrote Continual Awakening for a trombone extravaganza hosted by the RedShift Music Society, which took place in the atrium of the Forestry Building at the University of British Columbia.  Now, the RedShift people are producing a new CD called ‘Ziggurat’ with trombonist extraordinaire Neal Bennett, which includes my piece for trombone octet among works by Jocelyn Morlock, Farshid Samandari, Rob Mackenzie, and Scott Good.  This recording is unlike others however, as Neal will be playing all 8 parts of my trombone octet, and will splice them together to form the full piece using music technology.  I will keep you all posted on the progress of this CD and its release once I have more information!


Composing, Processions, and Weddings

As I sat in my formal wear in a country golf club, the sky was beginning to darken and I could feel the tension in the air as if it were about to rain.  I was sweating slightly in my suit jacket, tie, and dress shirt as I waited anxiously for the wedding to begin and to hear my piece performed for the very first time.  Embarrassingly enough, I have almost forgotten how it sounded like since its conception a month before the event, and I was a bit jittery at the prospect of having musicians interpret the dark dots and lines which I so painstakingly engraved (or arranged via notational software) onto 9 sheets of letter sized paper.  This was the performance of Taking Flight for Flute, Violin, and Cello.

This summer has been one of the most productive ones yet, mainly because I was asked to write two pieces for weddings that took place at either end of the summer.  It is truly an honour and a privilege to have been asked to write music for people that I know and love, and to have it performed in front of many guests and friends.  Weddings being such an important occasion in a couple’s journey together, I make an effort to honour their musical requests as best as I can, while writing something that is original, beautiful, and captivating.  I have already written about my piece for String Quartet, “Captivating” (which you can find here) and I will be talking about the process of composing wedding music and some of the challenges associated in writing music for special occasions.

It is a great pleasure to be asked as a composer to use my gift of music creation to bless someone else, in this case a couple in the first leg of a lifelong journey.  Some would wonder what difference there is between writing for weddings and receiving commissions, and I would say that there are many similarities and differences.  The greatest similarity is that one is paid to write music (and in some cases well paid) that is tailored to a specific occasion.  Since the time of Bach, composers have worked in the same way, receiving a request from a wealthy patron or aristocrat to write a piece for their playing pleasure or special occasion.  What is different about weddings is that there is already a very established tradition behind what should and should not be heard, thus limiting the creativity of the artist.  This limitation is however not a negative thing, because I believe that limitations are what fuels artists to create something new within that limitation.  In the same way as Schoenberg limited himself to the twelve tone row or Beethoven to the form of the Sonata, both have created something new within those confines.

The whole process of composition is that of balance.  There is a fine balance between expressing oneself as creatively as possible and writing music that will be well received.  This is a philosophical debate that many composers including myself struggle with in our daily tasks, that of making sure that my music is understood while attempting to do something that is new and subtle to push the envelop.  However, some like the composer Milton Babbitt disagree entirely, and say that the revolution in music is more important than what audiences think about it now at this present moment.  Babbitt goes on to maintain, that music cannot “evolve” if it only attempts to appeal to “the public”.

Coming back to the purpose of the article, one of the great challenges of writing for weddings is dealing with the many cliches already associated with the occasion.  I am sure many of you reading this blog will remember weddings adorned with  Pachelbel’s Canon in D or Bach’s Air on the G String from his Orchestral Suite No.3 in D major.  Depending on the audience and their musical education, people will either 1) hate it because it has been overplayed and used commercially or 2) love it and believe that it is the best piece of music around.  These two extreme views are commonly held and as a composer, I face the possibility of having my music being hated because of its cliched quality or loved because it just sounds so cliched.

There is a fine balance between expressing oneself as creatively as possible and writing music that would be well received.

Secondly, having a tight time constraint was not something that I had dealt with in my compositions for school.  I have heard that when working as part of a movie production, composers are often subjected to having their music cut, edited, and rearranged at the whim of the director.  I find this applies also to writing for weddings.  For example, Taking Flight was cut and edited in the last minute to accommodate the walking time for the bridal party and the bride.  I was told in advance that something like this could happen, so I wrote a “tag” at the end of the two sections, which can be played or not depending on how much time was available.  This I feel gave me more freedom and released me from the anxiety of not knowing which part will be cut prematurely.

I would say that knowing one’s players is an incredible advantage to the writing process.  Living in Edmonton during the composition of Taking Flight, I did not have the luxury of testing certain passages out with performers who resided mainly in Vancouver.  However, I knew that their performing levels varied greatly from one another.  Captivating however was another story, as I knew the members of the string quartet asked to play the work, all of whom were studying privately with professionals at UBC.  As a result, I produced two very different works as I tried to tailor it to the capabilities of the players.

It’s been a wonderful journey these past few months working with now newly wed couples. Thank you for reading up on my experiences writing for wedding ceremonies. Comments and responses are very welcome as I would love to hear your opinion about the ideas I have put forward here!  Thank you!