cons •tell•ation | 星星 of contemporary wind
Tonight's concert is a musical voyage through contemporary starlight that illuminate the rich tapestry of their cultural heritage and life stories. The program will transport you through the works of five incredible female-identifying composers, delving into themes bearing witness to ethnic roots, nostalgia, and generational history. Each composition represents not only the composer's unique life journey but also their resilience and individuality, akin to radiant stars in the vast cosmos. We invite you to resonate with their narratives, perhaps finding your own place among the celestial constellations they create.
We acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional land of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. This is done out of respect and significance:
To honour the historical roots of this land;
In appreciation of the knowledge and culture shared by Indigenous communities;
As a step towards reconciliation;
To provide educational context;
To create an inclusive atmosphere for all attendees;
To promote dialogue on important matters;
To foster a sense of community; and
To deepen our connection to this place.
Acknowledging the land’s history enriches the depth of our concert experience.
Chinese Ancient Dances
for soprano saxophone & piano
1. Ox Tail Dance
2. Hu Xuan Dance
for unaccompanied alto saxophone
The Soulful and The Perpetual
for alto saxophone & piano
1. The Soulful
2. The Perpetual
for alto saxophone & piano
1. Floating Worlds
2. A Tall Tale Told
Renewing the Myth
for alto saxophone & piano
for alto saxophone & piano
by Jennifer Tran
Chinese Ancient Dances
Chen Yi (b. 1953) is a prominent composer known for her exceptional ability to blend Chinese and western musical traditions. Her composition, Chinese Ancient Dances, is a testament to her talent and cultural heritage. Co-commissioned by prestigious organizations such as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Virginia Arts Festival, La Jolla SummerFest, and Chamber Music Northwest, this work was created in honour of renowned artists David Shifrin and André-Michel Schub. It was dedicated to their national tour and the premier at Alice Tully Hall in May 2004, coinciding with Prof. Mario Davidovsky’s 70th birthday.
As the Lorena Searcy Cravens, Millsap, Missouri Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Chen has received numerous accolades. Her compositions are widely celebrated and performed by orchestras and ensembles around the world, creating a rich cultural bridge for audiences to enjoy.
Chinese Ancient Dances comprises two movements. The first movement, Ox Tail Dance, draws inspiration from the ancient ethnic group Ge Tian Shi, known for celebrating various elements of nature and life. The second movement, Hu Xuan Dance, is influenced by a vivid description of a popular Tang Dynasty dance by the poet Bai Ju-Yi.
I heard that dinosaurs were so big that even if they received a killing blow it would take a while for their nervous system to figure out.
I wrote this piece in my sophomore year in college (Oberlin). It still rings true.
- DU YUN
Du Yun (b. 1977), a celebrated composer hailing from Shanghai and now based in New York City, is a versatile artist who effortlessly bridges the realms of opera, orchestral music, theater, cabaret, and much more. She has earned acclaim from prestigious performing groups and organizations worldwide. Known for her “relentless originality and unflinching social conscience,” Her opera Angel’s Bone secured the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and her composition Air Glow earned a Grammy Award nomination. In 2021, her collaborative opera Sweet Land was named the Best New Opera by the North American Critics Association. Furthermore, her studio albums have been celebrated as The New Yorker’s Notable Recordings of the Year multiple times.
A passionate advocate for the arts community, Du played a vital role in founding the International Contemporary Ensemble, curated the MATA Festival, and initiated FutureTradition fostering cross-regional collaborations. She received an array of accolades, including Guggenheim, American Academy Berlin Prize, and Creative Capital Award. Her multifaceted contributions to the arts community have left an indelible mark on the world.
The Soulful and the Perpetual
Chen Yi’s The Soulful and the Perpetual is a compelling and evocative saxophone and piano composition in two distinct movements. Commissioned by Jessical Heller Knopf, it made its debut at the esteemed 2012 World Saxophone Congress. In the first movement, aptly named The Soulful, a lyrical narrative is weaved through moving and gripping melodies. In contrast, The Perpetual, utilizes consistency and unyielding determination through fast repetitive motifs.
Dorothy Chang (b. 1970), a composer noted for her evocative and kaleidoscopic music, is recognized for her ability to amalgamate a diverse range of musical influences into her compositions. Born to Chinese immigrant parents and raised in both the United States and Taiwan, Chang regards her work as a contemplation on her experiences as a ‘third culture kid.’ Her music often delves into themes of cultural identity, memory, place, and the complexities of her multicultural journey.
New Stories is one of Chang's notable compositions, consisting of four movements, each representing a facet of her intricate musical identity. Drawing from a wide array of influences, including Chinese folk songs, 80’s pop ballads, and marching band music, her music is an exploration of her identity as a second-generation Taiwanese-North American who has lived in both North American and Asia. Each movement within New Stories narrates a distinct aspect of her life.
The first movement, Floating Worlds, commences with a tranquil atmosphere, featuring the saxophone and piano that gradually build harmonious layers. This peaceful beginning evolves into a poignant and lyrical melody.
In the second movement, A Tall Tale Told, Chang introduces a dance-like and playful melody that undergoes a series of embellishments, ultimately reaching an unexpected climax.
Reflection, the third movement, explores the dual meaning of its title. It is both introspective and reminiscent of traditional Chinese music, although the borrowed elements are veiled and refracted through layers of cultural and personal influences.
The concluding movement,
Folksong, is a vibrant and spirited culmination, embodying the diverse musical influences that have shaped Chang’s artistic voice. New Stories is a celebration of storytelling and a homage to the oral tradition of passing down family history, identity, and experiences, providing insight into the intricate soundscapes that emerge when diverse musical elements are interwoven.
Chang’s compositions have been recognized for their emotional depth and versatility, offering audiences a glimpse into the complex interplay of cultural influences that define her musical narrative.
Renewing the Myth
Similar to how we recognize patterns in star formations, quoting Paganini’s music can yield historic and artistic allusions. Beyond demonstrating technical ability, Marilyn Shrude’s use of Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 in her work Renewing the Myth triggers nostalgia and profound emotional responses that link classical and modern works together.
A prolific composer and respected figure in contemporary music, Shrude (b. 1946) is known for her exceptional ability to craft music characterized by its warmth, lyricism, rich timbre, and intricate blend of tonality and atonality. Her focus on color, natural resonance of spaces, and background in Pre-Vatican II liturgical music imbues a soundscape of strength and fragility with spiritual and quasi-improvisational qualities.
Shrude has received numerous honours and accolades throughout her career, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, American Academy Berlin Prize, and recognition from the Sorel Foundation for Choral Music. She was the first woman to receive the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for Orchestral Music and the Cleveland Arts Prize for Music. Notably, her composition Renewing the Myth was the required piece for the 3rd International Adolphe Sax Concours in Belgium in 2002.
As the founder of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music, Shrude actively promoted American music and chaired the Department of Musicology, Composition, Theory at Bowling Green State University. Collaborating with saxophonist John Sampen, she premiered, recorded, and presented saxophone contemporary compositions worldwide.
Cait Nishimura (b. 1991) is a highly regarded Japanese-Canadian composer known for her programmatic, nature-inspired music within the concert band community. Her work has gained recognition at prominent events and international conferences. She is committed to creating contemporary, accessible music, and is dedicated to mental health awareness and environmental conservation advocacy.
Nishimura was the winner of the Canadian Band Association’s composition prize in 2017, and is an Associate Composer at the Canadian Music Centre. She holds degrees in music and education from the University of Toronto. All her compositions are self-published under Cait Nishimura Music.
Hiraeth explores the Welsh concept encapsulating longing in a context of homesickness and nostalgia for an irretrievable place or time. Commissioned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the piece reflects complex emotions surrounding the abrupt changes brought by the pandemic. The word also personalizes Nishimura’s move to a new city, symbolizing positive change and improved well-being, yet leaving behind her long-time home of Toronto. Hiraeth, written for baritone saxophone and piano, was premiered by Toronto-born Carter Vernon at Purdue University, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Jennifer Tran (she/hers) is a cross-border professional musician and law clerk. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Hons.) and a Master of Music in Saxophone Performance from the University of Toronto, with a focus on classical and contemporary music. In 2020, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recognized her as one of the country's "30 Under 30" classical musicians, acknowledging her dedication to saxophone performance innovation. In her legal role, Jennifer specializes in landlord-tenant and small claims cases, offering crucial legal support. Additionally, she played a significant role in the soundtrack and on-screen performance in Atom Egoyan's film "Guest of Honour." Jennifer is a versatile artist and legal professional with a strong commitment to music, education, and social change. Her recent musical contributions can be heard in albums by Canadian composers Alex Eddington and Frank Horvat, as well as in the soundtrack of Atom Egoyan's "Guest of Honour."
Chinese pianist Jialiang Zhu is a passionate collaborative artist, educator, and researcher. She is a featured pianist on composer Alice Ping Yee Ho’s album A Woman’s Voice. She is a co-founder of the Bedford Trio. A champion of contemporary music, the Trio adjudicates the annual University of Toronto’s Piano Trio Composition Competition and frequently performs in the U of T New Music Festival. This season, Jialiang produces and performs in two concert series – “The Power of Words” and “Empowered by Friendship” – exploring her connections with fellow Canadian artists and showcasing their works of music and poetry.
Jialiang specializes in Chinese art song and has performed this repertoire with vocalists from different cultural backgrounds in lecture recitals at Canadian Opera Company, University of Toronto, and University of Ottawa. Her article “Singing Classical Chinese Poetry” was published by Art Song Canada. Currently pursuing a Doctoral of Musical Arts Degree at the U of T under the tutelage of Lydia Wong, she is researching art songs inspired by classical Chinese poetry and creating a performance guide for non-Mandarin speakers.
We acknowledge the generous support from: