In 2021, the ACWC/AFCC will celebrating 40 years since its inception in 1981. This is a time to look back to the past as well as look to the future of the organization and of the music of Canadian women.
We find ourselves in a difficult and unique time to be planning such a celebration. Whole seasons of concerts and events have been cancelled with no clear idea as to when they will return. But this organization is full of creative, energetic people so there will be no shortage of ways to celebrate. Regional concerts are being planned, for when they can occur, due to COVID-19. Online forums and events will also be featured, as well as playlists of members’ music.
We will also recognize the Canadian women who were writing music, teaching future composers, and promoting the works of Canadian women even before the founding of the ACWC. Those composers and the women whose energy and dedication formed the organization will be honoured with the inclusion of their music in the playlists and concerts.
Stay tuned here to see ideas about the 40th anniversary as they develop! Send any/all ideas to the ACWC 40th Anniversary Chair Diane Berry, who is also ACWC Secretary.
Brenda Margaret Muller has been chosen as the winner of the 2020 ACWC Initiatives Fund for new creative work projects or compositions. Muller’s project relates to her Riversongs Festival of community-based music, through which she will, in turn, sponsor an award to an ACWC member for a new composition for the Riversongs Festival. The new work will be scored for community orchestra and/or community orchestra and choir. Muller is founder and Artistic Director of the Riversongs Festival, which occurs in Parry Sound, Ontario. The festival, involving Whispering River Orchestra and Community Choir, is tentatively scheduled for August/September, 2020, but will be further rescheduled if required, due to coronavirus.
Muller’s project relates to her Riversongs Festival of community-based music, through which she will, in turn, sponsor an award (named ACWC COMPOSITION AWARD) to an ACWC member for a new composition for the Riversongs Festival. The new work will be scored for community orchestra and/or community orchestra and choir.
Muller is founder and Artistic Director of The Riversongs Festival which occurs in Parry Sound, Ontario. The festival, involving Whispering River Orchestra and Community Choir, is tentatively scheduled for August/September, 2020, with full regard to the coronavirus situation at that time. If need be, it will be rescheduled accordingly. This annual event celebrates authentic Canadian and Parry Sound creative community through music, poetry and art. The small string orchestra produces five to six concerts annually, typically with two in June that bookend this unique week of workshops in composition, string playing, art, poetry, speaking Anishinabek, musical yoga coffee houses, banner painting and a musical Canoe and Sail Regatta. The music from the ACWC will be used to sponsor one of four Riversongs awards for compositions for community orchestra and/or community orchestra and choir. However, ACWC is only sponsoring Riversong’s ACWC-focused award, which will be granted to another ACWC member.
Although the event is traditionally held during Summer Solstice, the upcoming festival is tentatively rescheduled for late August into September, around the fall equinox, dependent on the coronavirus situation at that time.
About Brenda Margaret Muller:
From her roots as a classically trained cellist, Brenda Margaret Muller has gone on to create conceptual events that weave together poetry, music and song. Working as a Musician, Poet, and Song-writer, as well as Artistic Director for the past 32 years, Muller has created inter-arts events across the province, founded and directed the Ardeleana Chamber Music Society, and released 6 recordings with her trio, Ardeleana, including a CD of original cabaret songs, Wolf At My Door, and the first CD to feature only music by Canadian women – Spinners of Starlight (1997). She is the creator of two story operas – Melissa’s Song and Jonathon’s Storm, both of which have toured across the province to the critical acclaim of enthusiastic young people. Muller has commissioned and premiered over 150 works of music by Canadian composers. She holds an Honours degree in Music Performance from the University of Western Ontario, a Mus. Ed and Honours Specialist in Music from O.I.S.E. University of Toronto. She is currently the founder and director of the Whispering River Orchestra, and Riversongs Festival, a 10 day Community Celebration of Music, Poetry and Art in Parry Sound, Ontario.
Information on previous 2019 Initiatives Fund winner, Stephanie Orlando here.
Gayle Young has been awarded an ACWC/AFCC Honorary Membership in November, 2019 for her exceptional accomplishments as an innovative composer, instrument creator/inventor, writer, feminist and administrator. She has been an ACWC member since the very beginning, serving on the ACWC Board for many years. For decades she has edited Musicworks (Canada’s leading publication on new and unusual music). As well she has written extensively on tunings, wrote the definitive biography on Hugh LeCaine (Canada’s principal inventor of electronic instruments), written for our ACWC Journal, and was recently featured in a CMC Presents Concert, along with jaw-harp virtuoso Chik White on November 21, 2019 at Canadian Music Centre, Toronto. Young’s compositions, many of them electroacoustical and/or soundscape oriented, rank among the most highly esteemed Canadian works today. CMC suggests her tonal soundscapes “link natural sound with the musical worlds of tuning and harmony.” (CMC post). A 2018 recipient of the ACWC Roberta Stephen Award, she was able to present her compositions with her new 9-stringed instrument, the Allium, at Visiones Sonores, an annual festival of electroacoustic music held in Morelia, Mexico. (ACWC Journal Spring/Summer 2019, 38-40). All along Gayle Young has championed women’s music as part of her ongoing life work.
ACWC composer, music publisher, and benefactor Roberta Stephen was honoured with a reception at The GRAND in Calgary on June 2 following a performance of Ghost Opera by Association of Canadian Women Composers member and 2017 Roberta Stephen Award winner Veronika Krausas. Stephen received both an ACWC Honorary Life Membership, presented by ACWC Treasurer Janet Danielson, and a Violet Archer Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by John Reid, the Prairie Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. The reception was attended by a number of Roberta’s colleagues and supporters including ACWC member Hope Lee an her husband David Eagle. Roberta explained how her own experience as a composer led to her idea for the the scholarship: when she finished her training as a composer in her late thirties, she said, there was “nothing for her.” She was, however, able to establish her career through great perseverence, entrepreneurship, and organizational skill. In addition to the tributes to Roberta Stephen, the reception included the official announcement of the 2019 award winners, Laura Hawley and Maren Lisac; and Laura thanked Roberta personally via FaceTime from Edmonton during the reception tributes. The ACWC gratefully acknowledges the gracious contribution of Roberta’s four children in assisting with the reception plans and helping with transportation.
Canadian composers Laura Hawley (left) from Edmonton and Maren Lisac (right) from Montreal are recipients of the 2019 Roberta Stephen Composition award.
Laura Hawley is a composer, choral conductor and pianist. She holds an M. A. in music theory from the University of Ottawa, and has also studied composition at the Banff Centre. Hawley was the founding artistic director of the Hypatia’s Voice Women’s Choir, and winner of the National Council of Canadian Muslims Community Builder award for her work, “Live, Love, Share.” She is regularly commissioned by some of Canada’s most distinguished choirs, including the Elektra Women’s Choir, the Canadian Chamber Choir, and the Avanti Chamber Singers. Now residing in Edmonton, Hawley will use her award to further her development as a composer through private studies with Dr. Allan Bell, focusing on instrumentation. She hopes to explore innovative ways of combining instrumental and choral ensembles, and to write chamber and orchestral works.
Maren Lisac is a composer who lives in Montreal. A graduate of Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts, her works have been performed by the Dissonant Disco Collective and the Saxophilia Quartet. She plans to use the award for Bad Mirrors, a collaborative work for JUNO Award-winning guitarist Gordon Grdina and live electronics which will be premièred at the 21st-Century Guitar Conference in Ottawa this August. Bad Mirrors will feature the guitar tuned in an approximation of the Indonesian pelog scale, a scale related to the order of the universe, with distorted reflections of the guitar sounds manipulated by Lisac in real time through playback software. The work will thus be a sonic commentary on how distorted views of reality give rise to extreme ideologies.
The Roberta Stephen Award offers support to a Canadian woman composer aged 36 or older for professional development such as further studies, conferences, or workshops, or composers’ festivals. Established by Calgary composer and publisher Roberta Stephen, the award is administered by the Association of Canadian Women Composers.
Mary-Catherine Pazzano has been chosen as the new web manager of ACWC, effective March 1, 2019.
Mary-Catherine Pazzano is a vocalist and music educator based in Kitchener, Ontario. At home in both classical and jazz worlds, Mary-Catherine’s performance highlights include: Birdland (NYC), various venues in Harlem, the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival, The Rex (Toronto), and Jazz Bistro (Toronto). She has also toured New Zealand, and has been a soloist with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. Mary-Catherine has been lucky to share the stage with jazz notables such as Billy Stritch, as well as the world-class chamber ensemble Penderecki String Quartet. Mary-Catherine holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Music and Drama from the University of Waterloo and a Bachelor of Education from University of Toronto/OISE.
Find out more about Mary-Catherine at: marycatherinepazzano.com.
ACWC/AFCC commemorates Rebekah Cummings (1980 – 2019), our beloved friend and ACWC composer who passed away on March 23 after being diagnosed with cancer in December. Her indelible spirit and imaginative, unquenchable zest for life revealed itself in her superb, sensuous, moving, and deeply grounded compositions which touched all who heard them. Rebekah delighted in “creativity in its various forms, and love(d) to cultivate it in others! Concepts of life, growth, process and transformation tend to be at the heart of [her] creative expression in both art and music, along with themes related to [her] Bulgarian heritage.” As well, she was a gifted visual artist with visionary, playful, compelling canvases. Her Celebration of Life took place Saturday, April 13 at Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Ancaster, ON. And on the same day, April 13 at 3 pm , ON, the Mercer Duo (Rachel Mercer and Akemi Mercer-Niewoehner) performed a concert of violin and cello duos by six female Canadian composers, with three world premieres, including Rebekah’s “Our Strength, Our Song,” at First Unitarian, Hamilton, ON. Listen to her hauntingly beautiful music, view her art, and read about her compositions.
Émergences – Two Concerts– Friday, August 2, 2019, 8:00 pm at Canadian Music Centre (Toronto), and Monday, August 5, 8:00 pm at Galerie d’art Le Livart, Montreal, Quebec, presenting five new commissioned works for a flute-guitar duet (Sara Constant flutist, An-Laurence Higgins guitarist) by five new ACWC composers from Montreal and Toronto, Véronique Girard, Gabrielle Harnois-Blouin, Shelley Marwood, Thais Montanari, and Lieke van der Voort. See members above, watch for further details, and read more about the concert here.
The ACWC Art Song Concert – in honour of Rebekah Cummings (1980 – 2019) – occurred on Saturday, May 18, 8:00 pm at Conrad Grebel Chapel/University of Waterloo, Ontario. Clarisse Tonigussi, soprano & Narmina Efendiyeva, piano, performed music of 9 ACWC composers: Rebekah Cummings (The Way I Dream), Jana Skarecky (Green and Gold), Carol Ann Weaver (Timbrel in her Hand), Edith Covach (Cultivo una Rosa Blanca and Hoy lo Llamo Mi Pago), Christie Morrison – also singing – (Tooth or Consequences), Nephenee Rose (I Break with the Quiet), Karen Sunabacka (Shhh), Julia Jacklein (Three Summer Songs) & Fiona Evison (Evening Prayer).
Soundtrack: The Music of Leila Lustig – Augmented Trio Promotions presents a 75th birthday celebration of the music of Canadian (and Victoria!) composer Leila Lustig. ACWC composer Diane Berry is also featured on this concert. Leila Lustig’s life’s work is writing expressive and poignant music for the human voice, often in atypical combinations with other instruments, and frequently on her own texts. This concert will feature Marnie Setka-Mooney, soprano; Diane Berry, flute; Erik Abbink, saxophone; Nathan Friedman, clarinet; and Kathryn LeGros, piano. More information here. Tickets are $15 on-line, or at the door Monday, Apr 29, 7:30 pm, St. Matthias Church, 600 Richmond St., Victoria, B.C.
ACWC and Vancouver Island Symphony Gender Equality Initiative – On Saturday, January 19, 2019, at their concert in Nanaimo, British Columbia, the Vancouver Island Symphony announced a commitment to gender equity in their programming of new music. The ACWC’s secretary, Diane Berry was on hand to help them with their announcement. It read, as follows:
“Tonight, the Vancouver Island Symphony is formalizing its commitment
to equity in the compositional world. In recent years, we have
established ourselves as leader in commissioning and promoting new works
by Canadian composers. Tonight, we take this dedication to creation and
build on it with a commitment to gender equity across all of our new
music endeavors, in programming and commissioning new music. From this
point on, we are pledging all future commissions will respect and abide
by this principle of gender equity”
This is an exciting pledge for an orchestra to take. Diane congratulated them on being leaders in this, and hopes others will follow. The announcement was warmly and enthusiastically received by the audience.
Spark to Stone– presented by Caution Tape Sound Collective and the ACWC Saturday, March 24 2018, 8:00 pm Array Space, 155 Walnut Ave, Toronto, ON. Featuring music by 7 ACWC composers:
Amy Brandon – new work (flute, cello, piano, electronics)
Hope Lee – …I, Laika… (flute, cello, piano)
Julia Mermelstein – wonted (acousmatic)
Sarah Reid – new work (cello, piano, amplifed objects)
Ivana Jokic – new work (violin, cello, flute, piano, percussion)
Lesley Hinger – from within (violin solo)
Bekah Simms – new work (10tet Toronto Emerging Composer Award piece)
Missed the concert? Check out the YouTube playlist here.
The Climate Change & Endangered Species Concert / Concert de l’AFCC : Changement climatique et espèces en danger – Featured the music of 12 ACWC composers. Friday, October 27, 2017, Heliconian Club, Toronto, ON.
ACWC Piano Collective Concert— Premiere event featuring music by ACWC Piano Collective members occurred Sunday May 28, 2017 at 3:00 PM at Conrad Grebel Chapel, University of Waterloo, Ontario. Pieces were composed for and performed by student pianists, many of them students of ACWC members. Music featured was by Joanne Bender, Sarah J. Coles, Edith Covach, Emily Doolittle, Hanna Kim, Kye Marshall, Colleen Muriel, Paulette Popp, Jana Skarecky, and Carol Ann Weaver.
A Spirit Indominable- The ACWC presented a concert of the music of Canadian women, April 7th, 2017, First Church of Christ Scientist, Victoria, BC, celebrating the anniversary of the passing of the bill granting B.C. women the right to vote. It featured the Emily Carr String Quartet, the women’s choir Ensemble Laude and introduces soprano Elizabeth Gerow, with works by Dorothy Chang, Jocelyn Morlock, Sylvia Rickard, Carol Ann Weaver, Kim Baryluk, Georgina Craig, Eleanor Daley, Sarah Quartel, and the music of an anonymous Ursuline nun.