Karen Sunabacka

Email: karen@sunabacka.com
Website: http://www.sunabacka.com/

Sunabacka-18Composer Karen Sunabacka often finds inspiration in the everyday beauty, sounds and stories of the places in which she’s lived. In August 2018 she completed a choral piece for choir and audience titled We All Sing for Conrad Grebel University College. In January 2018 the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra commissioned and premiered her piece #DryColdConversations, a piece about the cold winters in Manitoba. In February 2017, the Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra premiered her work “The Prairies” which was part of a bigger piece called De Natura Sonorum, a commissioned work with four other composers to celebrate 150 years of Confederation. De Natura Sonorum was nominated in Québec’s 21e Prix Opus in the category Création de l’année (composition of the year). In September 2016 the Regina Symphony orchestra commissioned and premiered her work Across the Grasslands Fascinated by the sounds of wind and how natural sounds can turn into nightmares, Karen collaborated with hyper-flutist Cléo Palacio-Quintin to create a 10-minute 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 natural beauty and winds of the Prairies, Karen has recently been exploring her Métis and Manitoba heritage. She composed Mama’s Painting: Louis Riel’s Dream about her Métis Grandmother, Lenore Clouston in 2015.  In 2013 the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra commissioned and premiered two works: Never to Return, a piece about Karen’s great-great Grandmother Mathilda who suffered from mental illness and Born by the River, another piece about her Métis grandmother Lenore.

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 January 2018 she was a Mentor Composer for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’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 and NUMUS, Kitchener-Waterloo’s New Music Series. She founded Pressure Waves in Winnipeg, a regular part of Groundswell’s Emerging Composer program.


2019     TBD for Viola d’amour and Percussion. Commissioned by Park Sounds. To be premiered in October 2019.  

2019     TBD for Viola and Cello. Commissioned by Texas State University for Ames Asbell (Viola) and Karla Hamelin (cello). To be premiered in Spring 2019.

2018     We all Sing for choir and audience. Commissioned by Conrad Grebel University College. Premiered in September 2018 and built upon in subsequent performances during the 2018-2019 school year.

2018     #DryColdCoversations for Orchestra. Commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Premièred by the WSO during the New Music Festival in January 31 2018 with Maestro Alexander Mickelthwate.

2017     De natura sonorum “IV – The Prairies” – for Orchestra. Commissioned by the Orchestre Metropolitan de Montréal. Written with four other Canadian composers for the 150 celebrations of Canada’s birthday. Each composer wrote a five-minute movement about their own region of Canada. Premièred on February 22 and 24, 2017 with Maestro Jean-François Rivest. Excerpts performed as part of an installation piece titled Music for Spaces during Winnipeg’s New Music Festival Music at the Canadian Human Rights Museum on January 27th 2018.

2016     Across the Grasslands – for Orchestra. Commissioned by the Regina Symphony Orchestra. Premièred on September 17, 2016 with Maestro Gordon Gerrard.

2015     All Night a Dark Wind Blows – for Hyperflute. Written for (and with) Cléo Palacio-Quintin and includes a poem by Malcolm Guite. Commissioned by Groundswell. Premièred in Montreal on February 4, 2016. A tour of Western Canada followed with performances in Lethbridge, Calgary and Victoria. Final tour performance was presented by GroundSwell in Winnipeg on Wednesday February 24, 2016.

2015     Mama’s Painting: Louis Riel’s Dream – for Piano Quintet (2 vlns, vla, vc and piano). Commissioned by the Agassiz Chamber Music Festival with the support of the Manitoba Arts Council and premièred on June 6, 2015. Other Performances: Excerpts performed as part of an installation piece titled Music for Spaces during Winnipeg’s New Music Festival Music at the Canadian Human Rights Museum on January 27th 2018. Noon hour recital at Conrad Grebel University College Chapel, University of Waterloo on February 28th 2018. GroundSwell in Winnipeg, MB on May 8th 2018.