e·mer·gence [əˈmərjəns] noun the process of coming into view or becoming exposed after being concealed; the process of coming into being.
I chose EMERGENCE as the title of this album because its contents reflect the evolution of my musical journey to date. After coming to the relatively late realization that my true vocation was to be a composer, rather than an accountant, I invested a significant amount of time and effort honing my artistry to the point where I felt comfortable sharing it with the public. Thanks to the encouragement of well-respected musicians whose opinions I valued, I embarked on my journey of artistic self-discovery at a point when many other people believe that their life’s purpose has been fulfilled. Since then, I have explored various musical forms, written for several combinations of voice and instruments, enjoyed many successful performances worldwide, produced numerous sample albums, completed two music degrees, and recently undertaken a doctoral programme in composition. This disc not only documents some results of these efforts to date, it also presents them within a wide public forum. I look forward to continuing my journey of musical discovery for many years to come and hope that you will enjoy traveling this road with me.
This collection of ten short mood pieces is intended to provide intermediate level pianists with music that will hopefully develop their keyboard skills while delighting their ears. It was inspired by an assignment during my Master of Music programme that required each student to write a piece that would state a theme, develop it, and provide a suitable conclusion, all within one minute. Most of the pieces in this collection meet this time constraint, although some are slightly longer in duration. Each piece describes a vignette from real life with an emotional component which can be inferred from its title, as well as from a brief commentary included on each score.
Susannah’s Lullaby (This is a Face of Love)
Susannah’s Lullaby was commissioned by Canadian soprano Susan Murray for a recital at Canada House, London (UK) in 1996. It was one of my first two art songs to be performed publicly. It paints an idyllic picture of family life in a happy, loving home that I always wished for myself, but never experienced.
Language of a Rose
This is the second art song that Susan Murray performed during her 1996 Canada House, London (UK) recital. I had written it in 1992 while on an extended retreat at Mount Shasta, California. During this retreat, I experienced a deep spiritual awakening that changed my life in dramatic ways. Away from the daily grind and connecting with other people also seeking deeper meaning to their lives, I had the opportunity to realize that my true vocation was composition. When I confided this realization to a well known European musician also there on retreat, he challenged me to write him a song within seven days. One week later, I sang and played this song for him on a broken-down old piano. When finished, I was shocked to find him in tears. He admitted not having believed that I could write anything, let alone a piece of “such beauty and depth”. My path as a composer opened before me at the age of 42 on a dare.
Moyi mamij [For My Mother]
Both of my parents were refugees from political oppression in Ukraine. My father Stephen escaped to Canada as a young man (1937) when he saw that war was coming to Europe. My maternal grandparents and their children had fled to Canada in the mid-1920s because my grandfather, Michael Sharik, was a Ukrainian nationalist leader being hunted down by armed soldiers. As a poet, author, and columnist in the free press, he devoted his entire life in Canada to the liberation of Ukraine. He wrote the text for this piece as a poem for me to recite at a Mother’s Day concert when I was 10 years old. It was later published in his 1965 book of poems Розсипані перли [Scattered Pearls]. I was thrilled to be able to set his simple but heartfelt words to music and dedicate the piece to my mother Nadia who passed away shortly after it was completed. I am grateful that she heard the recorded version before she died.
Qu’est-ce que c’est la vie? (Hommage à Diana, Princesse de Galles)
[What is Life? (Tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales)]
I had the unexpected privilege to meet HRH Diana, Princess of Wales during her last official tour of Canada when I worked for the Governor General at Rideau Hall, Ottawa (1992). Although brief, our interaction was personal, emotional, and highly dramatic for both of us. I began writing this piece in the spring of 1997 without knowing what it was about. So, I put it aside and forgot about it until the terrible night of her death in a tragic car accident in Paris (August 1997). At that moment, I knew that this piece was meant to be her eulogy. In it, I see Diana looking out a window from behind lace curtains at the Ritz Hotel, waiting for Dodi Fayed to arrive that fateful rainy night, and I imagine what she might have been thinking.
Abwoon d’bwashmaya [Aramaic Lord’s Prayer]
In his ground-breaking book Prayers of the Cosmos, Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz reflects on the original meaning of Jesus’ words in both the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes. As an internationally respected scholar, author and spiritual teacher, he is uniquely positioned to carry out in-depth research of ancient sacred texts in their original languages, including Aramaic, the Middle Eastern language spoken by Jesus. In doing so, he reveals the many possible meanings of the original texts and demonstrates that there is little reason for enmity between spiritual traditions. I had the opportunity to study with Neil for several years through his Interspiritual Leadership Program and benefited enormously from his informed wisdom, as well as his friendship. His transliteration of the Lord’s Prayer from the Syriac Aramaic manuscript of the Gospels (or ‘Peshitta Version’), is the text used in this minimalist arrangement for solo voice and cello, as well as its midrashic English interpretation in Song for Abwoon (below). If you are someone who is interested in exploring the age-old question “On the path of the inner life, how can we find a way to live harmoniously in the ‘real world’?”, I strongly suggest that you familiarize yourself with the work of Neil Douglas-Klotz. (www.abwoon.org)
Water Canticle (For Margaret Trudeau)
Margaret Trudeau is a Canadian author, actress, photographer, former television talk show hostess, and social advocate for people with bipolar disorder. She is the former wife of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 15th Prime Minister of Canada, and the mother of Justin Trudeau, the current 23rd Prime Minister, and his brothers Alexandre and Michel. Among her many philanthropic activities, Trudeau is the long-serving honorary president of WaterCan, an Ottawa-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries build sustainable water supply and sanitation services. In 2000, the Cantata Singers of Ottawa gave a fundraising concert for WaterCan and several composers (including myself) were invited to write music for it. Mrs. Trudeau’s youngest son Michel had been killed in November 1998 when an avalanche swept him to the bottom of British Columbia's Kokanee Lake. Her former husband Pierre died shortly afterwards in September 2000. To honour the memory of her late son, Mrs. Trudeau had founded a project called “Michel’s Wells” to provide clean drinking water to people in Africa. I saw her being interviewed about this project on television and was so moved by her thoughtful comments that I made notes, which later inspired the text for this piece. In spite of her recent bereavements, Mrs. Trudeau graciously attended the fundraising concert (November 2000). Afterward the performance, I had the privilege of presenting her with a framed copy of the text and receiving her lovely gift of roses in appreciation for having written this song in her honour.
La chanson de ton coeur [The Song of Your Heart]
I wrote this simple, happy song after spending time at an old merry-go-round in the Montmartre district of Paris, my favourite city. No deep meaning here, so please feel free to just sing along and enjoy!
Child of the Manger
It has always seemed ironic that I wrote this Christmas carol on the hottest day of the year. It came to me unexpectedly, as one complete piece, while I was house sitting for a friend. Most carols focus on the joy of the birth of Jesus. Apparently the Universe wanted me to write a carol that reminds us of the ultimate reason for His birth: the saving of mankind through His death.
Song for Abwoon
Song for Abwoon is a mystical song to the Creator of the Universe, inspired by the liturgical music of Hildegard of Bingen. In addition to being a modern version of timeless sacred music, it is also unique in that it represents a synthesis of strophic and through-composed song forms. The core of the piece consists of three similar verses in English followed by iterations of the refrain “We are like instruments…” sung by the chorus. A second through-composed melody for the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer Abwoon d’bwashmaya is sung by the soprano against the English strophes and refrains at various points. The soloist is intended to represent the voice of the cantor in “call and response” worship, while the chorus represents the congregation. As mentioned above, the transliterated Aramaic text of the prayer is taken from Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz’s Prayers of the Cosmos, which proposes several alternate English translations for the original Aramaic text. One of these i.e. “Source of Sound: in the road and the whisper, in the breeze and the whirlwind, we hear Your Name” inspired this work which was originally written for my Master of Music degree. Song for Abwoon does not intend to rewrite or replace the Lord’s Prayer in the KJV Bible, nor does it strive for historic authenticity or dogmatic accuracy. Rather, it is the artistic response of a modern day, somewhat unorthodox mystic to various influences, primarily the work of Neil Douglas-Klotz who personally endorsed this project.
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