The uOttawa /Chamberfest Composition Workshop held January 23 saw over 70 new music lovers turn out to hear world premieres of 6 new string quartets by our student composers. Listeners were treated to a world-class performance by Jessica Linnebach & Emily Kruspe (violin), Carissa Klopoushak (viola), and Desiree Abbey (cello), who worked through 6 brand-new compositions with only a few hours of rehearsal.

The works, in concert order, were:

Qin Tai Tan – Fragments Over a Pale Sea
Angela Geleynse – Autonomous
Cameron Hunter – Breathless
Kristiana Tavityan – Disquiet Relief
Zachary Greer – As the Pendulum Swings
Mohammed Motevaselan – Remedy

All were well-crafted, distinct in style, and stimulating. Congratulations to the winner, Angela Geleynse, whose riveting quartet will receive a repeat performance at Ottawa Chamberfest (at New Music Now this summer, stay tuned!), and to runner-up Cameron Hunter.

While the jurists were deliberating, audience members asked a number of stimulating questions about the students’ process and inspiration. Certain common threads became evident. For most of the students, this was their first experience composing for strings (none are actually string players), and they tend to develop new works on the computer, in MIDI form. All were struck by the difference between hearing their work on a computer, and hearing it live with, as one student said, “real humans”. All felt that they would compose for strings again, but that they needed to learn more about arranging for strings, and about working with string players to explore the difference between digital “perfection” and the warmth and playability of a working string composition. We are excited to see what happens next with these young composers!

Many thanks to the fabulous musicians who brought these works to life with skill and enthusiasm, and to the jury comprised of Prof. John Armstrong and Carissa Klopoushak. And thank you to the audience for your support and great questions during the post-concert talkback.

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