“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” -Victor Hugo
Throughout history, music has played the role of healer, communicator, and protestor when words or other social commentary miss the mark. Since late May 2020, a frustratingly age-old revolution has once again crescendoed from a mellowed hum to a loud roar as people around the world have come together to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, and to demand change from law enforcement and other social systems. All while the impact of the pandemic continues to ravage the world, claiming lives, jobs, and even basic everyday pleasantries in its path, people gather to march and cry out for a more just society. The impact of this cultural moment is not lost on musicians nor community choirs such as Phoenix. The call is ours to promote human flourishing and freedom in our craft. No doubt, our future plans continue to be folded and reshaped by the happenings of this year, and we know that the work we are doing now is necessary.
Phoenix recognizes that the musical canon has historically been exclusionary of non-western voices and is commissioning a work as a step towards creating a canon that is reflective of the reality of our world . We see issues of racial tension, disease, immigration policy, asylum seekers, death, economic disparity, the state of the physical world, and the true crux of the human condition. Our recent webinar, Making Music in the Mess: a conversation towards a greater understanding of African Diasporic voices in Canadian Choral Music, was a catalyst for ongoing conversation about our role in raising up these voices.
Our Artistic Director, Nicholle Andrews, reached out to Haitian-American composer, Sydney Guillaume to commission a work to honour these voices. Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Guillaume currently resides in Portland, Oregon, and has family living in Canada. With this commission, Guillaume is able to bring deep and meaningful personal experience to stories on both sides of the Canada/US border. His compositions are known to be intricate, challenging and yet highly spirited; they promote human values and are full of heart and passion. Many of his choral works, most with original poetry by his father, Gabriel T. Guillaume, have fostered an awareness of the beautiful Haitian culture and he continues to serve as an ambassador for his native country. Guillaume is a full-time composer, conductor and clinician, and frequently workshops his music with university and high school choirs throughout North America.
This commission will be premiered during our 2021/2022 season in Vancouver. In the summer of 2022 Phoenix hopes to also tour and share this piece across Canada. More details will be revealed as that date nears. We are also working toward finding charity partners for our premiere and tour events, with plans of donating the proceeds of our concerts.
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