"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Friday, November 21, 2014

Congratulations to Peter Togni and Responsio

Last night Suzie LeBlanc and I attended the Creative Arts Awards in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at which the 2014 Lieutenant-Governor Masterworks Arts Award was announced. On behalf of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia, I would like to congratulate composer and musician Peter Togni, whose astonishing composition "Responsio" was the winner. The EBSNS was nominator for Suzie LeBlanc and her CD "I am in need of music" (settings of Bishop poems by four Canadian composer), and we were, or course, rooting for this "masterwork" to win. But we are delighted to say that our own Suzie LeBlanc, Honorary Patron of the EBSNS, was also involved in Peter's work. Suzie, along with three other singers and the musician extraordinaire Jeff Reilly, toured Peter's work last year. I had the great privilege of seeing/hearing a performance of this glorious work in Wolfville, N.S., and can only agree with the Masterwork Award Jury's praise of it. Below is part of the press release of the Masterwork Arts Award board, describing Peter's "masterwork."

From the Masterworks Arts Award press release:

The orchestral composition, Responsio, by composer Peter-Anthony Togni, has won the 2014 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award which carries a cash value of $25,000. The award was presented last night at the Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala in Halifax. The winner was chosen by an independent jury of five artists including Catherine Banks, Steve Higgins, Gary Markle, Gwen Noah and Lukas Pearse.

The fifty-minute musical work scored for solo bass clarinet and vocal quartet is built upon a pre-existing composition, Guillaume de Machaut’s 1365 Mass the Messe de Nostre Dame. The composer juxtaposes bursts of bass clarinet improvisation against through-composed vocal material, forming a continuous commentary on the relationship of the individual to the collective. This contemporary recomposition of a work of sacred music serves to contrast modern expressions of free will with the certainty and limitations of the feudal order. Fittingly, the work was first performed in 2013 in St. Bernard Church on the French Shore.

The jury commented that the combination of new and ancient musics integrates classical ensemble singing into a new context. Artistically mature and highly original as a composition, Responsio’s impact will spread internationally, independently of its performance in Nova Scotia. The artist’s work Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae was a 2010 Masterworks Finalist.The jury identified five works as finalists for the 2014 prize. In addition to Responsio, they also selected the musical program ‘I am in need of music,’ the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary legacy recording by soprano singer Suzie LeBlanc; composers Emily Doolittle, Christos Hatzis, Alasdair MacLean, and John Plant; the sculpture/installation Harmonic Motion, by Toshiko H. MacAdam and Charles MacAdam; The Thundermaker, a multi-media installation by Alan Syliboy; and the play Refuge by Mary Vingoe. All of the finalists were honoured at a reception at Government House on Wednesday. The winner was awarded $25,000; the other four finalists received $3,000 each.

The Award recognizes the excellence of a particular work of art or performance of art, which has made a significant impact in its public presentation, and has contributed to the historical development and contemporary practice of the art form. The work must have had its first public presentation within the past five years.

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