Its annual series (from three to five concerts per season), held for the most part at the St. Lawrence Centre, have included guest artists such as Robert Aitken, flute; Marie Bérard, violin; Marc Couroux, piano; the Elmer Iseler Singers; Erica Goodman, harp; Rivka Golani, viola; Desmond Hoebig, cello; Gwen Hoebig, violin; Scott Irvine, tuba; Jacques Israelievitch, violin; Eleanor James, mezzo; Valerie Kuinka, viola; Rosemarie Landry, soprano; André Laplante, piano; Stuart Laughton, trumpet; Christien Ledroit, electric guitar; Joseph Macerollo, accordion; Richard Margison, tenor; Nexus; Marie-Danielle Parent; Jamie Parker, piano; Jon Kimura Parker, piano; Gary Relyea, baritone; Jean Stilwell, mezzo; Elizabeth Turnbull, mezzo; David B. Waterhouse, bagpipes; and Laura Wilcox, viola. Together with Société des Concerts symphoniques de Montréal SMCQ, Esprit presented, 14 Feb 1988, a concert of commissioned works at the Arts Festival of the Calgary Olympics, which included Pauk's Split Seconds, Rea's Time and Again, and Allan Bell's Concerto for Two Orchestras. This program was repeated in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. Subsequent tours took Esprit to Calgary, Vancouver, Banff, and Edmonton in 1998; and in 1999 to Paris and the International Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam. This debut European tour showcased works by Louie and Rea, as well as Scott Godin, Chris Paul Harman, Colin McPhee, Ana Sokolovic, and Claude Vivier.
Esprit has commissioned and premiered works by Istvan Anhalt (SparkskrapS 19 Mar 1988), John Beckwith (Peregrine 3 Mar 1990), Ka Nin Chan (Ecstasy 8 Mar 1987), Tomas Dusatko (Traces of Becoming 1 Feb 1987), José Evangelista (Elephant in the Dark 24 Feb 1986), Gerhard Ginader (Tonfigur No. 6 4 Mar 1989), Denis Gougeon (Enfant de la terre et ciel étoilé 16 Apr 1989), Gary Hayes (Freewheeling/Free Choice/Freedom 3 Mar 1990), Rudolf Komorous (Sinfony 20 Nov 1988), Peter Paul Koprowski ((Rachel - Games and Daydreams of a Child 7 Dec 1986), Michel Longtin (Lettre de Roxana à Décébal Hormuz 4 Dec 1987), Andrew MacDonald (In the Garden of Gaea 25 Mar 1991), Bruce Mather (Scherzo 4 Dec 1987), R. Murray Schafer (Scorpius 25 Mar 1991), Norman Symonds (From the Eye of the Wind 1 Jan 1988), and Owen Underhill (Labyrinth of Ears 24 Nov 1990). John Weinzweig was honoured on his 75th birthday by Esprit at its March 1988 concert.
By 2004 the works of well over 50 Canadian composers had been performed by the Esprit Orchestra - several programmed more than once - including Sergio Barroso, Bob Becker, Roger Bergs, Rose Bolton, Denys Bouliane, Tim Brady, Michael Colgrass, Barbara Croall, Brian Current, Omar Daniel, Paul Dolden, Harry Freedman, Paul Frehner, Jacques Hétu, Larry Lake, Eric Morin, Yannick Plamondon, André Ristic, James Rolfe, Jeffrey Ryan, Jon Siddall, Harry Somers, Paul Steenhuisen, James Tenney, Gilles Tremblay, and Barry Truax, in addition to those named earlier. The orchestra also has given the Canadian premieres of music by international composers John Adams, William Bolcom, David Del Tredici, Ron Ford, Mauricio Kagel, Morton Lauridon, György Ligeti, Steve Reich, Wolfgang Rihm, Frederick Rzewski, Iannis Xenakis, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.
Recordings, Workshops, Awards
Esprit has appeared in four films produced by Rhombus Media, and provided soundtracks for the feature films Last Night and The Five Senses, which were recognized at the Cannes Film Festival. Most of its concerts have been broadcast on CBC's Two New Hours, and it has made several recordings for CBC Records and Centrediscs.
Always an important aspect of its activities, Esprit's educational program Toward a Living Art includes in-school concerts, demonstrations, and workshops for composers, performers, and student participants. Esprit was the first orchestra to receive the prestigious Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award, in 1995. The Lieutenant Governor's Award for the Arts has been bestowed on the orchestra three times, testifying to the role that the Esprit Orchestra has played in sustaining and furthering orchestral composition in Canada.
Author Patricia Wardrop, Betty Nygaard King
Snider, Roxanne. 'Esprit to the core,' Music, vol 13, no. 4, Sep-Oct 1990
Deroy, Derek. "Alex Pauk: Canada's pioneer of new music," Music, vol 18, Sept 1995
Perlman, David. "Alex Pauk's Esprit," Wholenote, 1 Nov 2000
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Esprit Orchestra, a full-sized Canadian orchestra devoted exclusively to new music. Features musician profiles, a current concert calendar, discography, and excerpts from their recordings.
St Lawrence Centre for the Arts
The website for the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto. Check out the resident performing arts companies and the podcasts for ST Lawrence Centre Forums on various topics.
3 Canadian composers win $75K NAC awards
A CBC news story about NAC awards bestowed upon 3 Canadian composers.
Composer Brian Current's website features a biography, audio clips of performances of his music, and more.
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