2020 Competition

Congratulations to our 2020 NewWorks competition winners!

This year, we have the exciting result of a tie for first place.

Jury evaluations have identified two wonderful winning pieces: Storm Birds by Maria Case and I Heard the Bird Cry by Kathryn Rose.

Serendipitously, while composers were required to submit works relevant to an environmental theme, these two winning works also share a specific focus, both taking birds (real or metaphorically) as subject.

Storm Birds ~ Maria Case

Toronto-based Maria Case is a pianist, vocal soloist, conductor and composer. She is Artistic Director of the Annex Singers, now in their 40th season. The text of her Storm Birds is by Toronto poet John Warden. One juror comments that Case’s “jazz-infused style brings a refreshing interpretation of the sentiment expressed in the text, [and that she uses] creative harmonic language that well sets the mood shifts in the text.” The text invites us to “Listen to the breathing world…bruised by stark towers” and takes us to the existential question: “will the birds fall silent even in the deep woods?” This is a deeply provocative text, which according to jurors is set with “real harmonic appeal” and effective “idiomatic gestures.” The music is fresh and engaging, with a delicate, jazz-influenced opening that draws us into the musical story that will blossom into a concluding, rich, eight-part texture on the words:
Is there another story:
of a world, startled by children,
filling the streets and the plazas,
storming the golden battlements,
conquering by song?

I Heard the Bird Cry ~ Kathryn Rose

Kathryn Rose, native of Saskatchewan, is currently studying contemporary sacred choral composition with Paul Mealor at the University of Aberdeen. Her winning entry sets a text by contemporary Welsh-Scottish poet Euan Tait. Rose’s music is “clearly drawing on centuries of choral tradition, very idiomatic though challenging” according to one of our jurors. Another juror comments that the music “pulls the listener in,” and that Rose’s musical motifs, which incorporate vocal slides along with traditional techniques, “are beautiful and deepen the sound of the cry” of the crying bird, which laments the environmental injury suffered by earth. The “gorgeous middle section” (the words of another juror) is a brief, aching moment, setting the words “But oh the sear of perfect beauty!” Jury members also identified the “excellent use of texture” for expressive purposes. The work builds to a glorious eight-part texture at the closing return of the words “I heard the bird cry.” The piece perfectly brings before us the bitter-sweet awareness of the beauty of a world in danger, desperately in need of preservation.