Budding composers get a big audience
The compositions of three Memorial music students shared a concert program with Mendelssohn
and Mozart in April 26, at a Sinfonia Series concert performed by the Newfoundland
Symphony Orchestra. Adam Foran, Jason Noble and Clay Puddester were in the audience
and, in addition to enjoying the pieces by Mozart and Mendelssohn, they also
heard chamber orchestra pieces they themselves had written as part of their
participation in an innovative composition seminar they attended over the last
Their respective musical compositions were crafted with the
guidance of professional composer and music school professor Dr. Clark Ross,
who led the seminar. The seminar was the first of its kind at Memorial. and possibly the first
time that a Canadian professional orchestra has sponsored the creation of new
works by three students and agreed to play them as part of a regular concert
series, sight unseen. The result, according to both the audience and the musicians
involved, seems to have been an unqualified success.
Dr. Ross said that the process of preparing a score they knew would be played
added a dimension to his students' growth as composers.
“Composing the music for the Sinfonia Series was perhaps the most important
exercise they have done,” he told the Gazette. “It's one thing to
play your music back to a teacher, another to have it played publicly. They had
all year to prepare for this and do as good a job as they could do. They had
to learn the detail work required to write music for a large number of instruments.”
Dr. Peter Gardner, the symphony conductor and recipient of an honorary doctorate
from Memorial, noted that the arrangement that made it possible for student
work to be featured at a Sinfonia Series concert grew out of the close connection
the School of Music has with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.
“We have a close and successful partnership with the music school,” Dr.
Gardner said. “This sort of opportunity will really give our students a
leg up. Now all three have experience in the act of having a piece they composed
played publicly, similar to the essential experience that soloists and performers
have when they reach graduate school.”
The three composers were chosen by Dr. Ross and Dr. Tom Gordon, director
of Memorial's School of Music. The three had to compose within a set of parameters,
set out by Dr. Gardner, outlining the kind of music (it had to be scored for
chamber orchestra with specific instrumentation) and length (six to eight minutes).
Clay Puddester, a fourth-year music major who plans to continue his studies
in a graduate composition program at the University of Toronto next year, said
that, at its simplest, the challenge was producing an interesting and enjoyable
“The challenge for all of us was to create an expansive, six to eight minute
piece that would keep people's attention.”
He also noted that the composition seminar was a learning experience par
excellence. “Hearing our pieces played was enjoyable and it's not often
that a young composer hears his music played by an orchestra,” he said. “This
concert was a great motivator for all of us.”
Mr. Puddester's piece was titled And There Were Gardens Bright With Sinuous
Rills, a line from the Coleridge poem Kubla Kahn. All three pieces were recorded
and were introduced by a recorded message by the composer. Dr. Ross also delivered
a message to the capacity audience at the Cook Recital Hall. Adam Foran's piece
was titled Saidin, and Jason Noble's piece was titled Prelude to the Trial of
The student compositions were framed within two works, one by Mendelssohn,
and one by Mozart. Dr. Gardner said the concert program was designed to highlight
the point that these two greats had composed music when they were very
astonishingly young, Mendelssohn was 12 and Mozart
was 16 when they each composed the pieces featured at Saturday's concert. Dr.
Gardner said that the musical community, either orchestras or audiences,
needs to encourage composition.
“It is important for professional orchestras to play music of our time,” Dr.
Gardner explained. “The classics are important, but the music we designate
as classical was the popular music of its day too. This idea is supported by
having a professional orchestra play student compositions. We can't keep music
alive if we don't encourage new works, new compositions. This concert was a success
and I can see that the composers are coming out of the shadows, as it were, and
are being seen. This will hopefully lead to more student interest in composition,”he
“The talent level in composition here in Newfoundland is tremendous,” Dr.
Ross added. “I believe that if we could continue to create opportunities
like these for student composers and encourage them in our undergraduate program,
Newfoundland could emerge as one of the leading areas in the country for composition.”
Please see the Audio Section of this report for recordings.