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Looking for a masterpiece

By Bojan Furst

Memorial is commissioning a masterpiece of ceremonial music for its 100th regular convocation this spring and the project is sending ripples of excitement through the Canadian music community.

“We were looking for something unique to celebrate this special milestone in Memorial’s history, but also for an opportunity to potentially support our graduates and the Newfoundland and Labrador community at large,” said Victoria Collins, executive director of the Marketing and Communications division at Memorial.

The idea originated in the marketing and communications department, but it quickly captured the imagination of the music school.

“The first time I heard of this idea, I thought it was brilliant,” said Dr. Tom Gordon, director of Memorial’s School of Music. “After all, what speaks more directly to experience of Newfoundland and Labrador than music?”

The call for proposals, which is available at, is directed at Memorial alumni or those composers who have lived in the province.

“We are especially hoping to be able to draw the interest of composers who have some experience of Newfoundland and Labrador, who maybe have a little bit of its music running through their veins,” said Dr. Gordon.

The proposal has been widely circulated through professional associations and organizations such as the Canadian League of Composers and the Canadian Music Centre.

“Among Canadian composers, a masterpiece is a work that gets played twice. In this case, the premiere alone will include nine performances for thousands of listeners at spring convocation 2009. Subsequent performances will add dozens of performances each year,” added Dr. Gordon. “So this is a pretty rare opportunity for Canadian composers, Newfoundland and Labrador composers, to write works that are going to have a large audience and many, many performances.”

Dr. Gordon said that writing the set of pieces offers interesting challenges because the composers have to take into account that the music has to be of variable length.

“If you have a long line of people coming on the stage, the piece has to be long enough to allow them all to enter. And, just when everyone’s in place, it needs to be able to cadence, come to a reasonable stop,” he explained. “It’s kind of like a puzzle.”

Dr. Gordon sees the commission as a lot more than just a piece of ceremonial music. “I think Canadian universities could do a lot more in terms of encouraging creation of new works of art. A commission like this is a way of validating our own composers and creating something that is useful and commemorative at the same time. This is a great opportunity to do that and I am very excited about it,” he said.