I found out yesterday that Vancouver based composer Jeffrey Ryan has won the 2021 Art Song Prize from the National Association of Singing Teachers (a US based body) for his song cycle Everything Already Lost. This is believed to be a first for a Canadian composer. Now, readers with good memories might recall that I was decidedly impressed by Ryan’s Miss Carr in Seven Scenes which was the 2018 CASP commission so, obviously, I was keen to check out the new work.
I haven’t heard a lot of music by Andrew Staniland but what I’ve heard I’ve liked so I was pleased to get my paws on a recent recording of songs by him; Go by Contraries. There are three pieces on the disk. The first, and longest piece; Earthquakes and Islands, is a setting of eight poems by Toronto poet Robin Richardson. It’s the work that reminds me most of Dark Star Requiem. Words and music are both quite quirky. My Voice, In My Mouth, for example. is a meditation in an oncologist’s waiting room about the consequences of getting close to a lion. The music is full of variation; tonally, rhythmically, harmonically and dynamically. It’s quite surprising the range of sounds Staniland can conjure up from a piano and two singers. It always appears to be rooted in the text though and even long voiceless passages come back logically to words. Continue reading