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FEATURE | Six Emerging Canadian Composers To Keep An Eye On

By Anya Wassenberg on February 25, 2022

L-R (from top left): Sarah Davachi (Photo: Dicky Bahto); Elliot Britton (Photo courtesy of the artist); Joseph Chiu (Photo: Kaela Bosch); Gregory Borton (Photo: Andie Parton); Kim Farris-Manning (Image via YouTube); Kalaisan Kalaichelvan (Photo courtesy of the artist)
L-R (from top left): Sarah Davachi (Photo: Dicky Bahto); Eliot Britton (Photo courtesy of the artist); Joseph Chiu (Photo: Kaela Bosch); Gregory Borton (Photo: Andie Parton); Kim Farris-Manning (Image via YouTube); Kalaisan Kalaichelvan (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Canada is blessed with a wellspring of talent in the field of classical music. Along with a string of talented performers taking the competition world by storm, a look at the latest generation of new composers only hints at the musical treasures we will be enjoying in the years to come.

There are many emerging composers whose careers are taking shape from coast to coast. We don’t mean to suggest that our short list is exhaustive, or that these are the only voices worth mentioning.

But, we do believe that we’ll be hearing much more from these composers in the future.

Joseph Chiu

Joseph Chiu obtained his BMus in composition from Wilfrid Laurier University, followed by an MMus from the University of Victoria. Currently based in Toronto, Joseph’s work includes music for film as well as concert pieces. Joseph’s work explores the process of sound design in developing his works. His pieces have been performed at the Canadian Music Centre, Tippet Rise Art Centre, and the Nordic Percussion Festival, and includes collaborations with Continuum Contemporary Ensemble. He was previously awarded a full scholarship to write a new work for the Dior Quartet at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Joseph was a 2020-21 participant in the PIVOT mentorship/composition program of the Canadian League of Composers.

Kim Farris-Manning

Based in Ottawa and Montreal, Kim Farris-Manning describes herself as a “fun-loving queer arbor-artist”. As a composer, she is involved in interdisciplinary work that often explores the use of text and multimedia elements along with music. Kim’s pieces go through a process of evolution and experimentation along the way to performance. Her work has been performed and presented by the Ostrava Days Festival, Organ Festival Canada, the Quatuor Bozziat, and at venues such as the Labo de musique contemporaine de Montréal – Montréal Contemporary Music Lab, among others. Previously, she was organ scholar at the Church of St. John the Divine.  Kim is co-founder of the Paramorph Collective and participated in the PIVOT mentorship program through the Canadian League of Composers in 2021.

Eliot Britton

Eliot Britton is a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation. He completed his PhD in music research and composition at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. Today, Dr. Britton serves as co-director of Manitoba’s Cluster New Music and Integrated Arts Festival, and as Assistant Professor, Composition, Music Technology & Digital Media at the University of Toronto, among others. As Sound Designer + Composer in Residence for Toronto’s Red Sky Performance dance troupe, he’s won Dora Mavor Moore Awards in 2020 and 2019. In 2019, his Adzikokan Suite was performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall as part of an educational outreach program, with five repeat performances. Recent work includes commissions for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Sarah Davachi

According to her own description, composer Sarah Davachi‘s work delves into the connections between sound and space, focusing on texture and overtone complexity, among other things. The electroacoustic composer has taken her work on the road, performed at the Southbank Centre (London, UK), Kontraklang (Berlin, DE), Radio France (Paris, FR), Lampo (Chicago, USA), Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, DE), The Getty (Los Angeles, USA), and Barbican Centre (London, UK), among many others. In 2021, she spent a week as the National Music Centre’s Stingray Classical Artist in Residence, using the opportunity to experiment with the NMC’s large collection of instruments. In the video, she performs on a vintage Hammond Novachord dating from 1939.

Gregory Borton

Based in Hamilton, Ontario, Gregory Borton was a high school student of 16 when he saw his work premiered by a professional orchestra on the stage. The proud Métis (Abenaki) composer’s Sinfonia Fantasia was performed by the National Academy Orchestra under Boris Brott in 2020. The sold-out audience gave it a standing ovation. Borton’s growing body of work includes art songs, chamber pieces, and piano music. He describes the Sinfonia Fantasia as a piece he wrote in a “two week frenzy” and a milestone in his growing career.

Kalaisan Kalaichelvan

Toronto-based Kalaisan Kalaichelvan is a music producer and classically trained pianist as well as a composer for dance, theatre, concert and multimedia projects. Kalaichelvan was a 2021 Fellow of the Sundance Composers lab and is one of the awarded grantees of the Sundance Institute’s Art of Practice Fellowship. He also served as one of the 2021 Slaight Music residents for the Canadian Film Centre. In 2021-22, he’s participating in the PIVOT mentorship/composition program. Kalaisan’s music pushes the boundaries of genre within the realm of classical music.


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