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PREVIEW | Poetry And Music: five poets (& two composers) breaking into song #10

By Anya Wassenberg on December 5, 2023

L-R: Composer James Rolfe; composer Juliet Palmer; poet George Elliott Clarke (All photos courtesy of the artists)
L-R: Composer James Rolfe; composer Juliet Palmer; poet George Elliott Clarke (All photos courtesy of the artists)

Canadian poet, playwright and literary critic George Elliott Clarke and East and West Learning Connections, Toronto-based non-profit, are teaming up to present an event that combines music and poetry. Part of a series, five poets (& two composers) breaking into song #10 takes place December 15.

One of Canada’s best known poets, Clarke was Toronto’s Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2015, and became the Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2016 to 2017. He is also a noted scholar and professor, and is currently a professor at the University of Toronto.

The event is also sponsored by The Canadian Music Centre and The League of Canadian Poets.

The Music

Vocalist Laura Swankey will interpret poetry set to music. Along with the work of George Elliott Clarke himself, the list of poets includes Gwendolynne MacEwen, Irving Layton, Mansour Noorbakhsh, Giovanna Riccio, Armand Garnet Ruffo, and Yeshim Ternar.

The works of Toronto composers Juliet Palmer and James Rolfe will be in the spotlight.

Laura Swankey (vocalist)

Toronto based vocalist, composer, and improviser will be wearing the first of her three hats. As an artist, she has premiered works by Juliet Palmer, Germaine Liu, Lieke van der Voort, Tova Kardonne, Elio Villafranca, and Mike McCormick, and toured North America and Scandinavia with her solo project for voice and electronics. As a vocalist, she’s appeared on several recordings over the last decade.

Juliet Palmer (composer)

Juliet Kiri Palmer earned an MMus in composition, clarinet and time-based art at the University of Auckland in her native New Zealand. She completed her PhD at Princeton University, and subsequently moved to Toronto, her current base.

She is known for her chamber, orchestral, and opera compositions, and has also written music for dance theatre. Her work has been broadcast across the globe, and featured in festivals in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. She has written music for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Continuum ensemble, Detroit Symphony and Toronto’s Thin Edge Collective, among others.

Among other accomplishments:

  • Composer-in-residence at the New Zealand School of Music and Orchestra Wellington (2011/12);
  • An OAC Artist-in-Residence at Sunnybrook Research Institute (2018);
  • Winner of the Detroit Symphony’s Elaine 2018 Lebenbom Award;
  • a Chalmers Arts Fellow (2018-19).

James Rolfe (composer)

Toronto composer James Rolfe has written work for orchestra, choirs, chamber ensembles, dance and opera. His works have been commissioned and performed throughout North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

He has been recognized with a long list of honours:

  • Guggenheim Fellowship;
  • the K. M. Hunter Music Award;
  • the Louis Applebaum Composers Award;
  • the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music;
  • SOCAN’s Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award;
  • a Chalmers Arts Fellowship;
  • Choral Canada’s Outstanding Choral Work Award;
  • 2019 Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize.

His 2019 opera The Overcoat was premiered by Tapestry Opera with Canadian Stage and Vancouver Opera, and was subsequently nominated for 10 Dora Awards.

James is an instructor of composition at the University of Toronto, and has released two CDs of solo work.

  • More information about the free event [HERE].

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