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Esprit Orchestra

By Ludwig Van on September 27, 2017


Venue: Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning 273 Bloor Street West

Venue Phone: 416.408.0208

Website: espritorchestra.com

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Ludwig Van



Esprit Orchestra is Canada’s only full-sized, professional orchestra devoted to performing and promoting new orchestral music. Founded in 1983 by Music Director and Conductor, Alex Pauk, Esprit’s commitment to commissioning and advancing contemporary music has set it apart as one of the few organizations of its kind on a global scale. Esprit consistently collaborates with outstanding composers, and performs with first-class soloists and ensembles from Canada and abroad.

Each concert season, Esprit Orchestra commissions, promotes and performs the work of Canadian composers, and features Canadian premieres of music by leading International composers.

With a dynamic annual subscription concert series, this skilled 65-member orchestra presents music that is otherwise unavailable in Canada, always performed to the highest standards in the acoustically acclaimed Koerner Hall at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning.

In addition to its commitment to new music, one of Esprit’s core initiatives is to cultivate the next generation of new music professionals and audiences through mentorship and outreach programs. Each year, Esprit engages with schools and organizations to provide free educational experiences including lectures, open rehearsals, and mentorship opportunities in both composition and orchestral performance. Esprit’s annual New Wave Composers Festival celebrates young Canadian artists, providing a rendezvous where young composers and performers can connect with one another and the wider musical community.

Esprit has been the recipient of multiple prestigious awards, including three Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Awards, the Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award, the Vida Peene Award and the SOCAN Award for Imaginative Orchestral Programming. Esprit aims to continue this trajectory of excellence as the organization proudly undertakes its third decade of operation.

One of Esprit’s most important recent endeavours was a debut tour to China for performances at the 2015 Beijing Modern Music Festival and the China-ASEAN Music Week in Nanning where Esprit was also orchestra-in-residence. The tour coincided with the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and China and set the stage for developing long-lasting musical exchanges between Esprit and Chinese musical artists.

Esprit is a non-profit charitable organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.


The Folks Behind It All


Alex Pauk, Music Director and Conductor

Alex Pauk was inducted into the Order of Canada on September 23rd, 2015. Through founding Esprit Orchestra in 1983 and devoting the organization to new music, Pauk revitalized orchestral life for composers across Canada. With a core of 65 top instrumentalists, Canada’s best soloists, and an annual subscription series in Toronto, Esprit encourages composers to take bold new directions. Through building and sustaining Esprit’s high calibre performances, commissioning programme, innovative programming (70% Canadian), recordings, performing arts videos and DVDs, outreach projects, national and international tours, and interdisciplinary arts and multimedia ventures, Pauk has been a leader in developing and promoting Canadian music at home and abroad.

As a conductor, he attains excellent performances on stage and in recordings. Pauk’s commissioning of Canadian composers of all ages and stylistic trends is central to his work. He has been a leader in taking new music out of the concert hall and into communities with performances in unusual and alternative locations. He has provided opportunities for choreographers and dancers, stage and lighting designers, actors, directors, and multimedia and visual artists to combine their talents with Esprit in adventurous cross-disciplinary projects.

In 2007, Pauk was a recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, awarded to those who contribute to the cultural and intellectual heritage of Canada:

“A passionate and visionary conductor, artistic director, composer and educator, Alex Pauk has demonstrated remarkable skills in the arts of initiative, risk-taking and the building and promotion of a leading Canadian arts organization, Esprit Orchestra, which is recognized around the world. A fervent believer in the richness and vitality of Canadian new music, he is a cutting-edge leader in the cultivation and presentation of contemporary music, in Canada and abroad. His true brilliance has emerged in the way that he has introduced new audiences – including young people and more traditional audiences for orchestral music – to the joys of exploring uncharted terrain, both musically and in the new and unusual venues where he has set his performances. Alex Pauk is a true champion of new music who continues to introduce Canadian and international composers to the world.”

~ Molson Prize Jury Citation

Pauk’s commitment to the community through Esprit has also garnered SOCAN and Chalmers Awards, as well as three Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Awards. He was named Musician of the Year (1999) by peers at the Toronto Musicians’ Association, and has helped many composers advance their careers through commissions, high profile performances, recordings and broadcasts. Under Pauk’s direction, Esprit was awarded the 2005 Vida Peene Award for excellent standards of performance and programming.

In addition to his work as a conductor, Alex Pauk has a prolific career as a composer, having written music for every kind of performing ensemble as well as dance and theatre companies.

He has also composed over thirty film scores, many in collaboration with his wife, the composer Alexina Louie. His works for the concert hall have included pieces incorporating digital soundtracks, film, video and dance. Notable recent additions to his catalogue include Musiques immergées for orchestra and digital playback (with a film by photographer Edward Burtynski and film maker John Price having been created for integration with some performances of the work), Devotions, an oratorio for choir and orchestra and Impulse for twenty-four piece flute orchestra. Pauk has composed for and conducted more than sixty works for organizations such as the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, New Music Concerts, Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Hannaford Street Silver Band, Vancouver New Music Society, the Toronto Symphony and Esprit Orchestra. Alex Pauk graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Music in 1971. He currently resides in Toronto with his wife, Alexina Louie, who is his vital partner in the development of Esprit Orchestra.

Ludwig Van
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