The Hamilton Spectator

The Hamilton Spectator

Ensemble Made in Canada: celebrating a country in music

Ensemble Made in Canada wanted to celebrate its 10th anniversary in a big way back in 2016. So, what did the EMIC foursome of pianist Angela Park, violinist Elissa Lee, violist Sharon Wei and cellist Rachel Mercer dream up for that milestone?

How about a national tour of a commissioned piece celebrating each province and territory?

Sounds like a plan. And a pretty big one at that.

EMIC tapped 14 composers from different stylistic backgrounds to write a three- to four-minute piano quartet inspired by any aspect of an assigned province, territory or region. Thanks to funding from government and private sources, the Mosaïque Project, a nationally toured suite of piano quartets celebrating Canada’s diversity as well as a concomitant website showcasing audience-generated artwork, has come to fruition.

You can hear the complete suite when EMIC’s 15-date Mosaïque winter tour stops by First Unitarian this Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1 p.m.

“There is a huge range of style in the various movements, but they are united in not only the sound of the instrumentation, but also their theme of being inspired by our country,” Mercer wrote to The Spec. “There is something special about experiencing the (60-minute) suite in its entirety. You really go on a journey across the country. And the added aspect of the audience having small cards to doodle on, each with an abstract letter from Mosaïque, helps to give the listener focus or allow the mind to open and wander while listening, opening the creative synapses.”

Among the suite’s pieces is Hamilton native David Braid’s “Great Bear River Blues” celebrating the Northwest Territories.

“David started with the geographical co-ordinates of the Great Bear River to create the rhythm, harmony and structure of his piece,” wrote Mercer. “While that may sound dry, his rhythmic style and innovative mind create an exciting and dynamic work. The opening rhythm mimics saying the title and he asks us to groove, the cello to play ‘dirty’ pizzicato/plucking like Charles Mingus.”

Former Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra librarian William Rowson contributed “Short Variations on Waves” to the project.

“Bill took inspiration from old marine paintings of ships and the sea,” wrote Mercer. “His tightly structured piece moves through different textures and, while he listened to a lot of Cape Breton fiddle music while writing, it stays true to his unique compositional voice.”

The suite also includes Odawa First Nation composer Barbara Croall’s evocative “Nbiidaasamishkaamin/We Come Paddling Here,” Julie Doiron’s “Blessed” (New Brunswick) as arranged by ex-Barenaked Ladies member Andrew Creeggan, Vivian Fung’s “Shifting Landscapes” (Alberta), Kevin Lau’s “Race to the Midnight Sun” (Yukon Territory), Richard Mascall’s “Petroglyphs” (Ontario), Sarah Slean’s “Johnny Pippy of Pouch Cove, on a Bicycle at Dawn” (Newfoundland), Andrew Downing’s “Red River Fantasy” (Manitoba), Nicolas Gilbert’s “Ilôts” (Quebec), Nicole Lizée’s “Bessborough Hotel” (Saskatchewan), Samy Moussa’s “Orpheus in Nunavut” (Nunavut), Darren Sigesmund’s “Kensington Ceilidh” (Prince Edward Island), and Ana Sokolović’s multi-movement “Splendor Sine Occasu” (British Columbia).

There will be a staggered entry for patrons. Sponsors and subscribers (seats are reserved) can enter any time. Patrons with online tickets ( can enter at 12:40 p.m. Patrons with tickets purchased at door can enter at 12:45 p.m.

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