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Calling all composers: Dal seeks 200th anniversary musical composition

Toward 200: Highlighting planning for Dal's 2018 bicentennial

- March 17, 2017

Curtis Dietz of the Symphony Brass Quintet performs at President Florizone's installation ceremony in 2013. The quintet will be performing the selected piece for Dal's 200th. (Danny Abriel photo)
Curtis Dietz of the Symphony Brass Quintet performs at President Florizone's installation ceremony in 2013. The quintet will be performing the selected piece for Dal's 200th. (Danny Abriel photo)

It’s hard to imagine a convocation ceremony without music. From the singing of the national anthem to the fanfare of the classic “Pomp and Circumstance” theme, music adds spirit and energy to one of the university’s most celebratory times.

Fitting, then, that for Dal’s 200th anniversary celebrations next year, Dalhousie is looking for a new musical composition — one that would be a perfect fit for ceremonies like convocation and its introductory counterpart, induction.

An initiative led by the Fountain School of Performing Arts, the Call for Works was issued earlier this year and is open to all professional Canadian composers. The university is looking for a short piece (less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds) that is to be performed by a brass quintet (two trumpets, French horn, and tenor and bass trombones).

Why a brass quintet? Because it’s a brass quintet — the Symphony Brass Quintet, which includes Fountain School trombone instructor Eric Mathis — that performs the musical accompaniment for Dalhouise’s convocation ceremonies.

“It seems fitting for an occasion like that,” explains Fountain School faculty member Jerome Blais. “There’s something ceremonial there, a certain majesty to those instruments.”

A piece of music that fits Dalhousie


Dr. Blais teaches composition in the Fountain School, and is part of the team that will be helping select the successful piece from the various submissions (which are due no later than September 15, 2017). Others involved in the jury will be other Fountain School faculty, members of the quintet and other individuals from the university community.

“We don’t know what pieces we will get, and we want to be surprised,” says Dr. Blais. “That said, this is a very specific occasion, so we want the piece to meet certain criteria of celebration, of joyfulness.”

The successful piece will be premiered at the Bicentennial Address — the formal introduction to Dal’s 200th year — on February 6, 2018, with hopes that the piece could then be used at future convocation ceremonies. The successful composer will also be awarded a monetary prize of $2,000.

“As a composer, I’m thrilled that one of the ideas that’s been put forward to celebrate the 200th anniversary is a musical composition,” says Dr. Blais. “I’m very excited about this.”

See the full Call for Works on the Fountain School’s website.

This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting planning for Dalhousie’s 200th anniversary celebrations in 2018. For more information on Dal 200, visit dal200.ca.


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