Kevin Lau – Composer
Described as a “self-assured voice” (Barczablog) with a “masterful control over his idiom” (Classical Music Sentinel), Kevin Lau is quickly establishing himself as one of Canada’s forefront emerging composers. His first complete composition, Empire of Paradise (1999), was arranged and performed by the Albertan drum corps Allegiance Elite throughout Canada and the United States. Since then, he has had music commissioned and performed by numerous ensembles including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, the Cecilia String Quartet, the Toronto Philharmonia, the Toronto Concert Orchestra, Via Salzburg, Trio sTREga, Ensemble Paramirabo, the Hannaford Street Silver Band, the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Canadian Artillery, and the Afiara String Quartet. His 2014 orchestral work, “A Dream of Dawn,” was commissioned by the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra as part of a project commemorating Canada’s role in World War I. It was subsequently performed in Vienna (Austria) and Prague (Czech Republic) as part of the Summa Cum Laude Youth Orchestra Competition. Most recently, he was commissioned by the National Ballet of Canada to create an original full-length ballet score based on Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s novel Le Petit Prince (with choreography by principal dancer Guillaume Coté) which will receive its premiere in 2016.
In 2010, Kevin was awarded the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music for his composition Starsail, and he served as a jury member for the same prize four years later. His music has been commercially released on two CDs: “Premieres” (Cambria Records) with violinist Conrad Chow, featuring Joy), and “The Sounds of Our Time” (Naxos Canadian Classics) with cellist Rachel Mercer and pianist Angela Park, featuring Starsail.
Kevin is also active in many other areas of composition. He has written a full- length musical (“Box Office”) and music for over fifteen films, including the feature documentary UFOs: A Secret History, which aired on the History Channel in 2008. During the same year, he co-wrote (with Canadian composer Ronald Royer) the full-length orchestral score to Gooby, a Canadian children’s feature film starring Eugene Levy and Robbie Coltrane.
In addition to his compositional ventures, Kevin is an accomplished pianist,arranger, and conductor. He has performed in a variety of series and venues, including the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, Heliconian Hall, the Liberty Village New Artist Series, and the Mondavi Center in UC Davis, California. His two orchestral arrangements of Christmas Carols (“Jingle Bells” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”) are performed frequently by the community orchestras in the Greater Toronto Area. He has worked with numerous artists on live orchestral arrangements, including the Celtic group Rant Maggie Rant, the rock band Code Blue, the R&B singer Chuck Jackson, the Juno-nominated pop artist Suzie McNeil, and the jazz singer and bassist Paisley Jura. In 2009 he debuted as a guest conductor for the Mississauga Symphony on his own composition, Sea of Blossoms, and has since directed several ensembles on concerts and recording sessions. In 2010, he was commissioned by the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles to arrange the percussion concerto Tongues of Fire (by canadian composer Christos Hatzis) for wind ensemble and percussion; this was followed by an arrangement of the same work for brass band, commissioned by the Hannaford Street Silver Band. In 2012, he composed and arranged music for both European classical and traditional Persian instruments in the 50-minute educational production Carpet of Dreams.
In 2007 Kevin co-founded the Sneak Peek Orchestra with conductor Victor Cheng. Composed primarily of young and emerging professionals from Toronto, the orchestra has premiered four of his works, including: The Water of Life, commissioned by Conrad Chow as part of the international charity Free the Children; Foundation (Cello Concerto), commissioned by Rachel Mercer; and his Illumination (Double Concerto), commissioned by pianist Mary Kenedi. Kevin lives in Toronto and recently received his doctorate degree in music composition from the University of Toronto under the supervision of Christos Hatzis. He served as composer-in-residence for the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra (2010-12) and was one of two emerging resident composers at the Banff Centre (summer of 2012). A passionate educator, Kevin has led presentations and conducted workshops for Axis Music, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the Etobicoke School of the Arts, and the University of Toronto. In 2013 he was invited as a guest lecturer for the Toronto Mahler Society’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration. Kevin is currently the RBC Affiliate Composer for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra where he will remain until 2015.
About Great North Overture (2009)
The Great North Overture was commissioned by Fran Harvey for the Metropolitan Silver Band’s 75th Anniversary. I am honoured and delighted to be a part of the celebration for this amazing milestone, and especially to collaborate with my former highschool teacher, who was a tremendous inspiration to me well before I had decided upon my path as a composer.
Given my background in composing some rather lengthy orchestral works, theidea of doing a short, overture-style piece appealed to me enormously. Because this was my first attempt at composing for brass band (a challenging prospect for any orchestral composer) I did not want to stray too far from the idioms that characterized the repertoire. The structure of the piece unfolds in a fairly traditional manner, with a slow introduction and a majestic coda bookending a sprightly fanfare. At the core of the piece is a lyrical melody, drawn in part from the wellspring of starry-eyed melodies that I have fallen in love with over the years.
What I wanted to convey most in this piece — particularly in the opening and closing sections — was a sense of joy and exuberance that was not exactly youthful, but suggestive of a deeper wisdom gained through age, and of peace earned through hardship. Somehow, when I tried to think of a title for this piece, this sensibility triggered an image in my mind of the vast, northern Canadian wilderness, cold and austere yet undeniably beautiful and majestic in its own way—hence, the Great North Overture