Quebec Composers Shine in SOCAN Awards

Rick MacMillan, SOCAN, Words & Music, no 9:3, 1 septembre 2002

Twelve composers have won a total of $17,500 in the 2002 SOCAN Awards for Young Composers, following three days of intensive jury deliberation in Toronto. As was the case last year, Quebec composers earned the lion’s share of cash, including a pair of first-prize awards for André Ristic and a first and second prize for Martin Leclerc, both of Montréal.Ristic repeated his first-prize success in the Serge Garant Awards category, which he topped in the 2001 awards as well, this time for Motel [infini], scored for flute, clarinet, percussion, harp, violin and cello. The 29-year-old also earned top marks for Environnement de cantate, a work for violin solo that is scheduled for a pair of performances this October in both Montréal and Lennoxville, Que., in a collaboration by the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal and the dance company Cas Public.

“There is a lot of energy in the solo violin piece, which was clearly written for a virtuoso player,” remarked jury member Jean-François Denis, who was joined by colleagues Allan Bell of Calgary and Chris Paul Harman of Toronto. “He controlled time very well,” added Bell, “and made economical use of his material, which was strongly developed.” Jury members also lauded Ristic’s Motel [infini], noting its colorful fabric and impressive sense of direction. “What set it apart for me,” explained Harman, “is the distinct sensibility of the instrumentation, its sophistication and the playfulness of the material.”

Martin Leclerc, who is currently studying electroacoustic music with Yves Daoust and composition with Serge Provost at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, dominated the Hugh Le Caine Awards category with his works … et le ça and Il y a… il y avait des fleurs. Juror Denis was most impressed with the former work’s “very abstract sounds,” which he found “extremely well organized, with various polyphonic layers.” Bell was struck by the “wonderful, multi-dimensional nature” of that same work, as well as its “strong dramatic trajectory.”

First prize in the Sir Ernest MacMillan Awards, for orchestral works, was won by yet another Montréaler, and also a student of Serge Provost: Patrick Saint-Denis, for his work Le discours aux animaux. Bell noted the piece’s abstract references to bird and whale songs, and admired the fact that these could have appeared cliché, but did not. Saint-Denis was also a first-prize winner last year, in the Godfrey Ridout Awards category.

“The orchestral category was one of the strongest in this year’s competition, and one of the most difficult to narrow down,” remarked Harman. “In the end, I think we succeeded in finding three works that represented technical accomplishment and different ways of approaching the orchestral medium.”

The youngest winner this year was Gabriel Turgeon-Dharmoo of Cap-Rouge, Que., who is just 21 and a composition student of Éric Morin at the Université Laval. He won first prize in the Godfrey Ridout Awards for À L’Homme, for the unusual combination of soprano and contrabass. Allan Bell praised this work’s scintillating colours, its energy and its dramatic structure. This year’s SOCAN Awards for Young Composers attracted 158 works by more than 200 composers from across Canada. “The overall level of the entries covered a very large range,” said Harman, “from young amateurs to accomplished professionals.” “There are names here that no one has yet recognized,” added Bell, “but here they came out to shine.” Entries were judged anonymously. The SOCAN Awards for Young Composers is open to composers under the age of 30 who are members of SOCAN or not members of any other performing rights organization but are Canadian citizens.