Composer Kevin Lau Talks About Ballet, Composition, And Kimiko’s Pearl


Composer Kevin Lau (Photo: Alice Hong)
Composer Kevin Lau (Picture: Alice Hong)

Composer Kevin Lau’s rating for Kimiko’s Pearl, a brand new ballet with choreography by Yosuke Mino (Royal Winnipeg Ballet) will see its world premiere in St. Catharines in June 2024. An orchestral suite based mostly on the ballet music shall be premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra of their 2024/25 season.

That can comply with the latest premiere of Lau’s choral piece Stained Glass Rainbows By way of Cathedral by Toronto’s Cantabile Chamber Singers, and the discharge of his album Beneath A Veil Of Stars (on Leaf Music) final September.

We caught up with the busy composer to speak about Kimiko’s Pearl and different issues.

Stained Glass Rainbows By way of Cathedral Motion 2 by Dr Kevin Lau (premiered March 2, 2024 in Toronto with the Cantabile Chamber Singers):

Composer Kevin Lau: The Interview

A winner of the Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynn-Staunton Award in 2017, Kevin’s work usually revolves round themes of the surreal, and discovering connections in various parts. His music has been commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Nationwide Arts Centre Orchestra, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, amongst others, and has been carried out internationally, and championed by artists like Jonathan Crow, Rachel Mercer, Scott. St. John, Angela Park, Marc Djokic, and others.

His six string quartets have been carried out by the Viano, Tesla, Afiara, Dior, and Cecilia String Quartets, together with others, and two of the quartets had been programmed within the Banff Worldwide String Quartet Competitors. In 2023, his Third String Quartet was chosen because the take a look at piece for the Saint Paul String Quartet Competitors in Minnesota.

His compositional output is various, together with choral and orchestral works, ballets, and work such because the opera-film hybrid Sure, commissioned by In opposition to the Grain Theatre, and carried out by the TSO. Two earlier releases showcasing his music have gained JUNO award, together with Detach (Redshift, with harpist Angela Schwarzkopf) and Mosaique by Ensemble Made in Canada.

Dancers Kyra Soo, Liam Saito, Rachel Gibbs, Nxin Liu, Yayoi Ban in Kimiko’s Pearl (Photo: Alex Heidbuechel)
Kyra Soo, Liam Saito, Rachel Gibbs, Yue Shi, Chenxin Liu, and Yayoi Ban in Kimiko’s Pearl (Picture: Alex Heidbuechel)

He was the Affiliate Composer of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 2012 – 2015.

Kevin’s music could possibly be known as Neo-romantic in type, melodic and evocative, whereas nonetheless completely modern.

“I believe these stylistic classes positively cross my thoughts,” Kevin says, including, “I believe composers aren’t the best individuals to ask about their very own music.”

The feelings of a bit are normally on his thoughts. “I’m usually pondering alongside the strains of expression.” Suggestions tells him whether or not his instincts are proper.

His influences vary from romanticism to modernism to “issues that vary out of classical music,” he explains, corresponding to heavy steel and jazz. “I see myself as being a bit eclectic. […] Intense lyricism tends to be part of a whole lot of my music.”

Synthesizing totally different concepts and parts is one other recurring preoccupation. “I’m within the convergence of various issues in music,” he says. “It’s fascinating if you mix issues that don’t appear to go effectively collectively on the floor.”

The Nationwide Ballet’s premiere of Kevin Lau’s Le Petit Prince (2016):

Ballet & Kimiko’s Pearl

“I like ballet,” he says. It’s not one thing that he essentially had in thoughts as a particular objective from the beginning. “I’ve felt very fortunate to have the chance to be concerned within the creation of ballet.”

He says the expertise has helped him usually phrases to work out the small print of a large-scale challenge. Le Petit Prince with the Nationwide Ballet of Canada was his first. He calls the expertise difficult but additionally very rewarding.

He’s since labored with choreographer Guillaume Cote once more on Darkish Angels, a shorter 30-minute ballet. Kimiko’s Pearl would be the third.

“It does share some elements with the opposite ballets when it comes to the long run narrative,” he explains.

The Canadian authorities dispossessed and displaced greater than 22,000 Japanese Canadians throughout the notorious interval of internment between 1942 and 1949. Kimiko’s Pearl tells the story of the Ayukawa household in Mission B.C. by way of 4 generations.

Dancer Kyra Soo in Kimiko’s Pearl (Photo: Rejean Brandt)
Kyra Soo in Kimiko’s Pearl (Picture: Rejean Brandt)

Based mostly on the true story of the Japanese Canadian internment of WWII, the ballet revolves round themes of conflict, sacrifice and renewal. It was commissioned and produced by Bravo Niagara!, who intend on touring the manufacturing after its world premiere this yr. The particular story is predicated on a bit by Emmy Award-winning author Howard Reich, impressed by the household historical past of Bravo Niagara! co-founders Christine Mori and her daughter Alexis Spieldenner. The pair function co-creators and producers of the ballet.

Kevin’s involvement got here by way of connections to Christine and Alexis. “They knew me principally by way of my affiliation with Niagara Symphony,” he says. Kevin was a composer-in-residence with Niagara Symphony in 2018/19.

They approached him with the concept of working collectively, however the best challenge didn’t come alongside till simply previous to the pandemic. “Christine had the concept to inform the story of her household’s expertise with Japanese internment,” he explains.

The challenge was initially conceived of on a small scale, as a piece of chamber music that could possibly be accompanied by dance. Musicians Ron Korb (flute), Conrad Chow (violin), and Rachel Mercer (cello) shall be performing the music, enriched by Aaron Tsang’s sound design. As the concept developed, it expanded to a full-length narrative of 70 minutes.

The inventive staff was assembled and, after the pause of the pandemic, is lastly continuing to the stage.

An excerpt from Kimiko’s Pearl:

Music, Social Relevance And Therapeutic

Kimiko’s Pearl would be the first time that ballet and classical music have been used to convey the Canadian Japanese internment expertise. The performing arts will be the simplest technique to confront and take care of advanced points.

“I completely do [agree]”, he says. Music can play a key function function with points which can be very troublesome to speak about. “It engages the feelings on a form of degree that’s past the attain of language. It has occupied a really layered place in lots of cultures traditionally.”

In Western society, we are likely to have relegated music to the realm of leisure, however he doesn’t see it as an both/or selection.

“It was fascinating to me that Christine and Alexis selected to inform this story in approach that wasn’t verbal,” he says. It makes the story intense, transferring and cathartic, with out requiring an in depth essay to elucidate its background.

“Once I see it work, and after I expertise it myself […] it could create this exorcism of emotion,” he says. “It may be very profound.”

“My function, as a lot as attainable, particularly on a challenge corresponding to this, is to inform their story,” he says, “to attempt to serve their story, and provides one thing again.”

It’s a approach of therapeutic previous wounds.

His latest album, a sequence of piano trios recorded by cellist Rachel Mercer (who’s additionally concerned in Kimiko’s Pearl), with a bit devoted to Mercer and her husband, violinist Yehonatan Berick, who handed away instantly after recording a part of the album. The album as a complete is devoted to Berick’s reminiscence.

“It was fairly a cathartic course of for me to place collectively that album.”

Kevin is presently engaged on a bit for this summer time’s Ottawa Chamberfest, to be carried out by the Ironwood Quartet with Philip Chiu

  • Discover tickets and extra details about the June 22 and 23 world premiere of Kimiko’s Pearl on the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines [HERE].
  • You may try Kevin’s launch on Leaf Music [HERE].
  • Discover tickets and extra details about the world premiere of Kimiko’s Pearl Orchestral Suite with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra [HERE].

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