Matthew Emery (b.1991) is a Canadian composer whose music has been performed in twenty-five countries. He currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada where he maintains an active composition and teaching studio.
Please contact me for audio recordings, available upon request.
Vertue and Vesper audio:
In the dark pine-wood
I would we lay,
In deep cool shadow
At noon of day.
How sweet to lie there,
Sweet to kiss,
Where the great pine-forest
Thy kiss descending
With a soft tumult
Of thy hair.
O unto the pine-wood
At noon of day
Come with me now,
Sweet love, away.
There is a vale which none hath seen,
Where foot of man has never been,
Such as here lives with toil and strife,
An anxious and a sinful life.
There every virtue has its birth,
Ere it descends upon the earth,
And thither every deed returns,
Which in the generous bosom burns.
There love is warm, and youth is young,
And poetry is yet unsung.
For Virtue still adventures there,
And freely breathes her native air.
And ever, if you hearken well,
You still may hear its vesper bell,
And tread of high-souled men go by,
Their thoughts conversing with the sky.
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie:
The dew shall weep thy fall to night;
For thou must die.
Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye:
Thy root is ever in its grave
And thou must die.
Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My musick shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.
Onely a sweet and vertuous soul,
Like season'd timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.
25 min long work in 11 movements inspired by buildings in Toronto and Montreal.
Please contact me if you would like to perform this work! Only a few movements have been performed.
Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Percussion (bongo, vibraphone, cymbal, tom-tom and snare drum) and Piano
This work is inspired by architecture, and it marks my first serious foray into writing chamber music. The five movement suite is sewn together with repeating musical links or sidewalks as I see them, in the form of a Prelude, various Interludes and Postlude; these movements share a common time signature and theme. In between these traveling gestures are pieces that are influenced in someway by buildings.
Prelude, Interlude and Postlude: fast and fleeting, these short fragments break up the seriousness of the buildings. The music offers a cleansing transition using a light atmosphere with a whimsical rhythmic vitality. The instrumentation ranges from solo, duet, trio, quartet and full ensemble writing.
2600 Pierre-Dupuy Ave:
Habitat67 was constructed for Expo67 in Montreal Canada. It was designed by Moshe Safdie. He planned the work using Lego bricks – the story is he bought out all the bricks in Montreal stores. It is a brutlist style featuring large concrete blocks that were built elsewhere and combined on site. The music is in a linear form, organically developing from the opening gesture. This linear style is influenced by Habitats shape.
44 Charles Street West:
The Manulife Centre is a brutilist building, and a staple of Toronto architecture. It was completed in 1974 and at the time was the tallest concrete building in Canada. Currently it is 80th tallest building in the country, and 32nd tallest in the city. The piano motif articulates the A sections, meant to capture the rich history of Bloor street and the ‘Mink Mile’ where the building is situated. The percussion in featured in the B section; it represents the Manulife Centre’s dominating, huge scale. It is undeniable taking up an entire city block and always present in the city. The instruments flicker and weave around the ever present percussion, as if to portray the light reflecting off the concrete squares, or other buildings glass reflections and also the colourful inhabitants who live in the apartments.
438 Richmond Street West:
Known as “The Morgan” this condo is in the heart of the Toronto fashion district, it captures the Art Decco style of 1920’s Manhattan NY. The music recreates the tension the city can bring; the hustle and bustle of the city, always moving, sometimes safe, sometimes violent. There are moments of calm repose juxtaposed with chromatic outbursts illuminating the fluidity of city life.
460-480 Queens Quay West:
Arthur Erickson’s “Kings Landing” (1981) building has long horizontal concrete lines with terraces and solariums which curve and flow, emulating lapping waves from the lake. This work for violin and piano captures the beauty of Lake Ontario, as well as the ominous storms and freezing winter ice articulating natures power.
383 Ellis Park:
This building known as “Home on the Park” sits at the edge of Toronto’s High Park. The building is almost hidden due to the large terraces which flow into the High Park trees. There is a blurred boundary between condo and park. The music captures the rolling hills, wildlife trails, zoo and water of the park.
Prelude full ensemble
2600 Pierre-Dupuy Ave – full ensemble
Interlude – flute, clarinet and piano
44 Charles Street West – full ensemble
Interlude – full ensemble
438 Richmond Street West – flute, clarinet, violin and percussion
A unique piece written for a collogue at U of T, Boyce Jeffries Jr for a double keyboard percussion solo.
This work takes inspiration from Nobel award winning poet Tomas Tranströmer (1931-2015). I am constantly drawn to his poetry. His work uses deep imagery to point to what is already here, rather than create something unneeded. He often elevates the everyday, reminding us that what we need is often close by.The following excerpts are placed throughout the score
“The only thing I want to say gleams out of reach”
“Here, it’s mostly a struggle between roots, numbers, transitions of light”
“The calendar is full but the future blank”
“Colours meet and blend into each other in the dampened pages of a child’s painting book”
These poetic images inspired me while writing the piece. They illuminate deeper thoughts the music holds for me.The music often juxtaposes florid, almost improvisatory gestures with more strict and rigid ostinato passages. The intersection between simple and complex, or measurable and the almost unmeasurable is my attempt to translate Tranströmer’s images into music.
from the Selected Poems of Marjorie Pickthall 1883-1922. In public domain.
I shall say, Lord, “Is it music, is it morning, Song that is fresh as sunrise, light that sings?” When on some hill there breaks the immortal warning Of half-forgotten springs.
I shall say, Lord, “I have loved you, not another, Heard in all quiet your footsteps on my road, Felt your strong shoulder near me, O my brother, Lightening the load.”
I shall say, Lord, “I remembered, working, sleeping, One face I looked for, one denied and dear. Now that you come my eyes are blind with weeping, But you will kiss them clear.”
I shall say, Lord, “Touch my lips, and so unseal them; I have learned silence since I lived and died.” I shall say, Lord, “Lift my hands, and so reveal them, Full, satisfied.”
I shall say, Lord, “We will laugh again tomorrow, Now we’ll be still a little, friend with friend. Death was the gate and the long way was sorrow. Love is the end.”
Resurgam is a blending of styles and traditions. This work combines instruments and voices in many ways and archetypes. At times, the instruments provide harmonic and melodic support for the voices, and at other times, the instruments take on the melodic forefront while the voices drone, echo or provide harmonic support in the background.
I attempt to blend ideas of Renaissance polyphonic writing and polychoral styles alongside more traditional Classical homophonic chorale-like textures. Resurgam combines these traditions with innovation by writing with contemporary melodic gestures featuring large leaps, angular passages, diatonic dissonance, unresolved dissonances and chromatic writing while still maintaing a singable and tuneful composition.
The form of the work follows the form of the poem; each stanza has a unique ‘I Shall Say Lord” motive which is varied and used throughout the composition. This opening gesture is followed by a chorale-like setting of the remainder of the stanza. In between each stanza is a interlude which predominately features instrumental passages. The middle a cappella section gives way to the climax of the composition with a single clarinet connecting the sections. Here the full ensemble joins together in melodic ideas and fragmentation of previous musical material. Resurgam slowly closes in a calm, reflective ethos.
This piece takes influence from the pop tune “I’m a Train” with a light heartiness feel and fast, train-like speed at which the song explores. This new composition has a folk inspired melody in two parts. It combines folk and contemporary writing; the slower cadences exemplify a more contemporary use of harmony and voice leading while the piano texture and verse melodies of the choir speak to a more traditional folk aesthetic. The piece is somewhat of a theme and variation form. Each verse and refrain repeat ideas while adding something new, or changing subtly. At times the instrumentation changes (which voice part sings at a time) or the texture changes (number of voices singing, or accompaniment is left out [optional]). The piano part changes throughout the short composition adding interest while providing a stable foundation for the choir.
The lyrics are adapted from a poem from the ‘Songs From the Age of Steam” no. 473 ‘Western Railroad’ The author is unknown, but the words date back to 1863 and can be found in the British Library (Shelfmark HS.74/1570/59). I freely adapted the text to suit my needs, the original poem is longer and some of the lyrics are in a different order in the original poem.
Commissioned by the Amabile Choir’s of London, Carol Beynon
In This Wide World is a piece which removes all that is not needed. The piano is steadfast in its clarity, the melodic ideas float in and out of the pianos gestures. The original poem is adapted freely. The music moves from unison lines to two and three part writing; the song ends in four part lines which weave and intermingle.
SAB CP 1742
SA CP 1743
Here On The Top Of Vimy Ridge I Stand
Full poem below (BOLD is text used for this composition)
By Andrew Lane ~ 1917
Here on the top of Vimy Ridge I stand And looking out behold so vast a land
Still dear to France though mauled by alien hand
So long a time. What wreckage here, where once was landscape fair
What woeful damage done beyond compare To this broad plain below, so rare so rare Which once did smile.
There in the valley lies the village torn
By German shell and rendered quite forlorn
Where not long since youth wandered night and morn
And breathed its love.
What is that grey streak in the distance far?
A chalky trench which Germans try to mar
And rob there from the flower of the war
With cruel shell.
Here is some lonely but triumphant grave
Of some much loved unknown Canadian brave
Who gave his life, freedom and truth to save For all mankind.
There, there and there wherever one may look
One sees that Death has swung his reaping hook
And then swift winged forsook, in faith forsook
The noble dead.
Is this the end, the end of godly fight?
Or is there something still more radiant bright?
Can not it be that upward into Light
Their souls have flown? When shall it end, when all this torture cease?
When liberty can get an age long lease
To unmolested roam where’er she please In this wide world.
So there is something greater than to breathe
It is to keep alive life’s verities
To keep Light’s flickering torch aglow and leave
The rest to God.
Mr. Gordon Lane (London, Ontario) submitted his father’s First World War poems which had only recently been rediscovered. Andrew Lane was a Gunner with the 43rd Battery Canadian Field Artillery. The unit was commissioned in 1916 by Lt. Col. David McCrae, John McCrae’s father. Gunner Lane’s poems written in 1917- 1918, provide us with a contemporary soldier’s thoughts and emotions.
Commissioned by the TVDSB for the 2017 All City Choir Night.
Marjorie Pickthall (1833-1922) was born in England, but lived most of her life in Toronto, and died in Vancouver. From a young age she had some success as a poet, but shortly fell out of the canon of Canadian literature. Daisy Time is one of the poems that remained well-known since its inception. Although Pickthall is an underrated and somewhat un- known poet, she speaks of everyday images that elevate the ordinary. Her direct and clear poems resonate with me and help me to navigate the world we live in. Honeyed Hearts is a song that speaks to times or moments in ones past that we love to remember, or hope to experience again. The melody is set in a flexible and free style. The flowing and whimsical melodies are my attempt to create a sense of nostalgia. The piano often plays straight quarter notes acting as the songs heartbeat, or it joins in the whimsically flowing passages to add movement and support alongside the choir.