Dr. 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.

4 min
SSA a cappella
Text: Raymond Knister (public domain)
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Commissioned by the Oriana Women’s Choir (Toronto)

Raymond Knister:

Novelist, short-story writer, and poet, John Raymond Knister was born in 1899 at Ruscomb, near Stoney Point, Lake St. Clair, where he drowned while swimming in August 1932. He left his widow Myrtle Gamble and a daughter Imogen Givens. Educated at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and Iowa State University, Knister made a sparse living first on his father’s farm near Blenheim, Ontario, and then as a journalist, man of letters, and editorial staff member of Ryerson Press. He lived in Chicago, Toronto, Hanlan’s Point, Port Dover, and Montreal. His two published novels are White Narcissus (1929) and My Star Predominant, the latter about the last years of the John Keats. Knister edited Canadian Short Stories in 1928. It was left to others to collect and publish his imagistic poetry: Dorothy Livesay in Collected Poems (1949), and David Arnason in Raymond Knister: Poems, Stories, and Essays (1975). Anne Burke published Raymond Knister: An Annotated Bibliography in 1981.


Poem in complete unabridged form:

Thin ridges of land unploughed Along the tree-rows
Covered with long cream grasses Wind-torn.

Brown sand between them, Blue boughs above.
… .
Row and row of waves ever In the breaking;

Ever in arching and convulsed Imminence;
Roll of muddy sea between; Low clouds down-pressing And pallid and streaming rain.

Notes from the composer:

This poem is in the imagist style. The composition alternates non text with text, this juxtaposition is meant to suggest to the listener that there is something beyond the immediate; an alternation of imagined verses reality. The music is presented without text first, transporting the listener somewhere else, they are then comforted by the same, or familiar music with text from the poem which offers another image to ponder. “The Orchard on the Slope” is a musical reflection, offering a moment of repose in our world.

two part voices a cappella

2 min duration

text by Raymond Knister

Pavane 2021 {email composer for copy}

Commissioned by the Amabile Choirs of London, Canada

This work should be performed as fast as musically possible. The repetitive nature of the poem, and the poems subject matter informs the style and musical gestures of the composition.

Raymond Knister was a Canadian poet known for his work on themes of rural life, “Plowman’s Song” speaks to this theme. Dorothy Livesay wrote “Knister seemed to epitomize the struggle of a generation” and his work “showed the effects of the many forces which were changing Canadian society”

“Plowman’s Song” R. Knister {public domain}

Turn under, plow, My trouble; Turn under griefs And stubble.

Turn mouse’s nest, Gnawing years; Old roots up For love’s new tears.

Turn, plow, the clods For new thunder. Turn under, plow, Turn under.

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SATB a cappella (no divisi)

Commissioned by Bishop Watterson High School, Ohio USA [Ryan Jenkins]

3 min

Text by Marjorie Pickthall

“The Road I Trod” is an anthem for mixed chorus, with no divisi. It features a unison opening which presents the melody clearly. The tenors and basses enter on a drone while the soprano and alto sing the melody again, in a canon. The voices join together at the cadence to bringing a sense of closure. The work develops with an imitative section with staggered entries of each section culminating in a final passage with expressive swells in the soprano, tenor and bass while the alto sings the melody again.

The anthem speaks to themes about home, joy, love, togetherness and finding comfort in faith. The canonic texture speaks to images of wandering, and longing, while the homophonic cadences reassure us, a coming together in completeness. The imitative sections bring about ideas of loss of faith and questioning of faith – journeying. Again, the homophonic cadential ideas warm us and put us back together, they heal us.

The text is an excerpt from British born, Canadian poet Marjorie Pickthall. The poem “Going Home” in the public domain worldwide.

TEXT: O, had your hand been in my hand
As the long chalk-road I trod,
The green hills of the lovely land
Had seemed the hills of God.


Matthew Emery’s DMA Composition Recital featuring music inspired by architecture.

“Buildings” for chamber ensemble and “Barren Cabin, Tin Roof” for chamber ensemble and mixed chorus.

Performers: The Elmer Iseler Singers – Lydia Adams, Marie Bérard [violin], Eric Abramovitz [clarinet], Leslie Newman [flute], Jamie Drake [percussion], and Yvonne Choi [piano]

March 29th, 5:00pm, Free Admission. St. Anne’s Anglican Church (Toronto)

Facebook Event Link

The Crane Is My Neighbour

Unison Voices and Piano

Boosey and Hawkes 2019

Purchase/see score

The bird is a noble, he turns to the sky for a theme,
And the ripples are thoughts coming out to the edge of a dream.
How patient he is as he puts out his wings for the blue!
His eyes are as old as the twilight, and calm as the dew.
The bird is my neighbour, he leaves not a claim for a sigh,
He moves as the guest of the sunlight-he roams in the sky.
The bird is a noble, he turns to the sky for a theme,
And the ripples are thoughts coming out to the edge of a dream.
John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942)

Neilson’s poem speaks to something that is immortal, a companion to guide us through life. The unison voices are independent from the accompaniment and provide an important opportunity for your singers to develop strong musicianship.

Tomorrow I’ll Be Tomorrow

String Quartet

Commissioned by the Interro Quartet (Toronto)

10 min duration

Premiered Nov 2019, Toronto

Published by Plangere Editions


excerpt [reading]

Notes from the composer:

Tomorrow I’ll Be Tomorrow is a work inspired by the idea of “uncluttered sparseness” (Salumets)- that is a deepening toward the the simple, the natural; the essential. The music presents something that may be seen or heard as unremarkable, and that that is an ideal. It is my attempt as a composer to represent, rather than capture a mood or feeling. Musically, ostinati figures are juxtaposed chorale-like textures. Various timbres are used from punta d’arco, sul tasto, pizzicato, harmonics and muted playing evocatively hue the musical colours.

Three Part Voices and Piano

Text by a member of the Atlantic Girls Choir, adapted by Matthew Emery

4 min duration

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Commissioned by the Atlantic Girls Choir 


Where is our strength when the worlds gone wrong
How do we know our future is bright
Standing together we grow strong
Drown ignorance out of its light
and make a future for everyone
stand with your sisters, mothers and friends
brothers we need your help with this fight
Standing together
Hands together were
We Celebrate each other,
And make our world strong

Stand together
Unite our voices
Fight this injustice
With strong rejoices
Love each other for who they are
Love each person no matter their scars
Strength, and resilience smiling through
You are valued and we love you

we grow strong sample


2222 4221 1 + Timp Strings (min: 87654)

Percussion: Bass Drum only

6.5 min duration

Plangere Editions 2019

Purchase conductors score orchestra version

please email me for rental score and parts

“Unanswered Letters” is a lyrical piece which unfolds using variations in colour and textures. The music is inspired by the ideas of the ordinary: dishes left undone, emails unanswered – mail that goes unopened. I am inspired by things that may be seen as unremarkable by others by searching out beauty in everyday life.

It is a work that is inspired by the lists we make: things to do, things we want to do, hope to do, should do, don’t do. The work is a piece which strips away the unnecessary and whats left is only what is needed.

Premiered by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra January 2020.

Read by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, upcoming performances by the Windsor Community Orchestra, University of Toronto Campus Philharmonic Orchestra and Etobicoke Philharmonic

Listen to a 20 second clip, archival recording not for commercial use