What Canadian composers write for wind ensemble?
How does their music reflect our national heritage and identity?
Are Canadian composers able to make a living from music?
Louis Applebaum is a highly-regarded composer, best known for his music for the theatre and film. Probably his most recognizable work is the famous fanfare played before every performance at the Stratford Festival. One of the standards among Canadian works for band is his Suite of Miniature Dances. While it is scored for a fairly large band, it is written almost like delicate chamber music.
More about Louis Applebaum
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Louis Applebaum
Canadian Music Centre Composer Showcase: Louis Applebaum
All Music: Louis Applebaum
Internet Movie Database (IMDb): Louis Applebaum
Wikipedia: Louis Applebaum
Ben Bolden is a noted music educator associated with the Faculty of Education at Queens University. He specializes in community music making, both as an educator and as a composer. His work St.John’s, 1828 is one of the Canadian band pieces best adapted for performance by a community band.
More about Benjamin Bolden
Howard Cable is the doyen of Canadian composition. Well past his 90th year he continues to conduct his own music across Canada and to compose and arrange more important music, especially for bands and for wind instruments in general. He has for much of his career favoured drawing his melodic material from folk and popular sources. Listen to The Banks of Newfoundland (above) and Snake Fence Country . While he is a master of orchestral colour, especially for the band, he has written some important works with entirely original material. Listen to the Stratford Suite conducted by Cable himself.
In the video above, Howard Cable rehearses his Banks of Newfoundland with the Wellington Winds. The video below shows an interview between Cable and conductor Dan Warren. Here the composer, who was 89 years young at the time, shows a deep personal experience of the musical life in through much of the 20th century. He is a remarkable man.
More about Howard Cable
See more videos on our Howard Cable YouTube Playlist.
Morley Calvert was, along with Howard Cable, one of the first Canadian composers to gain widespread success with his works for band. He was a gifted conductor of choirs, bands and brass bands. His long association with brass instruments, including as a fine euphonium player, mean that much of his music appears in various forms among which brass ensembles are featured. His compositional idiom is traditional, and he left us a wonderful work very much in the style of Mendelssohn, the Romantic Variations, above. The Canadian Folksong Suite is one of the best of its kind. Here it is, performed by a Salvation Army brass band.
More about Morley Calvert
Donald Coakley is one of Canada’s most performed composers of band music. Having worked for many years with bands as a high school music teacher and administrator, he understands the medium exceptionally well and has written extensively for it. As a student of the American composer Vincent Persichetti, Donald Coakley exhibits an exceptional command of counterpoint. Vive la Canadienne, one of his best known works, is an exciting concert opener.
More about Donald Coakley
Johnny Cowell has had a remarkable career both as one of Canada’s most celebrated trumpet soloists and as a composer and arranger. He is best known as a composer of songs, but he includes some very successful original band compositions such as the solo for trumpet and band, Sangre del toro bravo, performed here by the WWS music director, Daniel Warren.
More about Johnny Cowell
Vincent Gassi is one of Canada’s most successful composers of original, quality music for school bands, and his music is widely available in both the Canada and the United States. Having made a successful career in music composition, he is a role model for young Canadian composers.
More about Vincent Gassi
John Herberman is one of Canada’s leading film composers, a career to which he has devoted himself with great philosophical passion. He conducted us in his own composition, The Fisher Who Died in His Bed. Here you have the rare opportunity to view both the performance and the rehearsal.
Wellington Wind Symphony music director took some time to interview John Herberman about music, the music industry, and the composer’s life in music.
More about John Herberman
André Jutras is an exceptionally gifted musician, comfortable in many different musical roles. His music for band reflects this in its convincing naturalness and complete command of the American practice of band music. His Three Folk Miniatures is justifiably one of the most popular Canadian works for concert band.
More about André Jutras
Michael Purves-Smith has had a diverse career in music as a professor of music, composer, conductor and performer on the oboe, recorder, and keyboards. His compositions range from operas to music for solo piano. He has also written many works for concert band. Most of it was written for special performances by the Wellington Wind Symphony or the wind ensemble of the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University and is technically demanding. The WWS YouTube channel offers a good selection of his wind ensemble music. Michael Purves-Smith is a former music director of the Wellington Wind Symphony.
More about Michael Purves-Smith
Canadian Music Centre Composer’s Showcase: Michael Purves-Smith
Composer Michael Purves-Smith’s website
Michael Purves-Smith talks about two pieces of choral music
All Music: Michael Purves-Smith
Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Music news story
Jack Sirulnikoff has frequently written for concert band, often in a charming novelty mode, Polka Dots. His best know work for the medium is his Nova Scotia Fantasy which is based on folk songs from the region.
More about Jack Sirulnikoff
Joseph Vézina (1849 – 1924)
Joseph Vézina is one of the first Canadian composers to write original music for wind band. Among many honours in his long and distinguished career he conducted, in 1880, the first performance of O Canada by his former teacher Calixa Lavallée and in 1902 he was the founding music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec. This rather prolific composer was working on his fourth opera at the time of his death. The example we include here, Première Neige, is a typical occasional piece in the style of open air band stand music from the turn of the twentieth century.
More about Joseph Vézina
David Arthur – Arranger
Dave Arthur would not call himself a composer. His contributions to new repertoire for the band have been mostly in the field of transcription. However, the piece represented here is an interesting hybrid, in as much as he uses well known tunes to set a famous piece of prose with music which is otherwise entirely his own. Thus we can say that the art of arrangement is different from transcription and different again from pure composition.
More about Dave Arthur
Questions to Drive Further Inquiry
- What is the composer’s main instrument? Is it evident that the composer writes especially well for that instrument?
- Can a composition have a national “flavour”?
- Do you enjoy playing music by Canadian composers? If so, why?
- Some people have said that Canadian composers reflect our cold climate in their music. Can you find any indication of that in the music you know by Canadian composers?
- All of the composers on this website are male. Are there any noted Canadian female composers? Are they writing music for band?
Links for further exploration
Suggestions to guide your research