2018: Kelly-Marie Murphy
En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All is One)
Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music
With music described as “breathtaking” (Kitchener-Waterloo Record), “imaginative and expressive” (The National Post), “a pulse-pounding barrage on the senses” (The Globe and Mail), and “Bartok on steroids” (Birmingham News), Kelly-Marie Murphy’s voice is well known on the Canadian music scene. She has created a number of memorable works for some of Canada’s leading performers and ensembles, including the Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, The Gryphon Trio, James Campbell, Shauna Rolston, the Cecilia and Afiara String Quartets and Judy Loman.
In addition to many academic scholarships awarded in Canada and England, Dr. Murphy also has won numerous prizes for her music, including the 2017 Maria Anna Mozart Award from Symphony Nova Scotia. Her career was launched when she won first prize and the People’s Choice Award at the CBC Young Composer’s Competition in 1994 (string quartet category). Since then, Dr. Murphy’s music has been performed around the world by outstanding soloists and ensembles, and has had radio broadcasts in over 22 countries. Her music has been interpreted by renowned conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis, David Brophy, Bramwell Tovey and Mario Bernardi, and has been heard in iconic concert halls, such as Carnegie Hall in New York City and The Mozarteum in Salzburg.
Kelly-Marie Murphy was born on a NATO base in Sardegna, Italy, and grew up on Canadian Armed Forces bases all across Canada. She began her studies in composition at the University of Calgary with William Jordan and Allan Bell, and later received a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Leeds, England, where she studied with Philip Wilby. After living and working for many years in the Washington D.C. area where she was designated “an alien of extraordinary ability” by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, she is now based in Ottawa.
En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All Is One)
Kelly-Marie Murphy was born on a NATO base in Sardegna and grew up in various Canadian Armed Forces bases across Canada. She began her studies in composition at the University of Calgary and received her Ph.D. from the University of Leeds, England. She now lives in Ottawa, where she teaches composition and orchestration at the University of Ottawa. Murphy began accumulating prizes and awards in 1992, when she won the first annual New Works CalgaryComposers’ Competition. A quarter of a century later she has acquired some two dozen more prizes and awards from England, France, Canada and the U.S., the most recent of which is the $50,000 2018 Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music, the largest prize of its kind in Canada. Dr. Sharon Azrieli, who conceived the awards for the Azrieli Foundation, commented that Kelly-Marie Murphy is “the next vital and integral partner to our vision of sustaining the glorious continuity of Jewish music.”
Murphy’s wide-ranging catalogue includes concerted works for harp and orchestra (And Then at Night I Paint the Stars, 2002) and for cello and orchestra (This the Colour of My Dreams, 1997). Now she combines these two solo instruments in a single composition, her double concerto for harp and cello entitled En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All Is One). There may not be another concerted work for this pair of instruments anywhere. Tonight’s performance marks the twenty-minute concerto’s world premiere.
The title comes from a Sephardic proverb that, in Murphy’s words, “encourages us to understand that we are all equal; once you remove the trappings of society and economy, we are more similar than we are different. Each of the four movements uses music from the Sephardic tradition as its source; specifically, Ladino [the language of Spanish and Portuguese Jews] folk songs. I chose songs that were somehow related to women’s lives and the importance of ‘mother.’ The concept can be as literal as mother to children, or as broad as Israel as the mother of the faith.”
The first movement uses a Lamenta from Bulgaria. It is “for the most part slow and lyrical,” says the composer. “The lyricism is often interrupted by a loud, rhythmic, jagged line. We register these interruptions but carry on with the progression of events. This illustrates how we are able to acknowledge and turn away from brutality and sadness in our own lives and history.” The opening words are “Mother, mother, rain falls from the heavens. Tears fall from my eyes.”
“Si veriash a la rana is a Ladino children’s song found in Turkey and the Balkans,” continues Murphy. “It is a fast, rhythmic and humorous teaching song that instructs girls how to enjoy the chores of the kitchen, reminding them that they share those chores with their sisters. Following a soloistic opening based on prayer modes, the music launches into a dance-like section that presents the folk song.”
The third movement (Yigdal No. 2) is a cadenza for the two solo instruments plus vibraphone. It is modal, but incorporates threads of the Yigdal (a liturgical prayer or hymn expressing the faith of Israel in God) as it is sung in Constantinople.
The final movement is based on two songs: Noches, noches, buenos noches a romance most likely from Sarajevo and Ven Chicka Nazlia (“Come little tease,”) a fun, flirtatious song most likely from Turkey. The movement arrives without pause, immediately following the cadenza. The first part, slow and atmospheric, consists of a canonic presentation of the theme from Noches, noches. The remainder of the movement is built on the fast and uplifting melody from Ven Chicka Nazlia.