World Premier at National Arts Centre on Canada Day

This article originally appeared in the
Association of Canadian Women Composers (ACWC) bulletin News & Review (Spring 2005, page 10).

Photo: UNISONG Massed Choir (NAC: Canada, 2004)

Canada Day celebrations in our nation’s capital are usually quite impressive. But for Ottawa-based composer, lyricist and arranger Joanna Estelle Canada Day 2004 will always be a memorable one. Her latest choral composition “Canada Forever Free” was world premiered at the National Arts Centre (NAC) by the UNISONG 2004 Massed Choir as part of the Canada Day festivities in the National Capital Region.

UNISONG is an annual choral festival at the end of June dedicated to celebrating Canada in song. Children’s and youth choirs from across the country are invited to Ottawa to rehearse for three days, perform in a variety of venues, and then, come together to form a massed choir to participate in Canada Day concerts at the NAC. Every year, an outstanding choral director is selected to plan the NAC program and conduct the massed choir. The UNISONG 2004 guest conductor was Dr. Leonard Ratzlaff, Chair of the Music Department, University of Alberta.

“Canada Forever Free was written as a tribute to my grandparents, who fled their home in the Ukraine in the early 1920’s to escape political persecution. Like many others, they came to Canada with nothing and courageously built new lives for themselves and their families in a land of opportunity and freedom,” recalls Joanna. “Sitting in the audience of the NAC with a full house, listening to almost 400 children and youth sing my love for and gratitude to Canada was a thrill that I will never forget. All the performers were dressed in red and white outfits and they stood, row upon row, in front of a huge Canadian flag that covered the entire backdrop. This was only the second time that I had heard my piece performed - the first being the night before at the dress rehearsal. Hearing all of those pure, young voices singing the words and music that had been in my head since 1998 sent chills up and down my spine, and brought me to tears more than once.”

“This has been a very good summer for me musically,” concludes Joanna. “In addition to the NAC debut, I was also fortunate to have another composition “Faraway Star” performed several times on the Peace Tower Carillon, Parliament Hill, by Gordon Slater, the Dominion Carillonneur. Gordon has played this piece often in concert, including at the 2001 International Carillon Festival in Barcelona, Spain. With the support of excellent musicians like Gordon, Canadian women composers can look forward with confidence to a bright future in this country.“

Joanna Estelle was elected as the National Treasurer of the ACWC/AFCC in 2003 and has been a member since 2002.

Photo: Joanna Estelle