Three new compositions written by distinguished composers Benjamin Ellin, Charles Heller and David Jaeger will receive world premieres during the SoWeCa Festival in May.
Baker Massacre 1870, by Benjamin Ellin, Thunder and Raven by David Jaeger and Two Ravens by Charles Heller were commissioned by festival director Rivka Golani.
The festival consists of four concerts Friday, May 23 at The Key City Theatre in Cranbrook, B.C., Saturday, May 24 at Knox United Church in Fernie, B.C., Sunday, May 25 at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump near Fort Macleod and Monday, May 26 at University of Lethbridge Recital Hall.
The first three concerts are at 7:30 p.m., with the U of L concert starting at 8 p.m.
“The festival draws from southwest Canada history and culture,” Key City Theatre managing director Gerard Gibbs said.
The event had its beginnings at the Empress Theatre as the Fort Macleod International Festival and is now based out of the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook.
Benjamin Ellin is the director of the Pembroke Academy of Music, London, the music director at Thursford, principal conductor of the Slaithwaite Philharmonic and artistic director of Every Music for Every Body.
This season Ellin is conducting concert and opera performances in London, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Montpellier, Moscow, Montreal and several others.
Ellin has appeared with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Russian State Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and many others.
Ellin was awarded the Barlow Endowment Prize for composition in September 2009 and his commission for a trombone concerto will receive its premiere by the New York Philharmonic’s Principal in 2011.
“Baker Massacre is the third installment in a series of works I have now written for Rivka inspired by the history and culture of the Blackfoot,” Ellin said. “Each time I have been to Canada, and Alberta in particular, I feel I have learned a little more about the people, the history and the legacy of some of the events.”
“I am acutely aware of the importance of the Baker Massacre and I hope more than anything that I have paid homage to it and the effect it had on the people associated with it in a most sincere, uncompromising and honest manner,” Ellin added. “I fear that tragedies such as the Baker Massacre are happening right now on our watch. Therefore, this is a story that really deserves to be told and one that holds as much resonance now across the globe as it does at an immediate level where it occurred.”
The Baker Massacre — also known as the Marias Massacre or the Piegan Massacre — was a massacre of a friendly band of Piegan Blackfoot Indians on January 23, 1870 by the United States Army in Montana Territory during the Indian Wars. About 200 people were killed, mostly women and children, and elderly men.
The army mistakenly attacked a band led by Heavy Runner, a chief who had been promised protection by the United States government.
“Ellin’s composition will certainly add depth and meaning to this unique festival,” Gibbs said.
Charles Heller has been involved for more than 50 years in synagogue music, beginning as a boy soprano aged eight, and acting as chorister, choir director, accompanist and arranger in London and Toronto.
Heller’s work with Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue in Toronto was recognized by the United Synagogue of America with the Solomon Schechter Award for Music in 1982.
Heller has performed with major 20th century figures such as Cantor David Kusevitsky and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
Heller’s arrangements and original compositions are used in synagogues and in concerts throughout the world, having been performed by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, orchestras in Houston, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and elsewhere, and with artists such as Marvin Hamlisch and Boris Brott.
Heller’s work has been commissioned by Duo Bohemia (Berlin), the London Jewish Male Choir and others.
“The idea for Two Ravens grew out of Rivka’s work with First Nations and her commitment to the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam (repairing the world),” Heller said. “It has been a great pleasure for me to work with her and with the outstanding Israeli flautist Noam Buchman.”
“Two Ravens pictures a meeting of a Jewish raven — we hear of him in the Psalms — and the iconic West Coast raven, famous as a trickster but also important as a communicator. Through their singing and ecstatic flight they work together and encourage humans to do the same through music.”
The four day SoWeCa Festival attracts musicians who perform internationally on the world’s top stages and who are recording artists at the leading edge of classical music.
Details can be viewed at www.soweca.com.