Program notes: Being premiered on Remembrance Day, this is a story of remembrance. It tells of a time in history, of the conflict of war and its impact on those caught in the middle of it, of a courageous woman who finds hope and a way forward through the challenges and obstacles life puts in her path. It is inspired by the life of my grandmother, Esther (Irina). It was only very recently that my family learned that she was Jewish – which threw a whole new light on the events of her life: She grew up in Siberia, after WWI married a Czech soldier, lived in China, had two children, during WWII was stranded for three years in Berlin, then finally reached her husband’s homeland to begin yet another new life.
In order to escape persecution, Esther had to change her name to Irina. She was faced with one challenge after another as her life intertwined with historical events of the first half of the twentieth century. In writing the text I tried to imagine how she must have felt – her moments of happiness in the midst of a life filled with stress, sadness, and danger. The piece explores and celebrates the importance of family, of home, of love. composer Jana Skarecky
The piece was composed for soprano Clarisse Tonigussi. Soprano Clarisse Tonigussi is the director and founder of The Canadian Women Composers (CWC) Project, an organization that celebrates music by Canadian female-identifying composers. She has sung with Opera Atelier, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Theatre of Early Music, Canadian Arts Institute, Opera York, Barrie Lyrica Chamber Choir, Hedgerow Singers, Opera Luminata, and Summer Opera Lyric Theatre. In the 2017/18 season, Clarisse toured Canada with a CWC Project recital and in 2018/19 performed a series of recitals in the general Toronto area championing the works of Canadian women. She recently completed an Undergraduate and Masters in Music from the University of Toronto.
She will perform it together with collaborative pianist Narmina Afandiyeva. Narmina Afandiyeva was born in Baku (Azerbaijan). A fourth-generation musician, Narmina never had to think about her occupational choice. After an early start, she gave her premiere solo concert at the age of 6. During her studies at the Bülbül Specialized musical school under the guidance of Adelya Vekilova, Narmina frequently gave solo concerts and performed with the orchestra.
In 2000 Narmina graduated from the U. Hadjibeyov Azerbaijan State Conservatory with a Master’s degree. During her studies, she became a prize-winner in many piano contests in Azerbaijan. In June 2011, Narmina gave her first concert in Toronto, at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church. In October 2011, she was awarded the Gwendolyn Koldofsky Prize in Accompanying (University of Toronto, Faculty of Music). Narmina has been working as a music director and pianist for Toronto Opera in Concert,Toronto Operetta Theatre and other companies. In demand as a collaborative pianist and coach, Narmina continues to perform as a solo pianist.
Being involved in many great projects, Narmina has the honour to work with Canadian composers,such as Victor Davies and Peter Togni, and enjoys working under the batons of Robert Cooper, Derek Bate and Larry Beckwith.
Composer Jana Skarecky was born in Prague on November 11, 1957. She came to Canada with her family in 1968 and grew up in Waterloo (her father taught mechanical engineering at U of W). She studied composition at WLU with Barrie Cabena (B.Mus.), piano with Erhard Schlenker (ARCT in Performance), and French horn with Felix Acevedo; later composition with Peter Sculthorpe at the University of Sydney in Australia (M.Mus.)
Jana has written music for solo voice, choir, instrumental solo and chamber groups, and orchestra. Her compositions have been performed in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The Land Sings (for 2 bass clarinets, percussion & organ) commissioned by Numus was premiered in 2017 in Waterloo. Her orchestral work Streams opened Hammerson Hall of the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. Jana loves writing for the voice, and setting poetry to music. Green and Gold for soprano and piano (settings of poetry by P.K. Page) was part of Clarisse Tonigussi’s 2017 Canada tour. Some of Jana’s choral music is published by Alliance Publications, Inc. (www.apimusic.org). Her one-woman opera Emily, the Way You Are (with a libretto by Di Brandt) continues to be received enthusiastically by audiences. Jana is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, has been Chair of the Association of Canadian Women Composers, and has served on the National Council of the Canadian League of Composers.
She is also active as a visual artist, painting primarily with acrylics, and as a photographer. She often composes and paints in parallel, exploring how the two media interact. She teaches piano and theory and examines for the Royal Conservatory of Music, and she is the translator of The Foundations of Modern Harmony by Karel Janeček from Czech into English which will be published by WLU Press in December. Jana has two grown daughters, and lives with her husband Paul out in the country near Binbrook, Ontario.
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