High Notes | Spring 2018 Edition


Welcome to the Spring 2018 edition of High Notes

In this issue, we talk to sound ecologist Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) about technology, gender, and "trusting your inner voice." We showcase the School of Music's rare and beautiful "Zell" harpsichord, newly renovated thanks to a generous donor. And we learn about a new book project from School of Music faculty and alumni that is shining a light on important women composers from the Middle Ages until today. 

Also in the issue:

  • Mezzo-soprano Debi Wong on opera's potential to open up space for underrepresented groups

  • Winter ConcertsProkofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Bach's St John Passion, and Sanglots: Chansons of Love and Loss, featuring works by Bizet, Fauré, Poulenc and more.

  • In Pictures: Highlights from UBC Opera's 2017–18 season

  • Research & Publications: "Urban Processional Culture and the Soundscapes of Post-Reformation Germany," Viennese and Italian opera in the 19th century, plus new symposia from the Rhythm and Research Cluster

  • Alumni Making Waves: A Juno nomination, world premieres, and new orchestra positions

  • Beyond the GatesAssistant Professor Jonathan Girard named a 2018–19 Wall Scholar, Prof. Nancy Hermiston honoured for her contributions to opera, and Sessional Instructor Jocelyn Morlock wins a Juno Award

  • Catching Up with Our Students: Awards, publications, and highlights from the ethnomusicology program

  • New RecordingsWorks by Keith Hamel, Dorothy Chang, Stephen Chatman, Alan Matheson and more

As always, we want to hear from you! Send us your comments and story ideas.


Kiran Bhumber demonstrates her Responsive User Body Suit.  Photo courtesy of Kiran Bhumber

Kiran Bhumber demonstrates her Responsive User Body Suit. Photo courtesy of Kiran Bhumber


A studio of one’s own: Innovators Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) and Kiran Bhumber (BMus'14) on tech, gender, and 'trusting your inner voice' 

When Hildegard Westerkamp looks back on her decades-long career as an experimental composer and sound ecologist, she marvels at how much music production has changed. During her student days, there were no computer screens, no visualizers, no such thing as ‘digital.’ Everything was analogue and you relied solely on your ear as you edited. She remembers working in her studio, surrounded by pieces of audio reel that she had cut, marked, and hung up for quick reference until they could be spliced — literally taped together — into ambitious compositions that embraced unpredictability, marrying music, found sounds, and field recordings.

Her chosen instrument — the sounds of the environment — and the limitations of the technology available at the time necessitated deep listening and spurred creativity: “I tried to find the musicality in the sounds that I had recorded,” Westerkamp says. 

In so doing she helped pioneer the field of ‘sound ecology.’

Read the full story


Rethinking the canon: Dr. Laurel Parsons on overlooked women composers

Dr. Laurel Parsons (right) and Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (left)

Dr. Laurel Parsons (right) and Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (left)

UBC sessional instructor Dr. Laurel Parsons (MA’91, PhD’03) and McGill University’s Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (PhD’93) are the editors of Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers, a four-volume series of essays devoted to the study of music written by women composers. The first volume, which features essays on concert music composed between 1960 and 2000, recently won the Society for Music Theory’s 2018 award for the Outstanding Multi-Author Publication. With the release of the second volume fast approaching, we sat down with Parsons to discuss the project.

How did the project come about?

I did my dissertation on the music of Elisabeth Lutyens, who was a British composer. I started reading about how influential she was on British music of the time, but I couldn’t find anything more specific about how she was influential. I decided I would explore her music for my dissertation. At the same time, I started noticing how few papers there were on music by women. After tracking this for many years, it became clear to me that we had to do something to improve the representation of composers who were women in our discipline.

Read the full story



Alexander Weimann performs on the harpsichord.  Photo: Takumi Hayashi

Alexander Weimann performs on the harpsichord. Photo: Takumi Hayashi


The Gift of Music: Unveiling the School of Music's rare, newly refurbished harpsichord

This March, the School of Music unveiled one of the jewels of our instrument collection: a newly renovated double-manual harpsichord modeled on an 18th-century German original. Harpsichordist Alexander Weimann, along with violinist Chloe Meyers and viola da gamba player Natalie Mackie, showcased the new addition with a special concert at Roy Barnett Recital Hall featuring the works of German Baroque composers.

“Bach, Muffat, Buxtehude and Schmeltzer — it was the perfect repertoire, I think, to demonstrate what makes the instrument such an important and beautiful addition to the School,” says Professor Alex Fisher, who helped organize the renovation and the concert. 

Craftsman Craig Tomlinson built the harpsichord by hand in the 1980s, based on the original German design by Christian Zell (1728) that is preserved today in the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg. Celebrated for its rich sound and variety of different tone colours, Tomlinson’s masterful replica had begun to show its age and needed some significant improvements.

A generous donation by Marlene Yemchuk, in honour of her son David Yemchuk (B.Sc. 2010), made the renovation possible.

Read the full story


"You don't have to fit into a box": Mezzo-soprano Debi Wong (BMus'08) on opera's potential to open up space for underrepresented groups

Debi Wong.  Photo courtesy of the artist

Debi Wong. Photo courtesy of the artist

Mezzo soprano Debi Wong (BMus’08) believes that opera has the potential to establish a dialogue about underrepresented groups but all too often it goes unrealized. Even at major houses like the Metropolitan Opera, modern productions are still trapped in traditions and tropes which she says can have consequences for our society.

“If we are always telling the story about the woman in distress and the man who saves her, does that affect our cultural values?” she asks. Wong’s adaptation of Acis and Galatea premiere in September brought that question directly to Vancouver audiences.

In the production Wong played the character Acis, who in the original opera is a shepherd in love with Galatea, a nymph, and the two are persecuted for their love by the god Polyphemus. By changing one character’s gender and the mythical elements of Handel’s pastoral opera, Wong sought to create a space for the LGBTQ community in opera and make it more accessible to modern audiences.

Read the full story


Winter concerts available on Livestream

2018 Mar31 SJP webbanner.jpg

Watch the latest performances by the School of Music’s large and small ensembles on Livestream:

St John PassionOur grand, season-ending concert features an epic performance of the Bach masterpiece by UBC Choirs and Symphony Orchestra.

Peter and the Wolf: UBC Symphony Orchestra performs the Prokofiev classic, along with Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and selections from Satie and Poulenc. With guest appearance by UBC President Prof. Santa J. Ono as Narrator.

Sanglots: Chansons of Love and Loss (Part 1 | Part 2): Terence Dawson, piano, and J. Patrick Raftery, voice, perform beautiful and melancholy works by Bizet, Fauré, Duparc, Barber and Poulenc.

MOMENTmusic: UBC Symphonic Winds and Concert Winds perform works by John Philip Sousa, Frank Ticheli, David Maslanka, Ira Hearshen, and Aaron Copland 

Browse more of our recent concerts


In Pictures: UBC Opera's 2017–18 season

The 2017–18 season was a busy one for UBC Opera, with ambitious productions of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Rossini's La Cenerentola, as well the annual Opera Ball fundraisers. Click on the image to load the slideshow:

Scene from UBC Opera's  Orfeo ed Euridice.   Photo: Tim Matheson

Scene from UBC Opera's Orfeo ed Euridice. Photo: Tim Matheson

New research and publications


Professor Alexander Fisher contributed a chapter entitled "'Mit singen und klingen': Urban Processional Culture and the Soundscapes of Post-Reformation Germany" to In Listening to Early Modern Catholicism, edited by Daniele V. Filippi and Michael Noone, 187-203. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

Professor John Roeder gave a keynote address, entitled “Comparing Musical Cycles Across the World,” at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Music Scholars Conference in Tucson, Arizona. He gave two talks at the Society for Music Theory’s annual conference: “Interactions of Folk Melody and Transformational (Dis)continuities in Chen Yi’s Ba Ban” and “How to create meter and why.”

Assistant Professor Ève Poudrier presented a talk entitled “The Influence of Grouping and Tempo on Subjective Metricization” at the recent Auditory Perception, Cognition and Action Meeting in Vancouver this past November. 

Assistant Professor Claudio Vellutini received a UBC Hampton Endowment Research Fund New Faculty Award for his book project, “Entangled Histories: Opera and Cultural Networks between Vienna and the Italian States, 1815–1848.” He also published an essay, "Opera and Monuments: Verdi's Ernani in Vienna and the Construction of Dynastic Memory,” in the Cambridge Opera Journal.

Continue reading research and publications news


Jared Miller.  Photo: CBC

Jared Miller. Photo: CBC


Alumni Making Waves: World premieres, new orchestra positions, and a Juno nomination 

Jared Miller (BMus’10) was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) to create a new work inspired by classic techno music. DSO and Leonard Slatkin will perform the piece for the very first time on May 31st and June 2nd, 2018 along with works by Chopin and Stravinsky. CBC News recently profiled Jared.

In November, Stephanie Nakagawa (BMus’09, DMA’17) received a Barbara Pentland Award from the Canadian Music Centre BC for her remarkable doctoral project, The Canadian Opera Anthology for Soprano.

Fraser Walters (BMus’03) and his group The Tenors were nominated for a 2018 Juno Award in the category of Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for Christmas Together, which “captures the joy and magic of the season, combining a mix of holiday classics, contemporary favourites and original songs.” This was The Tenors' third Juno nomination — they won in the same category in 2013.

Composer and saxophonist Colin MacDonald (BMus’93) premiered The Sky Is a Clock, his ambitious, hour-long audio installation at the Roundhouse Community Centre in November 2017. Presented by Redshift Music as part of its “Sonologues” series, Colin’s piece interweaves recordings of 16 saxophones to “create a pulsating and slowly evolving texture of sound that mimics the rotation of the stars in the sky.”

Continue reading alumni news


Left to right: Dr. Jonathan Girard, Prof. Nancy Hermiston, Alexander Weimann

Left to right: Dr. Jonathan Girard, Prof. Nancy Hermiston, Alexander Weimann


Beyond the Gates

Assistant Professor and Director of Orchestras Jonathan Girard has been named a Peter Wall Institute Wall Scholar for 2018–19. As one of nine scholars “tasked with finding new approaches to critically important questions,” Dr. Girard will work with 2017 Peter Wall Institute Visiting Artist Deborah Carruthers on a graphical score for orchestra, and has plans to commission new orchestral works that explore sonic expressions of climate change.

In November, the Canadian Music Centre honoured Professor Nancy Hermiston with a Barbara Pentland Award of Excellence for the UBC Opera’s many commissions, performances, and support of Canadian music.

Sessional Instructor and harpsichordist Alexander Weimann was nominated alongside Arion Orchestre Baroque for the Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year (Large Ensemble). Their album, Rebelles Baroques, is hailed for the "clarity and freshness of [its] interpretations" and attention to detail. Weimann is the Principal Artist and Director of the School of Music's Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Program.

Continue reading faculty news


Catching up with our students: Awards, publications, and highlights from the ethnomusicology program

Julia Ùlehla

Julia Ùlehla

Fourth-year BMus student Kurt Ward-Theiss, baritone, and first-year BMus student Jonathan Lopez, clarinet, received bursaries from the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir. Kurt and Jonathan performed in the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir Celtic concerts on St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Maple Ridge and at Christ Church Cathedral. The Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir Student Bursaries advance the ensemble’s mission of collaborating with and supporting youth choirs and soloists in our community.

PhD student Julia Ùlehla, Aram Bajakian (MMus’17) and their group their Dálava garnered critical praise for The Book of Transfigurations, their most recent album. The Province included Dálava on its “10 best live concerts in Vancouver” list, while The Chicago Reader’s Peter Margasak named The Book of Transfigurations one of his top 40 records of the year. The album came in at number eight. 

PhD candidate Antares Boyle won the Society for Music Theory’s prestigious SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation project, “Formation and Process in Repetitive Post-Tonal Music,” which theorizes how musical segments, processes, and larger forms arise in recent post-tonal works that feature extensive varied repetition. The $3500 fellowship recognizes and fosters excellent research in music theory by helping highly qualified Ph.D. students to complete their dissertations.

Continue reading student news


New Recordings

Two new compositions by Professor Keith Hamel — “Touch” and “Corona” — appear on Music4Eyes+Ears, a multimedia project created by pianist Megumi Masaki. The project “explores how sound, image, text and movement can interact in live performance.”

Professor Stephen Chatman released Dawn of Night (CMC Centrediscs, 2017), a collaboration with Conductor Hilary Apfelstadt and the University of Toronto’s Macmillan Singers that weds original music with the poetry of Joanna Lilley, Christina Rossetti, Sarah Teasdale, and Tara Wohlberg and others.

Sessional lecturer Alan Matheson and Wade Mikkola released the second volume of their Souvenirs project, a collection of jazz interpretations of Finnish composers, on AMK Recordings.

See all new recordings


Do you have a story? Let us know!

If you're a UBC Music alumnus and you have news to share, please send a note to tyler.stiem@ubc.ca. We're always looking for stories for upcoming editions of High Notes and our other networks.