Thank You Music Festivals!

I (Melissa) recently had the immense pleasure of adjudicating winds and brass for the Kootenay Festival of the Arts and Brandon Festival of the Arts this spring. Thank you to the festivals for having me and thank you to the performers for giving so much of themselves to their music. I hope the experience was positive, helpful and gave you a chance to learn.

Also thank you to the local teachers for encouraging your students to participate. It can be very hard to make time for all the activities you would like to provide to your students, I’m honoured that you took the effort. I hope you will continue to encourage your students to perform.

If you had an experience you would like to share drop me a line!


In a Deep Funk by Daniel Dorff


Last year we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in the Artists in Residence program at the Banff Centre for the Arts. It was an amazing experience for so many reasons and if you are thinking about applying we encourage you to do it. The Banff Centre also has a beautiful library which is where Melissa found this final piece. In a Deep Funk is originally for contrabassoon but adapted for solo bass clarinet for Barbara Haney and premiered at ClarinetFest in 2014. There are four different movements each inspired by characteristic dance rhythms: Hustle Misterioso,Twist Variations, Bear Hug, and Funk Scherzo.

Daniel Dorff is an American composer and often writes works for the Philadelphia Orchestra's education department.

PROGRAM NOTES by the composer

In A Deep Funk Dance Set for solo Bass Clarinet (or Contralto or Contrabass)

IN A DEEP FUNK for Bass Clarinet is the result of several intersecting ideas that have come full-circle. As a bass clarinetist myself, the Bach cello suites are standard repertoire for my practice and warm-ups -- partially because they're excellent training for intonation and interpretation, and partially because they're monumental masterpieces that can be played on bass clarinet straight from the cello music.

When I was commissioned in 1995 to create an unaccompanied competition piece for a contrabassoon festival, I responded with this dance suite somewhat in the Bach model, but using dance patterns from my own era rather than baroque dances.

Many years later, Barbara Haney commissioned FLOWERS OF ST. FRANCIS as a solo bass clarinet piece to premiere at the 2013 ICA ClarinetFest. When Barbara followed by asking if I happened to have anything else she could premiere at the 2014 ClarinetFest, it seemed time to make a bass clarinet adaptation of IN A DEEP FUNK.

The 2014 bass clarinet version is almost identical to the 1996 contrabassoon version, but the inherent difference in the instruments (and 18 years' time) led to a number of minor alterations.

The following details are taken from the 1996 program notes:

1. HUSTLE MISTERIOSO uses a hustle rhythm, and the pitches are reminsicent of the "Powerhouse" motif used in many of Carl Stalling's cartoon scores. It also is a traditionally-built rounded binary form.
2. TWIST VARIATIONS uses a theme in driving quarter-notes and 12-bar blues, and then goes quite far afield into many rhythmic and textural worlds, using the 12-bar blues as a chaconne.
3. BEAR HUG is a 12/8 slow dance, certainly inspired by the feel of Smokey Robinson's and other ballads of that genre.
4. FUNK SCHERZO is more free-form, and true to its title.

Roger Soren gave the world premiere at IDRS 1997; audio excerpts of that live performance are on the contrabassoon page of this website. Individual movements have been used frequently for audition requirements, and few have dared to play the complete suite in entirety. I've had the rare pleasure of hearing the 1st movement played en masse in unison at a contrabassoon convention.

There is also a sequel, Deep Funk, Pt. 2, for solo viola.

- YOUTUBE: Complete performance on Bass Clarinet by Barbara Haney

It's All Tumbling Down by Karel Van Marcke


Last summer we had the wonderful opportunity to perform at ClarinetFest 2018 in Ostend, Belgium. Not only did we have the opportunity to attend many performances and classes but there was also a vendor area that we had to visit. One of the pieces we found there was It’s All Tumbling Down by Belgium composer Karel Van Marcke. Van Marcke is a composer, percussionist as well as a noted jazz pianist.

We will be opening our concert with this work, it is lively and showcases the sounds of each instrument in a way that not one instrument dominates and the other accompanies but both with equal importance.

Robin #2 by Robert Daigneault

Robin #2 by Robert Daigneault is one of the first pieces we performed. Daigneault is an Ontario composer born in Hamilton and has collaborated with artists of all kinds. “What interests him is to use a fragment of reality as the starting point for a composition, and to make reality fanciful.” (CMC Biography)

Robin #2 is a prime example of this interest. It uses recordings of birdsong as inspiration for the composition first at the original speed in the vibraphone and then slowed down in the clarinet part. While there is no actual recording playing during the piece the snippets of recognizable and yet ghostly motives play continuously in both the clarinet and vibraphone.


Gulper by Lisa Neher


Gulper is for solo Bb clarinet and inspired by a deep-water fish written by Lisa Neher. Lisa is a very active composer, mezzo-soprano and teacher in Portland, Oregon. The piece has contrasting sections of free, floating notes and strict rhythmic motives. Gulper had its World Premiere performance by Taylor Gaskins, November 2, 2018 and this will be the Canadian Premiere.


From the program notes:

“The gulper eel or pelican eel is not an eel at all but a deep-water fish named for its enormous, pelican-like mouth, which is much larger than the rest of its long, skinny body. At the end of its tail, the gulper eel has a special organ with many small tentacles that glows pink and occasionally flashes red to attract prey, mostly squid and crustaceans.

It is tragic and deeply frustrating that what little we know about these animals comes from those inadvertently caught in fishing nets. The sudden change of temperature as they are pulled from the depths to the surface kills them, and thus research on live gulper eels in their natural habit is extremely limited.

In this piece, the gulper eel comes to life, illuminating its lure, lying in wait for prey, moving about in the deep sea with its whip-like tail, and finally coming in for the kill. I hope this piece cultivates interest and empathy for this fascinating and mysterious creature.”

-Lisa Neher

Blu-Tack by Freya Waley-Cohen

Freya Waley-Cohen Headshot 2019.jpg

Blu-Tack is a piece we will be performing at Spring Songs on March 3, 2019 at Esquimalt United Church at 7pm. It is a work for clarinet/bass clarinet and vibraphone by award winning British composer Freya Waley-Cohen. We are excited to present the Canadian Premiere of this set of miniatures which will also be performed in the UK in Cardiff in May by NASduo .

Quoted on the front of the score:

Days stretch like blu-tack
and its the little things that go;

which shoulder to throw salt over,
the slowest way to walk home.

-Jo Surzyn

Spring Songs


We are excited to announce that we will be performing at Esquimalt United Church on March 3rd at 7pm. Works include Canadian Premieres of Blu Tack by UK composer Freya Waley-Cohen and Gulper by American composer Lisa Neher. In the coming weeks watch for posts about these composers and others that will be featured.

Esquimalt United is an accessible facility. Tickets are 20 for general admission and 15 for seniors, students and arts workers. We hope to see you there.

Adjudicating this Spring

In March Melissa will have the pleasure of adjudicating for the Brandon Festival of the Arts in Brandon Manitoba. Sessions for winds and brass will be held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on March 5th.

Also this spring she’ll be at the Kootenay Festival of the Arts in Trail, British Columbia adjudicating for Winds and Brass and presenting a workshop on April 24th on practice techniques.

If you’ll be in either city during the festivals please stop in and say hello!