PEI Symphony Presents World-Premiere of Cantata for Canada 150

As part of our 50th anniversary season, we at The PEI Symphony have announced our most ambitious concert to date. Under the direction of Maestro Mark Shapiro, the orchestra will be joined by Hey Cuzzins Mi’kmaq Drum Group, mezzo soprano Hannah O’Donnell, and the Confederation Singers and Youth Chorus to present “Cantata for/pour Canada 150”, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. Also on the program are a new fanfare by Kati Agocs, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and other works.

Funding from the Government of Canada has enabled us to commission this new symphonic work, scored for chorus and orchestra. What makes the Cantata for Canada 150 unique is that the choral lines (libretto) have been written by four Island youths who were the winners of an Island-wide poetry contest, launched in cooperation with the PEI Department of Early Learning and Culture. The four winning poems were judged based on their lyrical artistic merit, thematic relevance, and potential to individually contribute to the cantata’s unified whole. 

The winning student poets are: Madelyn Iwankow (East Wiltshire Intermediate) for her poem “As I Walk”, Chloe Dockendorff (homeschooled) for her poem “Haven on the Waves”, Madison Lockman (Colonel Gray High School) for her poem “Song of a Tree”, and Nicolas Dickieson (Immanuel Christian School) for his poem “My Canada”. The student winners will each receive a cash prize, tickets to the event in which the Cantata will be performed, as well as a musical performance by The Atlantic String Machine, all whom are members of the PEISO, at their respective schools in Novemver.

Composers Richard Covey, Leo Marchildon, Andrew Staniland and Kevin Morse, who all reside in the Atlantic region, have each written a movement of the four-movement cantata. Each composer has worked with one of the student poets, who were in turn mentored by a local professional poet. Collectively the composer, student and poet collaborated as a creative team to complete their movement.

The cantata focuses on several overarching Canada 150 themes: inclusion and diversity, environmental conservation, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and youth in Canada’s future. The creators of the work envision that listeners will gain a better understanding of Canada’s past and give some thought to the endless possibilities of our nation’s future.

PEISO Music Director Mark Shapiro said: “Though I haven’t (yet) had the pleasure of founding a new nation, the thrill of being present at the creation of PEISO’s Canada 150 extravaganza has given me an inkling of what that might be like. This fantastic project – uniting the talents of four composers, four student poets, four poet mentors, one drum circle, one symphony orchestra, two choruses – is itself the perfect metaphor for its subject. One of the challenges of a project like this one is that an audience can’t know what it is like until it has already happened. So take it on faith from me: this concert is not one to miss.”

The event takes place Sunday, November 19th, at 2:30pm in the Homburg Theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, and tickets are available now at the Centre’s box office. There are a number of free tickets designated to Island youth, and some special adult discount rates. To request free tickets for youth, please email or call 902-892-4333.