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21C Music Festival Shines Spotlight on Canadian Artists

21C Music Festival Shines Spotlight on Canadian Artists

Published on February 7, 2017

21C Music Festival Shines Spotlight on Canadian Artists

The fourth edition of the 21C Music Festival takes place from May 24-28, 2017. In honour of Canada's 150th birthday the event is dedicated almost entirely to Canadian artists.

Today The Royal Conservatory announced the nine concerts that will make up the fourth 21C Music Festival, our annual celebration of newly-minted music. In honour of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, this year’s festival is dedicated almost entirely to Canadian performers and to the diverse works of our country’s most innovative composers. More than 90% of the featured artists are Canadian.

“Since the 21C Music Festival began we’ve made a point of celebrating Canadian artists, though Canada 150 gives us the opportunity to go a bit crazy,” quips Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts and festival founder. “A lot of great work is happening in this country and the festival allows us to shine a light on that masterful music.”

One of the highlights is the Koerner Hall debut of the Canadian Opera Company (COC) Orchestra. The orchestra - made up of many alumni and faculty members - will present the world premiere of Nàaka(Northern Lights), a Dene-inspired work composed by Artistic Advisor Brian Current and commissioned by The Royal Conservatory. It is one of two Current works to be featured, the other being The Seven Heavenly Halls, a piece about Judaic creation myths commissioned by The Azrieli Foundation. Additionally, the program includes works by Samy Moussa and Matthew Aucoin, as well as this year’s Composer-in-Residence, celebrated South Korean artist Unsuk Chin.

Also making their Koerner Hall debut are acclaimed Quebecois violinist Angèle Dubeau and her all-female string ensemble La Pietà. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, ambient artist Mike Oldfield, and Canadian composers Maxime Goulet and Marjan Mozetich are among the diverse artists whose pieces will be featured.

Canadian compositions comprise the majority of the works to be performed during the wonderfully named “Bang on a Canada” concert, featuring the acclaimed musicians of Bang on a Can All-Stars. “Thirty years ago they were described as the bad boys of contemporary music,” Mehta recalls amusingly. “Now they’re nearly the revered elder statesmen.” The ensemble will present a multimedia project anchored by the world premiere of a work by Canadian composer John Oswald, commissioned by The Royal Conservatory.

Three Canadian works also form the backbone of a concert by the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP), an initiative dedicated to developing new vocal repertoire for our country’s artists. The program includes Dawn Always Begins in the Bones by Ana Sokolović, CASP’s commission in recognition of Canada 150. New works by Andrew Staniland and Lloyd Burritt are also on the program. They will be performed by members of the COC Ensemble Studio.

As in previous years, many students and alumni of The Glenn Gould School and The Royal Conservatory Certificate Program will perform during the festival. “We have such a wealth of talent at The Royal Conservatory so it makes sense to get our students and alumni involved,” Mehta states. Among the alumni are the Cecilia String Quartet, who present a concert dedicated to the works of Canadian composers. Pianist Claudia Chan and violinist Benjamin Bowman will debut a piece by Christopher Goddard that was commissioned by The Royal Conservatory. Pianist Morgan-Paige Melbourne will perform works by fellow alumna Alexina Louie. Lastly, Carla Huhtanen is among the vocalists featured in one of two concerts by festival partner Soundstreams.

Once again, many concerts will be livestreamed so music lovers across Canada and around the world will be able to enjoy the performances from the comfort of their homes.

Mehta is proud of the way the 21C Music Festival has developed over the last four years, growing into one of North America’s leading showcases of contemporary music. “When artists and organizations like the Kronos Quartet, Stewart Copeland, and the Canadian Opera Company want to be part of your festival, you know you’ve arrived.”

The Royal Conservatory thanks Michael and Sonja Koerner for their support of the 21C Music Festival.

The 21C Music Festival takes place from May 24-28, 2017. To purchase tickets or festival passes visit

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