Music by: Alice Ho (b. 1960)
Text by: Tania Rideout
Performed by: Oakville Choir for Children and Youth: Raise Her Voice, Ontario
Begin is a 6’ composition written for SSA a cappella girl choir. Based on a poem by the same name by Toronto writer Tania Rideout, the music describes an imaginary journey of Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell, two long distance swimmers who tried to swim Lake Ontario in the 1950’s. Campbell was unsuccessful and Bell became a legendary figure. Music sails through the geological landscape of Lake Ontario, expresses in a poetic way how nature and history defines the relationship we have with water: the tides that push us together, also pull us apart. Some theatre elements such as making sound effects, movement, body percussion, and “rapping” of swim terminology are integrated in the music, highlighting the drama of the text. Written especially for Oakville Choir for Children and youth, this composition conveys an empowering message how two different young women faced their huge challenge with strength, perseverance, tenacity, and hard work.
Considered “among the most important composers writing in this country” (D. Ariaratnam, The Record), Alice Ho is a Hong Kongborn Canadian composer acclaimed for her “distinctly individual” style and “organic flow of imagination.”
She has written in many musical genres and received numerous national and international awards, including the 2016 Louis Applebaum Composers Award, 2014 Prince Edward Island Symphony Composers Competition, 2014 Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Friendship Orchestral Composition Competition, 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award “Outstanding Original Opera” for her opera Lesson of Da Ji, 2013 Boston Metro Opera International Composition Competition, K.M. Hunter Artist Award, du Maurier Arts Ltd. Canadian Composers Competition, MACRO International Composition Competition, Luxembourg Sinfonietta International Composition Prize, and International League of Women Composers Competition.
Often featured at national and international new music festivals such as ISCM World Music Days, Ottawa Chamberfest, Denmark’s CRUSH New Music Festival, Asian Music Week in Japan, etc.; her works have also been performed by many major ensembles including China National Symphony, Polish Radio Choir, Finnish Lapland Chamber Orchestra, Esprit Orchestra, the Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Victoria, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Windsor Symphonies, Amsterdam’s Neuw Ensemble, Italy’s Trivella Piano Duo, Penderecki String Quartet, Toronto’s New Music Concerts, Continuum New Music, Torq, and Soundstreams.
A two times JUNO award nominee for Classical Composition of the Year (2015 and 2018), she has an impressive discography released on the Centrediscs, Naxos, Marquis Classics, Blue Griffin, Electra, and Phoenix labels.
She has four solo discs (Centrediscs/ Naxos) devoted to music written for different genres: “Ming” for percussion, “Glistening Pianos” for two pianos, “The Lesson of Da Ji” features her full length opera, and a new CD “The Mysterious Boot” for chamber music features flutist Susan Hoeppner, cellist Winona Zelenka, and pianist Lydia Wong.
Her recent activity highlight including a new children’s opera “The Monkiest King” (commissioned by the Canadian Children’s Opera Company to celebrate their 50th Anniversary) received its world premiere May 25 to 27, 2018 at the Lyric Theatre, Toronto Center for the Arts.