John Gordon Armstrong

Canadian Composer



Hail was commissioned by Doreen Claxton as part of her Canadian Art Song project, an ambitious plan to unite Canadian poets and composers with a view to the creation of a distinctly Canadian Art Song repertoire. For my collaboration, I chose the work of my colleague at the University of Ottawa, award-winning poet Seymour Mayne.

Mayne’s word sonnets, poems comprising exactly fourteen words, were ideally suited to my musical aesthetic which has focused on chamber music, music for voice, and miniatures. I enjoyed the challenge of these epigrammatic sonnets. While some of the songs are very short, direct settings of the text, others, using a variety of techniques, are stretched to the length of more traditional songs.

Hail was premiered August 2, 2005 at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival by Doreen Claxton and Valerie Dueck. They subsequently recorded it on the Can Sona label. Those recordings are reproduced (with permission) below. For a quick sampling, choose “Light”, “Hail”, “Equinox” and “Stone”. My favourite though is “Dust”.

Composed in 2003 for Soprano and Piano
Duration: 14 minutes
Advanced Student/Accessible
Published: Canadian Music Centre (Toronto)

1. January

2. Vessels i
3. Vessels ii
4. Vessels iii
5. Light
6. Equinox
7. Hail
8. Stone
9. Wind
10. Dust
11. Practice Run
12.September Rain
13. Frost
14. December Flight