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Labour of love: a musical composition

Sudbury Living Magazine January 17, 2014 Arts No Comments on Labour of love: a musical composition

Robert Lemay, Sudbury composer


Update: Jan. 17, 2014


Contemporary and experimental music ensemble from New Brunswick in Sudbury for a performance.
The Motion Trio will present the next concert in the 5-Penny New Music Concerts. The concert is on Saturday, Jan. 25, at St. Peter’s United Church at 8 pm. General admission is $20 and $15 for students and seniors.  Tickets are available at the door.
The trio, which consists of soprano Helen Pridmore, violinist Nadia Francavilla, and clarinetist Richard Hornsby, is drawn from the larger Motion Ensemble, based in Moncton, N.B.
The program consists of contemporary and experimental music by composers from Ontario (Robert Lemay, Avi Granite), Quebec (Gabriel Thibaudeau, Claude Vivier) and the Maritimes (Derek Charke, Sandy Moore, Jérôme Blais).
The highlight will be the world premiere of Lemay’s “Chemin du miracle.” Scored for violin, clarinet and soprano, the work is based on the collection, “Chemin du miracle,” by the distinguished Quebec poet, Pierre DesRuisseaux.
DesRuisseaux, who won the Governor-General’s Award for literature in 1989 and was Poet Laureate of the Parliament of Canada from 2009-11, will be in Sudbury for the performance. Pierre DesRuisseaux, Thierry Bissonnette  from Laurentian University and composer Robert Lemay will  also give a pre-concert talk at 7 pm (in French)
“A long time ago, I used one of his poems as an inspiration for a piece,” says Lemay. “We met and he came to the premiere. We have stayed in touch and I have continued to read his books as they appear.
“My understanding and appreciation for his art has grown. I deeply admire ‘Chemin du miracle,’ a collection of poems that explores the rich ambiguity of human existence. I was immediately drawn to the sound of the words, so when Motion commissioned me to write this piece for voice and instruments, I decided to use them.”
Also featured on the program is Derek Charke’s “Between the Shore and the Ships,” for clarinet and soprano. The piece is the title track of the album that won Pridmore and clarinetist Wesley Ferreira the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) award for best classical recording in 2013. The album deals with the British expulsion of the Acadians from Grand Pré from 1755-62. Charke’s piece also received the ECMA award for best classical composition.
This concert is produced by the 5-Penny New Music Concerts in cooperation with Laurentian University.  The event is also made possible with the financial support of the Socan Foundation, the City of Greater Sudbury, the Ontario Arts Council and the New Brunswick Arts Board.
For more information:
Contact: Robert Lemay, 5-Penny New Music Concerts
Telephone: (705) 523-4167
5-Penny Web Site:



From Sudbury Living, Winter 2007

In the purest form, a life’s work should be enjoyable, driven by creativity and passion. And success should be measured by the satisfaction that comes only from producing something of merit from within.

Sure, it’s a completely impractical point of view, for most people, in the soul sucking, work-a-day world.  But for a lucky few, there is truth in such wisdom.

Montreal-born Robert Lemay seems to be one of those few.

He began playing piano at the age of eight, and quickly took to it. As his interest grew, his skills followed.

Lemay said he knew at a young age what he wanted to do and stuck to it. He ultimately attained a doctorate degree in composition from the University of Montreal.

But despite the unconventional career path, Lemay ended up in Sudbury through a tried and tested method.

“I followed my wife,” joked Lemay.

He is referring to Yoko Hirota, an accomplished Japanese-Canadian classical pianist, who was hired as a professor at Laurentian University back in 2000.

“We were a package deal,” said Lemay. “They needed someone to teach upper level theory, so I took a job here too.”

Lemay and Hirota met years earlier while both were students at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

Lemay’s primary motivation in going to Buffalo was to learn English. But he left with much more than command of the language.

The experience gave Lemay the sense that his music could take him anywhere.

And it has.

His music has been performed across North America, Japan, South America and Europe.

In October Lemay travelled to Luxembourg to take part in a prestigious international competition. He is one of four finalists selected from a pool of 152 composers from 38 countries, for his composition titled, Mare Tranquilitatis.

Lemay wrote the piece specifically for the consideration
of the Luxembourg panel.

He said the challenge in doing so was to handle the unusual and eclectic instrumentation required for qualification in the competition.

Inspired loosely by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Lemay wrote parts for 14 separate instruments.

He had only a brief rehearsal session the day of the performance with the musicians who brought it to life.

Lemay never gets used to the pressure of high-level, international competition.

“I am always nervous. The worst part is that things are completely out of my control. The music is being played by a group of musicians I have never met.”

His work in Sudbury is possibly a little less complex, but equally important to Lemay.

In addition to his teaching duties at Laurentian, Lemay is president and co-artistic director of the 5-Penny Music Concerts.

The organization is a non-profit organization dedicated to the performance of classical music written in the 20th and 21st centuries. Concerts are scheduled for Nov. 3 and Feb. 8 and 9 at St. Peter’s United Church on York St.

Lemay wrote a one-movement concerto for piano and orchestra for his wife, which was premiered by the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra in February 2006.

He said he looks forward to working more with the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra.

“Right now the symphony is working on a project to hire me as a composer in residence,” if it recieves a grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

Until then, he will continue to do what he loves, without calling it “work.”

“It may sound cliché, but for me, writing music is a necessity. There is never a time where I do not create.”

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