One of Canadaʼs most sought after composers, Alexina Louie has written for many of the countryʼs leading soloists, chamber ensembles, new music ensembles and orchestras. Her works have become part of the standard repertoire, in particular her many compositions for piano which are frequently performed by students and professionals alike. Perhaps best known of these is Scenes From A Jade Terrace, commissioned by Jon Kimura Parker, who recently celebrated the 20th Anniversary of its composition with a tour of Canada and the United States.
Ms. Louie’s orchestral works have received important performances by such renowned conductors as Sir Andrew Davis, Leonard Slatkin, Alexander Lazarev, Charles Dutoit, Bramwell Tovey, Gunther Herbig, Pinchas Zukerman, Kent Nagano, Peter Oundjian, Carlos Kalmar, James Judd, and Ingo Metzmacher.
Her major theatrical works include The Scarlet Princess, a full-length opera with libretto by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterﬂy) commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company and premiered in concert (2002), and Wolfʼs Court, commissioned by The National Ballet of Canada, created with choreographer Matjash Mrozewski and premiered in June 2007 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. The National Ballet of Canada also commissioned and premiered one hundred works for snow(2003) by choreographer Dominique Dumais. The ballet is set to Louieʼs O Magnum Mysterium: In Memoriam Glenn Gould.
In 2008-2009, Alexina Louie was guest composer on two major orchestral tours. The ﬁrst was a tour of Nunavik with Kent Nagano, musicians from the Montreal Symphony and Inuit throat singers who performed her newly commissioned work, Take the Dog
Sled. The second was an extensive tour of Western Canada with Pinchas Zukerman and the National Arts Centre Orchestra who commissioned and performed her compositionInﬁnite Sky With Birds. The season also saw the premiere of Pursuit, a new concerto for string quartet and orchestra commissioned by The Toronto Symphony for the Tokyo String Quartet.
The Raven, a chamber work integrating the Edgar Allen Poe narrative poem into a musical setting for string quartet, harp and narrator was successfully premiered by its commissioners, Luminato Festival of the Arts and The Ottawa Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2009.
One of Ms. Louie’s recent major projects was a full-length ﬁlmed comic opera based on the life and career of Canada’s 18th Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney. Brian Mulroney: The Opera premiered nationally in the Cineplex Odeon Theatres on April 16, 2011. It was one of the ﬁrst events outside of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to be marketed in the manner of a Live At The Met broadcast. Brian Mulroney: The Opera was created by the same team of Ms. Louie, librettist Dan Redican, and director Larry Weinstein who gave us the delightful, internationally award-winning made-for-TV comic operas Burnt Toast andToothpaste. In October 2012, Mulroney: The Opera was selected by Operavore of WQXR (New York classical radio station) as one of the top ﬁve political satires in opera.
Winner of two Juno Awards, she has three times been awarded the SOCAN Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award for being the most frequently performed Canadian classical composer. In March 2002 the National Arts Centre named Louie as a recipient of the NAC Composers Award. She has won the Léger Prize for her work Nightfall as well as the Chalmerʼs National Music Award for Obsessions. In addition she, along with her ﬁlm writing collaborator, husband Alex Pauk, have received numerous awards for their ﬁlm scores.
Her work has been the subject of several academic studies including doctoral theses at the University of Oklahoma (2005), University of Kentucky (2004), University of Alberta (1997), The Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western University (1995), Yale School of Music (1994) and Julliard School of Music (1989).
As well, her compositions have had many important ofﬁcial performances including the 1986 performance of The Ringing Earth, a festive overture commissioned for the gala opening of Expo ’86 by The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (Mario Bernardi). At this event she was presented to their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who ofﬁcially opened the Exposition. The Ringing Earth was featured on a United Nations Day Concert in 1989 by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Charles Dutoit) on United Nations Day which took place in the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Celebrated pianist Jon Kimura Parker chose to perform Scenes From A Jade Terrace on the Gala Opening inaugural concert of the Canadian Embassy Tokyo in 1991. A recording of her composition Star-Filled Night was taken by Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean aboard the space shuttle in 1992.
Her works have been performed and broadcast internationally in Beijing, Shanghai, Belgrade, Tokyo, Zagreb, Vienna, London, Paris, Brussels, Singapore, Helsinki, Stockholm, Dresden, Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, Australia, as well as many other major international centres.
In 2006, her ﬁlmed opera Burnt Toast (librettist Dan Redican, director Larry Weinstein) was awarded the prestigious International Golden Prague Grand Prix (147 ﬁlms from 28 countries). In 2002 the teamʼs six minute opera ﬁlm, Toothpaste was shown in the Louvre as a ﬁnalist for the highly coveted international arts ﬁlm competition “Classique en images” along with feature length ﬁlms on composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and Igor Stravinsky.
Ms. Louie has been commissioned to write imposed pieces for The Montreal International Violin Competition (1991), Eckhardt-Grammaté Competition 1996, The Montreal International Piano Competition (2008). The Esther Honens International Piano Competition commissioned Ms. Louie to compose piano works for its competition winners in 1996 and 2003.
She has been the composer-in-residence for several music festivals including The Scotia Festival of Music (1993), The Vancouver Chamber Music Festival (1994), The Boris Brott Summer Music Festival (1996), The Banff Arts Festival (1999), The Regina
New Music Festival 2001, The Prince Edward County Music Festival (2008), Banff Arts Festival (2011).
In 2001 Ms. Louie was asked to participate in the ofﬁcial State Visit to Germany with their Excellencies, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and John Rolston Saul in the company of other distinguished Canadians. Her work, Music For A Thousand Autumns, was performed in Dresden during this visit.
An Ofﬁcer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Order of Ontario and a Queenʼs Golden Jubilee Medal as well as the Queenʼs Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), Alexina Louie received an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary in 2002 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006.
A Curious Passerby At Fu’s Funeral (2015) – Alexina Louie, commissioned by the Turning Point Ensemble with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts
A Curious Passerby at Fu’s Funeral premiered by the Turning Point Ensemble in Oct 2015 at the Orpheum Annex, Vancouver conducted by Owen Underhill turningpointensemble.ca This multi-movement work for large ensemble is a dramatic composition that inhabits a highly charged emotional landscape. Commissioned by Owen Underhill and The Turning Point Ensemble, it explores extreme ranges of heightened activity. The first movement surges forward with virtuosic exchanges between the piano and the percussion. This eventually develops into sections characterized by relentless repeated chords and gestures (“cortège” and “dirge”). The second movement begins with solo utterances in the oboe which serve as the introduction to a series of haunting shō-like chord clusters. I have been inspired by this beautiful multi-reed Japanese mouth organ’s unusual manner of sound production, where the performer inhales and exhales through the instrument, resulting in a cloud of sound. The unusual technique required for playing the shō, as well as its colourful array of pitches, have served as a key element in several of my compositions. In the second movement, the calmness of the shō-like section is interrupted by a forceful musical ‘incident.’ The movement ends with a peaceful musical moment that suggests a night sky filled with stars. The final movement brings A Curious Passerby at Fu’s Funeral to a propulsive conclusion with its inspiration taken from Asian drumming. This piece is inspired by my own imagined scenario that traverses the path between mysterious and explosive elements. A Curious Passerby At Fu’s Funeral was commissioned through the assistance of The Canada Council. — Alexina Louie