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Harry Somers (1925-1999)

Harry Somers, composerHarry Somers was born in Toronto, Ontario, and showed an interest in music only in his early teens. He engaged in intensive piano studies, which were so productive that at the age of 16 he entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he studied piano with Reginald Godden and Weldon Kilburn and composition with John Weinzweig, receiving scholarships in 1947 and 1949. In the late 40's, he went first to San Francisco to continue piano with E. Robert Schmitz, and then to Paris to study composition under Darius Milhaud (1949-50). Somers was known not only for his great versatility but also for his tremendous productivity. His music includes works for orchestra, choir, voice, instrumental ensemble and piano, as well as for stage, film and television. His best-known work is the opera Louis Riel, commissioned for performance during Canada's Centennial Year, 1967, and performed with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Washington, D.C. during the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations. Somers decribed his artistic development: "Over the years I've worked consistently on three different levels with three different approaches to composition. On one level my approach has been what I call 'community music' or 'music for use': For example music for amateurs and music for school use. On a second level I've created 'functional music,' in the specific sense: music for television, films and theatre, where the composition has to work in company with another medium and serve the demands of that medium. On a third level I have created without consideration for any limitations, sometimes completely experimentally, sometimes extending the line of a particular direction on which I had been working through a series of works. In short, the first two levels relate directly to the environment and society, in the broad sense, in which I live at the moment, and in which I function as a craftsman; the third relates to a more restricted audience (though I'm not convinced it need be so) and my personal development as an artist." In 1971, Somers, who had become one of Canada's most internationally-known composers, was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. He had received honorary doctorates from the University of Ottawa (1975), the University of Toronto (1976) and York University (1975).

COMPOSITIONS                                                            Somers Links     ~ ~ ~     Works by Genre
Strangeness of Heart, piano (1942)
Stillness, soprano and piano (1942) [text: Harry Somers]
Duo, 2 violins (1943)
String Quartet No.1 (1943)
    - Slow Movements for Strings (1946) [2nd mvt String Quartet No. 1, 1943]
Etudes, piano (1943)
Flights of Fancy (3 pieces), piano (1944)
Dark and Light, piano (1944)
Piano Sonata No. 1, "Testament of Youth" (1945)
Sketches for Orchestra (1946)
Lament and Primeval, orchestra (1946)
Piano Sonata No. 2 (1946)
Three Sonnets, piano (1946)
Three Songs, voice and piano (1946) [text: Walt Whitman] ["with a fourth song which may or may not be included"]
Scherzo for Strings (1947)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1947)
Suite for Percussion (1947)
Mime, violin and piano (1947)
Solitude, piano (1947)
A Bunch of Rowan, medium voice and piano (1947) [text: Diana Skala]
A Song of Joys, medium voice and piano (1947) [text: Walt Whitman]
North Country Suite, four movements for string orchestra (1948)
Woodwind Quintet (1948)
Rhapsody for Violin and Piano (1948)
Suite for Harp and Chamber Orchestra (1949)
Four Primitives, piano (1949)
String Quartet No. 2 (1950)
Trio for Flute, Violin and Cello (1950)
Piano Sonata No. 3 (1950)
Piano Sonata No. 4 (1950)
The Fool, chamber opera (1951)
Symphony No. 1, orchestra (1951)
12 X 12 (Fugues for Piano) (1951)
Prelude and Fugue, orchestra (1952)
Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1953)
Three Simple Songs, mezzo-soprano and piano (1953) [text: Michael Fram]
Passacaglia and Fugue, orchestra (1954)
Theme for Variations, any combination of instruments (1954)
The Homeless Ones, TV operetta (1955; fp. CBC-TV, 1956) [libretto: M. Fram]
Little Suite for String Orchestra on Canadian Folk Songs (1955)
Where Do We Stand, O Lord?, chorus (1955) [text: Fram]
Two Songs for the Coming of Spring, chorus (1955; pub. 1957) [text: Fram]
Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1955)
Conversation Piece, high voice and piano (1955) [text: Michael Fram]
The Fisherman and His Soul, ballet (1956)
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1956)
Five Songs for Dark Voice, alto and orchestra (1956) [text: Michael Fram]
Faces of Canada, incidental music for CBC-TV (1956)
Movement for Woodwind Quintet (1957)
Piano Sonata No. 5 (1957)
Ballade, ballet (1958)
Fantasia for Orchestra (1958)
Saguenay, film score (1958)
String Quartet No. 3 (1959)
Sonata for Guitar (1959)
Lyric for Orchestra (1960)
A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental theatre music (1960)
Movement for Orchestra (1961)
Symphony for Woodwind, Brass and Percussion (1961)
Five Concepts for Orchestra (1961)
Movement, [incidental music] for CBC-TV (1961; broadcast 1962) [original title "Abstract for Television"]
God, the Master of This Scene, chorus (1962) [text: J. Taylor]
Gloria, chorus, 2 trumpets and organ (1962)
The House of Atreus, ballet (1963)
Stereophony for Orchestra (1963)
The Wonder Song, chorus (1963) [text: Somers]
The Picasso Suite, light music for small orchestra (1964)
    - Etching - The Vollard Suite, flute (1964) [6th mvt from orchestra work "The Picasso Suite"]
Twelve Miniatures, soprano, recorder/ flute, viola da gamba/cello and spinet/piano (1964) [text: traditional Japanese Haiku]
The Gift, incidental music for CBC-TV (1965)
Crucifixion (Passion Psalm), chorus, English horn, 2 trumpets, harp and percussion (1966)
Evocations, mezzo-soprano and piano (1966) [text: Harry Somers]
Louis Riel, music drama in 3 acts (1967)
Kuyas, soprano, flute and percussion (1967) [from opera "Louis Riel"]
Five Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, chorus and piano (1968) [text: traditional, collected by Peacock]
Improvisation, narrator, singers, woodwinds, strings, 2 percussionists and piano (1968) [text: Shakespeare; Yeats]
AND, ballet for T.V. (1969)
Voiceplay, singer/actor (1971) [text: Harry Somers]
Kyrie, chorus, soloists and instrumental ensemble (1970-72)
Music for Solo Violin (1974)
Images of Canada, incidental music for 6 part CBC-TV series (1972-75)
Jig for a Gypsy, incidental theatre music (1974)
Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, soprano, flute, piano, actress, actor and tape (1975)
Love-In-Idleness, tableau lyrique, soprano, piano and stage props (1976) [text: Shakespeare - Midsummer Night's Dream]
Trois chansons de la nouvelle-France (Three Songs of New France), chorus and piano (1976) [text: traditional]
We Wish You a Merry Christmas, chorus and piano (arr. 1976)
Death of Enkidu, chamber opera (1977)
The Merman of Orford, mime, flute, horn, cello and percussion (1978)
Those Silent, Awe Filled Spaces, orchestra (1978)
Variations, orchestra (1979)
Three Limericks, mezzo-soprano, chorus and instrumental ensemble (1980) [text: anon; W.H. Auden]
The Garden and the Cage, TV music for CBC (1980)
Elegy, Transformation, Jubilation: in memoriam four Suicides, orchestra (1981)
Concertante for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion (1982)
Movement for String Quartet (1983)
Shaman's Song, voice [any range] and prepared piano (1983) [text; from phonetic and Inuit sources]
Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (1984)
Song of Praise, 2-part treble chorus and piano (pub. 1984) [text: W. Scott]
Fanfare to J.S.B., brass quintet (1984)
MacBeth, incidental theatre music, electroacoustic (1984)
Chura-churum, 8-part chorus, flute, harp, piano, 4 percussionists and 8 loudspeakers (1985)
    - Chura-Churum, 8 singers, flute, harp, piano, 3 percussionists (1985)
A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental theatre music (1985) [2nd setting]
A Midwinter Night's Dream, children's opera (1988)
    - Northern Lights, 8 treble voices and piano (1988) [from children's opera "A Midwinter Night's Dream"]
Mario and the Magician, opera (1992)
Serinette, folk music drama in 3 acts (1992)
Eleven Miniatures for Oboe and Piano (1992)
Of Memory and Desire, string orchestra (1993)
The Birminal Trilogy, voices and piano (1988-94) ["wurble inventions by Edward Lear boshed to music by Harry Somers"]
A Children's Hymn to the United Nations, children's chorus and piano (1995) [text: P.K. Page]
Music for Solo Flute (1995)
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1996)
A Thousand Ages, treble (boy's voice), male chorus, orch & electronic sounds (1998) [electronic ending compl by Charlie Gray]
    - also version for treble voice, brass band and electronic samples
Nothing Too Serious (7 pieces), piano (1997)
Medea, incidental theatre music, electroacoustic (1998) [1997?] [with Charlie Gray]
Eternity, tenor and piano (1999)


WORKS BY GENRE                                                            Somers Links     ~ top of page ~
Dramatic/Theater
The Fool, chamber opera (1951)
The Homeless Ones, TV operetta (1955; fp. CBC-TV, 1956) [libretto: M. Fram]
Louis Riel, music drama in 3 acts (1967)
Voiceplay, singer/actor (1971) [text: Harry Somers]
Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, soprano, flute, piano, actress, actor and tape (1975)
Love-In-Idleness, tableau lyrique, soprano, piano and stage props (1976) [text: Shakespeare - Midsummer Night's Dream]
Death of Enkidu, chamber opera (1977)
The Merman of Orford, mime, flute, horn, cello and percussion (1978)
A Midwinter Night's Dream, children's opera (1988)
Mario and the Magician, opera (1992)
Serinette, folk music drama in 3 acts (1992)

Ballet
The Fisherman and His Soul, ballet (1956)
Ballade, ballet (1958)
The House of Atreus, ballet (1963)
AND, ballet for T.V. (1969)

Orchestra
Slow Movements for Strings (1946) [2nd mvt String Quartet No. 1, 1943]
Sketches for Orchestra (1946)
Lament and Primeval, orchestra (1946)
Scherzo for Strings (1947)
North Country Suite, four movements for string orchestra (1948)
Symphony No. 1, orchestra (1951)
Prelude and Fugue, orchestra (1952)
Passacaglia and Fugue, orchestra (1954)
Little Suite for String Orchestra on Canadian Folk Songs (1955)
    - Lukey's boat
    - She's like the swallow
    - Ah! si mon moine voulait danser! (Come and dance with me!)
Fantasia for Orchestra (1958)
Lyric for Orchestra (1960)
Movement for Orchestra (1961)
Symphony for Woodwind, Brass and Percussion (1961)
Five Concepts for Orchestra (1961)
Stereophony for Orchestra (1963)
The Picasso Suite, light music for small orchestra (1964)
    - Paris 1900, A snapshot
    - Blue period
    - Circus
    - Cubism
    - Neo-classic
    - Etching, The Vollard suite
    - Mural, Temple of peace
    - Arcadia, Faun with flute, Innocence
    - Codetta
Those Silent, Awe Filled Spaces, orchestra (1978)
Variations, orchestra (1979)
Elegy, Transformation, Jubilation: in memoriam four Suicides, orchestra (1981)
Of Memory and Desire, string orchestra (1993)

Soloist(s) w/Orchestra
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1947)
Suite for Harp and Chamber Orchestra (1949)
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1956)
Concertante for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion (1982)
Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (1984)
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1996)

Choral
Where Do We Stand, O Lord?, chorus (1955) [text: Fram]
Two Songs for the Coming of Spring, chorus (1955; pub. 1957) [text: Fram]
    - Winter, will you not let go?
    - Winter's over, spring's begun
God, the Master of This Scene, chorus (1962) [text: J. Taylor]
Gloria, chorus, 2 trumpets and organ (1962)
The Wonder Song, chorus (1963) [text: Somers]
Crucifixion (Passion Psalm), chorus, English horn, 2 trumpets, harp and percussion (1966)
Five Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, chorus and piano (1968) [text: traditional, collected by Peacock]
    - Si j'avais le bateau
    - The Banks of Newfoundland
    - The old "Mayflower"
    - Feller from Fortune
    - She's like the swallow
Kyrie, chorus, soloists and instrumental ensemble (1970-72)
Trois chansons de la nouvelle-France (Three Songs of New France), chorus and piano (1976) [text: traditional]
    - L'Hirondelle (The Swallow)
    - Le Tambour (The Drummer Boy)
    - La Fontain est profonde (The Well is deep)
We Wish You a Merry Christmas, chorus and piano (arr. 1976)
Three Limericks, mezzo-soprano, chorus and instrumental ensemble (1980) [text: anon; W.H. Auden]
    - On the breasts of a barmaid from Crale
    - Dance Macabre [W.H. Auden]
    - Adam
Song of Praise, 2-part treble chorus and piano (pub. 1984) [text: W. Scott]
Chura-churum, 8-part chorus, flute, harp, piano, 4 percussionists and 8 loudspeakers (1985)
    - Chura-Churum, 8 singers, flute, harp, piano, 3 percussionists (1985)
Northern Lights, 8 treble voices and piano (1988) [from children's opera "A Midwinter Night's Dream"]
A Children's Hymn to the United Nations, children's chorus and piano (1995) [text: P.K. Page]
A Thousand Ages, treble (boy's voice), male chorus, orch & electronic sounds (1998) [electronic ending compl by Charlie Gray]
    - also version for treble voice, brass band and electronic samples

Chamber
Duo, 2 violins (1943)
String Quartet No.1 (1943)
Suite for Percussion (1947)
Woodwind Quintet (1948)
String Quartet No. 2 (1950)
Trio for Flute, Violin and Cello (1950)
Theme for Variations, any combination of instruments (1954)
Movement for Woodwind Quintet (1957)
String Quartet No. 3 (1959)
Movement for String Quartet (1983)
Fanfare to J.S.B., brass quintet (1984)

Instrument and Piano
Mime, violin and piano (1947)
Rhapsody for Violin and Piano (1948)
Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1953)
Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1955)
Eleven Miniatures for Oboe and Piano (1992)

Solo Instrument
Sonata for Guitar (1959)
Etching - The Vollard Suite, flute (1964) [6th mvt from orchestra work "The Picasso Suite"]
Music for Solo Violin (1974)
Music for Solo Flute (1995)

Piano
Strangeness of Heart, piano (1942)
Etudes, piano (1943)
Flights of Fancy (3 pieces), piano (1944)
    - Dance
    - A mood
    - Moon haze
Dark and Light, piano (1944)
Piano Sonata No. 1, "Testament of Youth" (1945)
Piano Sonata No. 2 (1946)
Three Sonnets, piano (1946)
    - Prelude
    - Lullaby to a Dead Child
    - Primeval
Solitude, piano (1947)
Four Primitives, piano (1949)
Piano Sonata No. 3 (1950)
Piano Sonata No. 4 (1950)
12 X 12 (Fugues for Piano) (1951)
Piano Sonata No. 5 (1957)
Nothing Too Serious (7 pieces), piano (1997)
    - It goes something like this...
    - Sky blue, - Deep blue
    - Uptight
    - Somewhere in the Balkans
    - Alternating currents
    - Debussy
    - Who said it was easy?

Vocal
Stillness, soprano and piano (1942) [text: Harry Somers]
Three Songs, voice and piano (1946) [text: Walt Whitman] ["with a fourth song which may or may not be included"]
    - Look down fair moon
    - After the dazzle of day
    - A clear midnight
A Bunch of Rowan, medium voice and piano (1947) [text: Diana Skala]
A Song of Joys, medium voice and piano (1947) [text: Walt Whitman]
Three Simple Songs, mezzo-soprano and piano (1953) [text: Michael Fram]
    - The Garden
    - Asleep
    - My faith move mountains
Conversation Piece, high voice and piano (1955) [text: Michael Fram]
Five Songs for Dark Voice, alto and orchestra (1956) [text: Michael Fram]
    - Now every grief is personal
    - Be perfect and articulate
    - The hands do not touch will bruise
    - How can I talk of this city?
    - How can I hold within me all that is?
Twelve Miniatures, soprano, recorder/ flute, viola da gamba/cello and spinet/piano (1964) [text: traditional Japanese Haiku]
Evocations, mezzo-soprano and piano (1966) [text: Harry Somers]
Kuyas, soprano, flute and percussion (1967) [from opera "Louis Riel"]
Improvisation, narrator, singers, woodwinds, strings, 2 percussionists and piano (1968) [text: Shakespeare; Yeats]
Voiceplay, singer/actor (1971) [text: Harry Somers]
Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, soprano, flute, piano, actress, actor and tape (1975)
Love-In-Idleness, tableau lyrique, soprano, piano and stage props (1976) [text: Shakespeare - Midsummer Night's Dream]
Shaman's Song, voice [any range] and prepared piano (1983) [text; from phonetic and Inuit sources]
Chura-Churum, 8 singers, flute, harp, piano, 3 percussionists (1985)
The Birminal Trilogy, voices and piano (1988-94) ["wurble inventions by Edward Lear boshed to music by Harry Somers"]
    - The Owl and the Pussy Cat, soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and piano (1988)
    - The Pelican Chorus, soprano, tenor and piano (1993)
    - Abstemious Asses, Zealous Zebras and Others, mezzo-soprano, tenor and piano (1994)
Eternity, tenor and piano (1999)

Incidental/Film
Faces of Canada, incidental music for CBC-TV (1956)
Saguenay, film score (1958)
A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental theatre music (1960)
Movement, [incidental music] for CBC-TV (1961; broadcast 1962) [original title "Abstract for Television"]
The Gift, incidental music for CBC-TV (1965)
Images of Canada, incidental music for 6 part CBC-TV series (1972-75)
Jig for a Gypsy, incidental theatre music (1974)
The Garden and the Cage, TV music for CBC (1980)
MacBeth, incidental theatre music, electroacoustic (1984)
A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental theatre music (1985) [2nd setting]
Medea, incidental theatre music, electroacoustic (1998) [1997?] [with Charlie Gray]

Electronic
Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, soprano, flute, piano, actress, actor and tape (1975)
MacBeth, incidental theatre music, electroacoustic (1984)
Medea, incidental theatre music, electroacoustic (1998)
A Thousand Ages, treble (boy's voice), male chorus, orch & electronic sounds (1998) [electronic ending compl by Charlie Gray]
    - also version for treble voice, brass band and electronic samples


SOMERS  LINKS                                                            Works by Genre      ~ top of page ~
[under construction]
Canadian Composer Harry Somers Dies (CBC News)
Creative Dialogue Across the Ocean: Eric Aldwinckle’s Letters to Harry Somers (PW20C)
Serinette: Harry Somers' Opera Receives a Rare Revival (Joseph So, La Scena Musicale)

Composer website   . . .   inquire about Harry Somers:  here

Somers @ Wikipedia
Somers @ Answers.com
Somers @ ArtsAlive/NAC Musicbox Timeline    also    here
Somers @ Berandol Music
Somers @ The Canadian Encyclopedia
Somers @ Canadian Music Centre
Somers @ Classic Cat
Somers @ Classical Archives
Somers @ Classical Composers Database
Somers @ Classical Net
Somers @ Dr. Estrella's Incredibly Abridged Dictionary of Composers
Somers @ Facebook
Somers @ Geoff Grainger's Webpages
Somers @ IMDb (Internet Movie Database)
Somers @ InstantEncore
Somers @ Mark Morris’s Guide to Twentieth Century Composers
Somers @ MusicWeb International
Somers @ National Library of Canada
Somers @ The New York Times
Somers @ REC Music Foundation /The Lied and Art Song Texts Page
Somers @ The Spectrum Singers
Somers @ WGBH Open Vault

Publisher
Somers @ Berandol Music
Somers @ BMI Canada
Somers @ Canadian Music Centre
Somers @ Caveat Music
Somers @ Clark & Cruickshank
Somers @ Exile Editions
Somers @ Jaymar Music
Somers @ E.C. Kerby
Somers @ G.V. Thompson

Streaming Audio
Somers @ ArtsAlive/NAC Musicbox Timeline
Somers @ Canadian Music Centre
Somers @ Canadian Music Centre/Audio Gallery    also    here
Somers @ Classical Archives
Somers @ last.fm
Somers @ Rhapsody.com
Somers @ SoundCloud

Recordings
Somers @ Composer's website
Somers @ Amazon.com
Somers @ ArkivMusic
Somers @ Canadian Music Centre
Somers @ CD Universe
Somers @ ClassicsOnline
Somers @ Discogs
Somers @ itunes

Video
Somers @ YouTube
Somers @ Google Video
Somers @ Vimeo (via Google Advanced Search)
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