Foothills of Heaven

Year Composed: 2014
Instrumentation: pno+2+picc.2+eh.2+bcl.2+cb/ perc/hp/pno/strings
Duration 18 minutes

Program Notes

Foothills of Heaven is a single-movement symphonic allegro which unfolds across a formidable eighteen-minute span. The title—inspired by a phrase found in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Chinese-themed historical fantasy,Underheaven—is a loose metaphor for human existence in all of its glorious, devastating complexity.  

The work begins with the glittering strains of Treeship’s final bars—literally resuming from where the 2013 work left off—before surging toward a new, colourful landscape. Predominantly rhythmic and brimming with propulsive energy, the music passes through episodes that are by turns soaring, lyrical, savage, and reverent—all while searching for ‘common ground,’ the foundation upon which these differences are reconciled at a deeper level. That foundation is embodied by a simple, lullaby-like melody in C major—representing the transcendent ideals that humanity has always aspired to, however imperfectly. The lullaby is revealed gradually and in long, arching phrases that run against the grain of an otherwise brisk tempo.  

  The instrument at the heart of Foothills is the piano, which figures prominently throughout—at times serving as virtuosic centerpiece, at other times silent or overwhelmed; but most often contributing to the overall texture of the orchestra. The piano is emblematic of the individual who lends the journey a unique point of view—and who eventually forges her own identity through the rigours of a fiery coda.


  • February 11, 2015 - Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Oundjian; Pat Kreuger, piano. Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto.

Commissions and Awards

  • Commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with generous support from the RBC Emerging Artists' Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts.


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