Year Composed: 2009
Instrumentation: solo violin & strings
Duration 6 minutes

Program Notes

Joy was originally conceived as the second movement of a suite for string quartet, commissioned originally as a wedding gift for a couple I did not know. Late in 2008 I had the opportunity to rework this particular movement as a concert piece for solo violin and string orchestra, and in doing so revised the composition itself to reflect aspects beyond a state of pure celebration. Primarily through-composed, Joy is in essence a 'song without words' whose central, meditative melody is expressed by the violin in sweeping vocal lines across the span of the work.  

Far too often it is only in the absence of something dear to us that we are able to see with utter clarity its value in our lives. The experience of loss is an awakening, and it is no surprise that joy and grief—both painfully acute experiences of overwhelming love—are expressed in such similar ways.Joy is a tribute to these sentiments, and a plea to cherish the precious things in our lives, while they remain.


  • January 24, 2009 - Conrad Chow, violin; Sneak Peek Strings, conducted by Victor Cheng. Church of the Redeemer, Toronto
  • October 2, 2010 - Conrad Chow, violin; Sneak Peek Strings, conducted by Victor Cheng. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Toronto
  • November 25, 2010 - Conrad Chow, violin; Sneak Peek Strings, conducted by Victor Cheng. Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto
  • January 24, 2014 - Conrad Chow, violin; Sinfonia Toronto, conducted by Nurhan Arman. Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto.
  • April 23, 2014 - Kathlyn Stevens, violin; Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edward Cumming. Hilldale Lutheran Church, Thunder Bay.
  • April 26, 2015 - Sharon Lee, violin; Toronto Concert Orchestra. Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, Toronto.
  • January 17, 2016 - Aiyana Anderson-Howatt, violin; Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Enmax Hall, Winspear Centre, Edmonton.

CD Release

  • Title: Premieres
  • Producers: Ronald Royer and Jeannie Pool
  • Executive Producer: Conrad Chow
  • Original Music by: Bruce Broughton, Ronald Royer, Kevin Lau
  • Performed by: Sinfonia Toronto
  • Edited and mixed by: Jeff Wolpert
  • Available for purchase at:


  • "...Lau took the stage boldly, a self-assured voice with something to say. Joy is a troubling piece precisely because it questions happiness and joy, teasing us with lovely moments that refuse to promise us an easy happily-ever-after. Lau is to be commended for bravely undertaking the old romantic project of exploring philosophical truths in his creation. I love his ambition, and even more, I believe he did a fair job in his exploration of the idea." - Leslie Barcza, Barczablog

  • "For me, the showstopper on this disc is Kevin Lau's Joy for violin and string orchestra, written in 2008. It exhibits, for such a young composer, masterful control over his idiom. It is so emotionally charged, that on a few occasions it feels like the whole thing will just go over the top, but Kevin Lau resists the temptation, and in the process delivers a piece that brings out the violin's expressive nature and demands truly heartfelt playing from the violinist..." - Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinel

  • "Kevin Lau’s Joy (for violin and string orchestra) has a theme of exquisite beauty that Chow's violin renders sweet and gentle, strangely redolent of heather." - Stanley Fefferman, OpusOneReview

  • "Joy for solo violin and string orchestra by Kevin Lau is a lyrical, meditative piece that lets the soloist explore different colours and textures." Ivana Popovic, Whole Note

  • "Attractive, largo-esque lyricism is at play here for the short work. It has an earthy appeal but goes by all-too-quickly." Grego Applegate Edwards, Classical Modern Music

  • "Joy is a beautifully written (and performed) piece, effective and surefooted..." Colin Eatock, Eatock Daily

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