Year Composed: 2011
Instrumentation: 2+picc.1+eh.2+bcl.2/ perc/pno/strings
Duration 9 minutes

Audio Excerpts (MP3)

Program Notes

River is a tone poem, intended to evoke certain images and emotions in association with its title. In depicting the motion of water through music, I have employed some familiar gestures — the delicate trickle of strings (as in the opening), the excited babble of winds, the perpetual ‘rocking’ motion of the accompaniment, and the brief surges of sheer orchestral power reminiscent of mighty waves or waterfalls. Unlike a work such as Smetana’s The Moldau, however, this river is not tied to any particular national or geographic identity; rather, it is an artist’s idealized portrait, a river of the imagination, more suggestive of our collective journey in time than any literal body of water. It is the great River we must all sail.

Two themes define the structure of River. The first is lyrical and wondrous, with a gentle ebb-and-flow rhythm, unfolding at the outset on oboe and English horn. The second theme, symbolic of the turbulent and inevitable ‘tide of change’ that affects us all at some point in our lives, is darker and fatalistic. It emerges in a subtle and melancholy fashion, but its shadow gradually spreads until it becomes the sole driving force behind the music. At the time of composition, I was haunted by the seeming impermanence of life’s beauty, and this sentiment is reflected to some extent throughout the piece. There is a third identity — not a theme so much as a motive, comprised of three notes, E-G-E (mi-so-mi). The motive occurs sporadically, usually at the tail-ends of certain phrases, and during the piece’s final, grave measures. Embedded within these notes is a musical dedication to a particular individual who has been a profound influence on my life.


  • March 26, 8 pm, 2011 - Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Barnum. Hammerson Hall, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga.
  • May 2, 7:30 pm, 2015 - International Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Douglas Bianchi. Imperial Theatre, Sarnia.
  • May 3, 7:30 pm, 2015 - International Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Douglas Bianchi. McMorran Theatre, Port Huron, Michian (USA).

Commisions and Awards

  • commissioned by the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, 2011 (with assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts)

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