'A different point of view': An Interview with Alexina Louie

Alexina Louie

'A different point of view': An Interview with Alexina Louie

Canadian composer Alexina Louie will attend the Finding a Voice concert series of female composers this weekend in Tipperary. She spoke to The Journal of Music about the disparate influences on her very personal music.

The Finding a Voice concert series takes place in Clonmel this weekend (8–10 March) with a programme of music by women composers to mark International Women’s Day. 

The series will mark the 70th birthday of Canadian composer Alexina Louie, who is visiting Ireland for the first time and will attend the opening concert, ‘Falling Through Time’, focussing on her music.

The programme features early works such as her vocal work Songs of Enchantment, a later Berceuse from her opera The Scarlet Princess, a cello and piano work Bringing the Tiger Down from the Mountain, a piano solo, Warrior, and a recent piano quintet titled Falling Through Time

Speaking to The Journal of Music, Louie said the concert would give people a good understanding of her work. 

The piano piece really reflects my preoccupation with Asian concepts early on, and the same with Bringing the Tiger Down from the Mountain, named after a Tai Chi move – I thought the title was poetic! The songs are interesting as they have not been performed together before. 

The works will be performed by an ensemble of emerging performers: Ellen Jansson (piano), Kelley Lonergan (soprano), Hugh Murray (violin), Brendan Garde (violin), Martha Campbell (viola) and Yseult Cooper Stockdale (cello). 

Louie’s work often brings together disparate influences like these, such as in a recent project in which she brought together Inuit throat-singing and orchestral music under the direction of conductor Kent Nagano. The opera aria featured in Clonmel is based on a Japanese kabuki story, and somewhat inspired by the ‘ringing sounds of Balinese gamelan’. 

Louie was born in Vancouver, where she studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of British Columbia. She is now based in Toronto. She has received many awards throughout her career including the Order of Canada and the Juno Award for her concerto Winter Music.

For Louie, ’music has always been … a way of expressing myself, from a small child playing the piano.’ When an injury prevented her from continuing to play, composition became the new avenue of expression.

The piano is still central to her process however; she continues to do all her composing on the instrument, and she usually starts by ‘by improvising at the piano until I alight on something, but I throw away a lot of ideas …. It often takes me a while to find the right solution.’

I physically have to hear it and play it and make my adjustments by listening to what it sounds like, and imagining what the orchestra, what the instruments, would sound like. I’m always searching for what I want to say… I am writing for myself first. 

Clara Schumann
The festival will also mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Clara Schumann, with a day of her music on Saturday 9 March with performances from Mary Hegarty, Paul Roe, the Fidelio Trio and Mary Dullea. The day’s programme will also include the premieres of a new work for clarinet and speaker by Jane O’Leary, Clara, and a series of specially commissioned short works based on a theme by Schumann, by Rhona Clarke, Marian Ingoldsby, Amanda Feery, Siobhan Cleary and Anna Murray. 

Also featured will be the Irish Baroque Orchestra performing the music of Barbara Strozzi (8pm, 8 March), Quiet Music Ensemble performing Pauline Oliveros’ The Mystery Beyond Matter (5pm, 10 March) and pianist Therese Fahy performing the music of twentieth-century French composers with the PRISM Ensemble (10pm, 10 March).

For further information, visit www.southtippartscentre.ie.

Published on 7 March 2019

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