Announcing the Winners of the Platinum Pride Choral Composition Competition!
As part of their 20th Anniversary Celebration, Rainbow Harmony Project launched a new choral composition competition, Platinum Pride. Platinum Pride will be a biennial competition that welcomes unpublished and unperformed works by Canadian composers. The competition is unique in that it invites Canadian composers to incorporate the lived stories and experiences of the LGBTQ2* community into their compositions, thereby contributing to Canadian LGBTQ2*- specific choral repertoire.
Several compositions were received and adjudicated by a panel of professional musicians that included RHP’s Artistic Director. In addition to receiving individual awards, two finalists were chosen to have their works performed and recorded during RHP's 20th season.
1st Place: The Platinum Pride award of Distinction
The first place winner of the competition is, Nicholas Tristan, for his beautiful piece, entitled "Three Songs of Sappho”.
Nicholas made the following comments about his piece, “In my work as a queer composer, I’ve worked with numerous texts by those who have identified as gay over the years -- Walt Whitman, WH Auden, James Baldwin, the great Richard Blanco -- but I’ve realized that my own writing, like most other writing, looks primarily to the work of men for inspiration.
We don’t know a lot about Sappho, her life and how she identified, but there is something marked and different in her poetry. She describes women frequently as figures of erotic desire, all while simultaneously writing of longing, of feeling trapped, of her own uniqueness. Sappho has endured as an icon of queerness, with the adjective sapphic being named for her works. Whatever Sappho felt in her life, some of that has been transmuted through time and become part of our shared queer identity.
Knowing that so much of her surviving work exists in short fragments, I decided I would adapt three short songs to be performed as a miniature cycle, lasting less than six minutes. In my search through her works, I found many longing and loving poems, but I also found something that excited me equally.
This final text in the cycle is We Shall Enjoy It. In a world where so much queer art deals with unrequited love and heartbreak, and the oppression and terrors the world has inflicted on us, we must also acknowledge and celebrate the ecstatic jubilation that permeates and defines our community. Choirs like Rainbow HarmonyProject embody this radical queer camaraderie, and I wanted my submission to reflect that feeling as well.”
Nicholas is a composer, producer, writer arranger and director based out of Toronto, Canada. He has worked with artists as diverse as alt-rock legends Guided by Voices, Iranian pop group Abjeez, Latinx hip-hop collective Los Poetas, Ethiopian jazz pianist Hailu Mergia, and many others. His choral compositions have been performed across North America and in Europe at festivals and showcases, and his work has been heard on CBC Radio's Choral Concert. From 2013 - 2017 he served as the Artistic Director for the Concord Vocal Ensemble, who performed regularly and recorded the 2015 album "Hymns & Carols". He is incredibly excited and honoured to be working with Rainbow Harmony Project this season.
2nd Place: The Platinum Pride award of Resilience
The second place finalist of the competition is, Michael Gordon Bennett, for his LGBTQ2* anthem, entitled "Not Just Passing By”.
Michael has shared the following comments about his composition: “In Toronto in the mid 1990’s, it was becoming easier for young gay people to come out. Easier. But not easy. There was no “It Gets Better” and role models in the media were still not common. Like many, I had known my entire life that I was different. I suffered from bullying and homophobic insults at school. Traumatic and yet I knew they were right. I was gay. I had always known but could not admit it to myself. I knew it would not go away and yet hoped it would.
My life was stalled. I had finished 6 years of university but had no career, or ambition. Friends were moving on with their lives, getting married, having children. Life seemed to be passing me by. I felt like I was drowning in a fog of fear, doubt and indecision.
I remember the day when it all changed. The day I realized that it was either sink or swim. I had been in a long “semi-unrequited” relationship that even I finally had to admit was going nowhere. While stopped at a traffic light, I heard my inner voice. It was so clear that it almost seemed as if I had said the words out loud.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
That was it. I was gay. I had to come out and begin living my life. Within weeks I was out and had met Rob, the man who was to be my partner (and still is) for the past 23 years. I became a teacher, and with Rob’s encouragement, joined Singing Out, Canada’s largest LGBTQ chorus. I began to put my thoughts down as music and have now composed and arranged many songs for choirs. I have found my place, my voice.
Those long-ago feelings are gone but their effects still linger. They make us who we are. Strong and proud. A cliché perhaps, but true. This song tells (part) of my story.”
Michael has been a member of Singing Out, The LGBTQ Chorus of Toronto since September of 2000. Joining Singing Out was a life changing event for Michael. It has provided him with opportunities he never thought possible. It has given him a voice and place in the LGBTQ community. In 2005 Michael began writing and arranging music. Since then has written several LGBTQ-themed songs for Singing Out including The What’s Under the Christmas Tree for Me Blues, Married Again (For the First Time) and Gay Village Whiplash. His poem, The River Sings My Song, is being arranged for Singing Out by Canadian composer Matthew Emery. In addition to LGBTQ compositions, Michael has written mainstream holiday songs and songs for children: Dandelion Wishes (Remembrance Day), and Terry’s Dream (Terry Fox).
After a career as an elementary music teacher, Michael is enjoining an early retirement filled with music, photography and travel with his partner Rob (24 years).