Music first took flight for composer Alexina Louie when as a child she followed the Dragon Dance throughout the streets of Vancouver.
Years later, after winning the NAC Composer’s Award, Alexina was invited to join the National Arts Centre Orchestra on tour – the first of many across Canada. “The concerts are amazing, but the outreach component is tremendous.”
From music composition and masterclasses for elementary and high school students, to performing in retirement homes… “It’s a connection to the community that leaves a fantastic footprint.”
Perhaps the most memorable was bringing her composition Take the Dogsled – featuring full orchestra and two throat singers – to Iqaluit. So successful and faithful to the experience was the performance, that two women were surprised to discover Alexina wasn’t Inuit.
In October 2013, Alexina Louie rediscovered her family’s roots in China, when she traveled with Music Director Pinchas Zukerman and the NAC Orchestra for an unprecedented tour of China.
Born in Vancouver, July 30, 1949
Now living in Toronto
The music of Alexina Louie bears a personal stamp derived from a unique blend of her Chinese background, an exotic instrumental palette, both traditional and non-traditional elements of western music, poetic images, nature, historical studies and a fascination with heavenly phenomena.
Born in Vancouver to Chinese parents, Louie undertook musical studies at the University of British Columbia and the University of California at San Diego, where she received her Masters of Arts in Composition in 1974. For the remainder of the decade she resided in southern California, teaching theory, piano and electronic composition, then returned to Canada to establish residence in Toronto, where she has lived since 1980.
In September of 2005, Dr. Louie was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in the fall of 2006, she was inducted into The Royal Society of Canada. In March 2002, she was named one of three recipients of the National Arts Centre Composer Award ($75,000 each; Gary Kulesha and Denys Bouliane were the others).
Between 2002 and 2005 Dr. Louie wrote three compositions for the NAC Orchestra and worked closely with the ensemble on a number of educational and outreach programs. The first of these three works was her String Quartet No. 2; the second was her orchestration of Bringing The Tiger Down From The Mountain II, originally written for cello and piano as a test piece for the 1991 Canadian Music Competition.
The composer writes: “In the summer of 2003, the NAC Orchestra’s principal cellist, Amanda Forsyth, performed the work brilliantly at the prestigious Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. It was this performance, and its effect on the wildly enthusiastic audience, that prompted Ms. Forsyth and Music Director Pinchas Zukerman to request this special orchestration of the composition. The title is derived from a Tai-chi (Chinese martial art) position… A special aspect of the piece is its senza misura (without bar-lines) sections, which allow the cellist to control the shape of the musical phrases by stretching them out or compressing them according to the performer’s individual interpretation.”
In 2004, Alexina Louie orchestrated Bringing The Tiger Down From The Mountain for the NAC Orchestra (hence the II addition), who gave the first performance under the direction of Pinchas Zukerman, with Amanda Forsyth as soloist. The Orchestra played this work during their 2004 Western Tour, as well as in a concert in 2009 celebrating the 40th anniversary of the NAC (with commissioned choreography and a separate concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Music Centre, always with Maestro Zukerman on the podium and Ms. Forsyth on the cello.