≈ 60 minutes · No intermission
Sri Lankan-born Canadian Dinuk Wijeratne has established himself as a multi-award–winning composer, conductor, and pianist, throughout Canada and abroad. Several of his boundary-crossing works have been performed in recent years by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, with which he also made his conducting debut in July 2022. He describes his music as an intersection of cultures, influenced by those of his upbringing—Sri Lanka, India, and the Middle East—and expressed through the genres, compositional techniques, and mediums of Western classical music. “I’m using music to find a cultural balance that one wants to live, and to explore identity that way,” he recently noted in an article for Ottawa Chamberfest.
Wijeratne’s piece Polyphonic Lively was commissioned by Symphony Nova Scotia in 2016, when he was the orchestra’s RBC Composer-in-Residence. It was premiered by the ensemble conducted by Bernhard Gueller on October 13, 2016; in 2017, the piece won the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award, the province’s largest annual award for a work of art. Wijeratne shares the following description about his piece:
Pol·y·phon·ic (adj.) – many-voiced, [music] composed of relatively independent melodic lines or parts.
Live·ly (adj.) – full of life or vigour.
While browsing through a library book of very vibrant artwork by Paul Klee, the 20th century Swiss-German master, I was struck by the title of one of the paintings: ‘Polyphonic Lively’. Though the two adjectives back-to-back suggest that something may have been lost in translation, I felt compelled to turn these very vivid and evocative words into music. They immediately conjured up high-vibration, high-intensity ‘chatter’, and also seemed nicely suited to the celebratory nature of an orchestra’s season opener.
Music, as a communicative medium, offers unique and wonderful opportunities for stacking contrasting ideas—for ‘polyphony’. As a composer I like to explore the possibility that musical voices, each conveying an idea that is either supportive or subversive, can be allowed to coexist in a way that often eludes us in today’s world. The nature of ‘Polyphonic Lively‘ is character-driven and, through sharp turns and decisive action, its ‘journey’ is simply what the characters make of it. Its musical fabric is a multiplicity of voices, lines, and themes that decide—on a whim—when to coalesce and coexist.
Sri Lankan-born Dinuk Wijeratne is a JUNO, ECMA and SOCAN award-winning composer/conductor/pianist described as “exuberantly creative” (New York Times) and as “an artist who reflects a positive vision of our cultural future” (Toronto Star). He is a lively disrupter who crosses traditionally held musical boundaries, equally at home with symphony orchestras and string quartets, Tabla players and DJs. He has worked in international venues as poles apart as the Berlin Philharmonie and Amsterdam’s North Sea Jazz Festival.
Dinuk has twice performed in Carnegie Hall with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble and alongside tabla legend Zakir Hussain. Dinuk has also appeared at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Bastille, The Lincoln Center, Teatro Colón, and in venues in Sri Lanka, Japan, and the Middle East. He was featured as a main character in What Would Beethoven Do? – the documentary about innovation in classical music featuring Eric Whitacre, Bobby McFerrin, and Ben Zander. Dinuk has composed specially for almost all of the artists and ensembles with whom he has performed, to name a few: Suzie LeBlanc, Kinan Azmeh, David Jalbert, Sandeep Das, Ramesh Misra, Ed Hanley, Eric Vloeimans, Buck 65, the Gryphon Trio, the Apollo Saxophone Quartet, the Afiara and Cecilia String Quartets, and the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Nova Scotia, Buffalo, and KwaZulu Natal (South Africa).
Dinuk grew up in Dubai and then studied composition at the Royal Northern College of Music (U.K.). He subsequently joined the Juilliard studio of Oscar-winner composer John Corigliano. Conducting studies followed at Mannes College under David Hayes, and doctoral studies with composer Christos Hatzis at the University of Toronto.
He is the recipient of the Canada Council Jean-Marie Beaudet award for orchestral conducting; the NS Established Artist Award; NS Masterworks nominations for his Tabla Concerto and piano trio Love Triangle; double Merritt Award nominations; Juilliard, Mannes & Countess of Munster scholarships; the Sema Jazz Improvisation Prize; the Soroptimist International Award for Composer-Conductors; and the Sir John Manduell Prize – the RNCM’s highest student honor. His music and collaborative work embrace the great diversity of his international background and influences.