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A&E >Music>Music News

    "The evening had a special moment to it due to the fact that a world premier by a Canadian composer, still living, was presented. Christopher Donison, who hails originally from Victoria, British Columbia, was commissioned by ChamberWORKS! to write a work. He did, while on the west coast and called it "Music-by-the-Sea" for basset clarinet and string quartet. Mr. Donison, who introduced his new work, made sure that we knew that the music was written "by the sea" not about the sea.

    I loved this piece although it probably did not sit well with all who where there that night. This is challenging classical concert music of this century; subtle, quiet, with repeated phrases and pointillistic punctuation, smooth glissandi and haunting low notes from the basset clarinet. This instrument is rarely heard and the extra low notes gave the composer ample room to move in.

    Stephen Pierre played with care and control. The strings shimmered and created waves of sound and had the mind leaping to Long Beach and Tofino on the western side of Vancouver Island, circling seagulls, drifting wood, footprints in the ancient sand. The whole four movement work gave me an organic and primal feeling. Beautiful music and hats off to ChamberWorks! for continuing the tradition of commissioning works by Canadian composers.

    The second piece on the program, was the ever popular and easy listening, :Eine Kleine Nachmusic" for string quintet by Mozart.....

    .....After hearing this music I look forward to the final concert of the season on June 4th."

The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, July 13, 1996


    ..... Christopher Donison has composed a sumptuous highly programmatic string quartet that generally provides more rewards than anything transpiring on stage.

Broadcast Week
November 15 to November 21, 1997

    ...... accompanied by Christopher Donison's beautiful string quartet suite written for the production ...

The Globe and Mail
Saturday, October 11, 1997


    .... each Seagull movement depicts a different character in Checkov's play. Donison goes in for melodic snippets rather than full fledged hummable tunes, and adds spices with vigorous clashes on neighboring keys, in the manner of Hindemith and Britten, The third movement, for instance, evokes the fragile suicidal personality of Constantine. It opens with a low C-sharp in the cello played against C-natural harmonic five octaves higher in the first violin. The wide open, empty, dissonant clash certainly conjures up a tortured mental state. Then the score portrays Constantine's psyche struggling stubbornly not to fly apart. Donison calls for wild , weepy-sounding double stop slides in the cello's highest register, and a repetitive pattern of notes in the viola (which epitomizes his fondness for traditional forms such as the Baroque canon). Such vivid tone painting shoes that Donison follows his own philosophy. "Music," he said, "is a communicative art form."


Victoria Times Colonist, March 3, 1997

   "Match Girl strikes right chords"

    " ... composed by Victoria's Christopher Donison. This musical score served as a third character in the performance, as it punctuated the story, adding mood and colour throughout. Here, the symphony became a pair of careening cars; there, raindrops; and later, a fat waddling goose. ....In one final powerful moment, the two generations posed in a wash of white light, with arms reaching for heaven. "

"Erotica Stimulating"
Donison makes four seasons pleasurable

    " Donison maintained a unique flow of harmony, blending skill and passion and dispersing it to each musician. ... an excellent array of tempo, pitch, dynamics and tone, which, in turn, provided an intense blend of listening delight....

    .... prepared the audience for the magnificent debut of Donison's symphony.

    ...... As I watched the music being performed by the varied group of musicians, my emotions fluctuated with every change in tone. I was excited, passionate, and then timid. All of my emotions seemed to run into each other — never was I left with only my thoughts, keeping in tune with the style of Donison's symphony.

Kinston Whig Standard

    ..... Theme and Conversations for Orchestra, by Christopher Donison,... finely crafted.... the music featured some fine writing, expressively played , for horn and strings..... the music (written in under two weeks), wended its way affably through a number of engaging timbres and combinations.

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The Kingston Whig Standard

   "Glowing performance marks choral society's anniversary"

    On Symphonic Choral Prophecy:

    " The Kingston Symphony honoured the 40th anniversary of the Kingston Choral Society with collaborative performances of Verdi's monumental Requiem and a work by composer Christopher Donison, commissioned especially for the occasion......An approachable tonal work for chorus and orchestra, the Symphonic Choral Prophecy began with delicate woodwind solos building to a climax of combined forces.

    Donison has created an interesting effect in the opening where the layered orchestra is joined for several bars by the chorus producing only a vowel sound which evolves into the word "Awake". Especially effective was the section of alternating whispers in this largely atmospheric work of which this listener would welcome future performances."

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Victoria Times Colonist — on Rhapsody in Blue, July 8, 1997

   "Jazz Orchestra delights with true blue Rhapsody"

    In an age of "authentic" performances, this was the real thing. The Rhapsody came up as fresh as paint., much more earthy and even raucous than we are accustomed to.

    On Saturday, Donison and the Festival Jazz Orchestra reclaimed Rhapsody In Blue for the masterpiece it truly is."

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Globe & Mail, April 3, 2001

   "Taking the audience to the mountain"

    Christopher Donison's first opera, based on three Jack Hodgins tales, struck a chord with listeners at its Victoria premiere.
    Christopher Donison's first opera, based on three Jack Hodgins tales, struck a chord with listeners at its Victoria premiere.

    ...just right from a dramaturgical point of view, replete with the necessary operatic virtues of visible action, strong characters, and highly charged emotions.

    ..Donison's orchestration provided an expressive subtext for the characters, adding all the moody subtleties one expects from a sophisticated opera score. Donison's work is melodic and memorable, yet with all the textural inventiveness of a composer firmly in this century. He admits to burrowing the best of both musical theatre and serious composition, and does a good job of blending the two. .....The three-act production lasted about two hours, ending with a heartily applauding house though there were, predictably, one or two audience members who would not countenance a modern work no matter what. Nevertheless, having created an opera that was both intelligent and moving, it seems Donison's reason and inspiration were operating at full throttle: This modern Canadian composer certainly reached his audience- or at least most of them.

Victoria Times Colonist

   "Adaptation of Hodkins stories a success in three short acts"

    "Eyes on the Mountain boasts a score and libretto by Christopher Donison, a former Victorian, who now lives in Ontario. The 90 minute opera , in three short acts, is a success. The deceptively music is accessible, melodic, and often gorgeous..... a similar melodic richness and a knack for creating strong moods through clever instrumentation.... ......The music is simple, with the orchestra typically hugging the melodic arcs of the arias closely. If one listens closely, though, the orchestration is quite complex.... There's much cleverness in the intertwining of the stories....somehow this musical and theatrical counterpoint is very successful; resonating and echoing wonderfully."

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Toronto Globe & Mail

    on the Gershwin centenary project of finishing of an 'unfinished ' Gershwin musical:

    "Donison has skilfully arranged and orchestrated the songs to create a complete and seamless Gershwin score."

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Toronto Star, Saturday, August 23, 1997

   Rashomon Quartet

W I L L I A M   L I T T L E R

    .....a worthy concert piece as it happens.... ....bristling with angularity, rhythmic energy and thematic insistence......furious pluckings and criss-crossings of voices......lyrical passacaglia.....complex and anxious as Donison works his material into a scherzo.....the composer subtly draws attention to the point of the play: that the same tale can take on quite different meanings, depending on the point of view of its various tellers.

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