what happens now? (2016)

for SATB choir and alto flute
commissioned by Cor Flammae
text by Ray Hsu

When Cor Flammae commissioned me to write something for the 2016 theme of Refuge, it made me think of an experience many of my friends have experienced - applying for permanent residency in Canada. The piece embraces common sentiments shared by anyone who has immigrated (leaving a life behind, building a new life, risking everything in spite of crippling uncertainty), as well as tackles instances of institutional racism experienced by immigrants of colour. Through an interview with an immigrant from Mexico, Ray Hsu brings out the emotions, the frustration, and the beauty that are part of the process.

Writing for choir was the perfect medium for these themes. At times the choir assumes a mob mentality, shouting accusations; at other times the choir harmonizes, or brings all the voices together to colour the emotion of the text. The alto flute plays almost exclusively, fragments of the Canadian and Mexican national anthems, providing an ironic counterpoint to the sung text. I was thrilled at how Cor Flammae embraced my aesthetic; each singer taking their own emotional path through the piece, using my notes to truly connect with the text.

The following recording is from the world premiere performance of Cor Flammae and Mark McGregor (alto flute), conducted by Mark Reid.