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Providence professor premieres composition in Montreal
Dr. Karen Sunabacka and her co-composers received a standing ovation for their symphony De Natura Sonorum, which was premiered by Orchestre Metropolitain last week in Montreal.
Commissioned to celebrate Canada’s 150 years of confederation, the piece brought together five movements representing various regions of the country. Sunabacka—Associate Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Providence—contributed a movement depicting the Prairies.
“There is a natural beauty in the Prairies,” she explains. “I see beautiful skies, Northern Lights, stark beauty in the white, winter landscape, details of colour in a spring day. I hear chickadees, geese, frogs, melting snow, crackling ice and other delicate sounds that create such a varied landscape and soundscape, along with the power and terror of winds, storms and blizzards.”
Performed February 22 and 24, De Natura Sonorum received standing ovations both nights, accompanied by shouts of “Bravo!”—something Sunabacka admitted caught her by surprise.
“It was one of the best receptions to something I’ve written,” she says, adding that she enjoyed working with conductor Jean-Francois Rivest and listening to the piece in the beautiful new Maison Symphonique. “The acoustics were amazing, and all the delicate parts of my piece were heard in all corners of the hall.”
Eric Champagne, who coordinated the project, was effusive in his praise of Sunabacka’s work in his program notes.
“The introspective adagio wonderfully depicts the landscapes of the Prairies,” he wrote. “Manitoban Karen Sunabacka has developed a piece of music remarkable in its intimacy and introspection, its subtlety, its shimmering and tenderness.”
Champagne connected with Sunabacka through the Canadian Music Centre, and the commission was formalized in December 2015.
“It was Orchestre Metropolitain’s project to celebrate Canada 150,” she explains. “I was really excited about the project and my part in it.”
Learn more about studying music at Providence with Dr. Sunabacka.
(Top: The composers of De Natura Sonorum receive a standing ovation. Dr. Karen Sunabacka is second from left. CREDIT: Francois Goupil. )


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