September and October

Happy September! The 2018-2019 season promises to be a good one, with a choral-orchestral premiere; three choral-instrumental premieres; a piece to be performed by several youth choirs and youth orchestras at the National Arts Centre; a cross-cultural, multi-composer collaboration involving six other Canadian composers; lots of other choral, chamber and orchestral performances; and an exciting line-up of commissions for my new Composition Clubs. Here's what I've heard about so far for the next couple of months in terms of performances:

September 27th: Between the Water and the Sky (composed in collaboration with Unity, an Indigenous vocal/percussion ensemble); Unity and members of the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra with dancers Jade Willoughby and Beany John of Public Energy; Peterborough ON

October 20th: Mappa Mundi (guitar quartet with cello) by Canadian Guitar Quartet with Jeff Faragher, cello; Cranbrook BC

October 28th: Three Autumn Scenes (orchestra) by Huronia Symphony; Barrie ON

October 28th: The Grail Bird (women's choir: on-stage choir, off-stage choir, speaker) by Fredonia Camerata; Fredonia NY

October 30th and 31st: Hopewell Cape by Toronto Symphony as part of their educational programming for students in grades 7-12; Toronto ON

July and August

Performances this summer include Album of Old Photographs (marimba and piano) by the SHHH!! Ensemble in Belgium in late July and Three Short Stories (violin with two guitars) by Trio Tangere in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Other performances may happen too, but often I don't hear about them until later.

Also, I'm teaching theory and composition at three summer academies:

July 9-13: OrKidstra Summer Music Camp (Ottawa ON)

July 16-20: Victoria Conservatory of Music Summer Theory Academy (Victoria BC)

July 30-August 3: University of Ottawa Summer Music Academy - Piano Week (Ottawa ON)

Lastly, take a look at this cool video of lots of violists performing my Caprice for viola and piano at the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute's Advanced String Camp Concert, led by violist Rafael Videira. 

May and June

Just a few concerts at this time of year...

May 6th: Magnificat by Women's Voices Chorus in Chapel Hill NC (from a review of this performance: “The next selection was the striking setting of the Magnificat by Canadian composer Christine Donkin. Soloist, Kim McCorkle, with a pure, uncluttered vocal timbre, started with what could have been an incipit, but it continued with the chorus picking up vocalizations on selected vowels and extending them. The effect was mystical, suggestive of an echo chamber six to eight times the size of Duke Chapel if you can imagine such a sonic experience.”) 

May 19th and 21st: Album of Old Photographs (marimba and piano) by Zac Pulak and Edana Higham at the Canadian Tulip Festival here in Ottawa. 

May 27th: something (not sure what) by Esprit de Choeur Women's Choir in Winnipeg MB

May 31st: open rehearsal of Udo, Shalom (youth orchestra and youth choir) by OrKidstra directed by Maestro Alexander Shelley of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. This piece, which was commissioned by OrKidstra, is a setting of the word "peace" in thirty spoken languages and five sign languages. It is part of a larger, multi-composer project for which we are still trying to secure funding.

June 1st: In Flanders Fields (unaccompanied SATB or TTBB) by Vivat Choir at a Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium

June 3rd: In Paradisum (unaccompanied SSAATTBB) by Acquired Taste in Toronto ON

June 9th: In Flanders Fields by Gresley Male Voice Choir in Nottingham, England. 

June 12th: Udo, Shalom - premiere performance by OrKidstra here in Ottawa

June 13th: Magnificat by Amuse Singers in New York City NY

June 23rd: Three Short Stories (violin and two guitars) by Trio Tangere at Guitar Foundation of America 2018 Convention in Louisville KY

June 30th: Four Choral Critters (SATB with piano) by Vox - Farnham Chamber Choir in Farnham, Surrey, England. 

Other things:

I'll be adjudicating the Alberta Piano Teachers' Association Composition Competition.

I wrote an article about Udo, Shalom which will be featured in the June 2018 issue of Alla Breve, the official journal of the Kodaly Society of Canada. 

March and April

Here's what I know about...

March Performances

1st: Three Short Stories (violin and 2 guitars) by Trio Tangere in Waterloo ON

3rd: The Dawn is Not Distant (SSAA chorus with piano) by Elektra Women's Choir in Vancouver BC

6th-9th: The Frosted Pane from Four Poems (orchestra) by UNC Charlotte Chamber Orchestra on their tour of British Columbia

9th: The Dawn is Not Distant by Chapel Singers of the University of Redlands in Redlands CA

10th: The Grail Bird (treble choir) by the Cornell Chorus at the ACDA convention in Pittsburgh PN

16th: The Dawn is Not Distant (SSAA with piano) by Vox Femina at the Pasadena 2018 Western Region Conference in Pasadena CA

17th: Magnificat (mezzo-soprano solo with ten treble parts) by Aqua Lauda in Asturias, Spain

21st: Preach Not Me Your Musty Rules (soprano and piano) by Susan Lines and Sonja Deunsch at a Musical Arts Club Concert here in Ottawa. This is the premiere of this not-so-serious little piece, which is a contemporary-style setting of a poem by Milton.

22nd: In Flanders Fields (SATB chorus) by Vox - Farnham Chamber Choir in Farnham, Surrey, England. 

30th: Magnificat (mezzo-soprano solo with ten treble parts) by Manning Chapel Choir in Wolfville NS

AND: TriO (a flute, horn, and piano ensemble based in Slovenia) has released a CD that includes my Bagatelle

April Performances

13th, 14th: In Flanders Fields (TTBB chorus) by Jamestown Choralaires in Jamestown ND

22nd: Rainstorm (SSA chorus with piano) by Voix de Femmes in Silver Spring MD

27th: The Frosted Pane by UNC Charlotte Chamber Orchestra in Charlotte NC. I will be working with the students and attending the concert.

27th: In Flanders Fields by Jamestown Choralaires in Marshall MN

28th: In Paradisum (SSAATTBB) by Avanti Chamber Singers in St. Catharines ON

29th: Four Choral Critters (SATB with piano) by Bytown Voices in Ottawa ON

January and February


January 6-19: The Grail Bird in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston TX; Baton Rouge and New Orleans LA; and Tallahassee, Tampa, Sarasota, Naples, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale FL as part of the Cornell Chorus's tour.

January 29: Magnificat in Winnipeg MB by the Canadian Mennonite University Vocal Ensemble as part of the Winnipeg New Music Festival

February 18: Three Short Stories (arranged for flute and two guitars; 1st and 3rd movements) at the Guitar Alla Grande festival in Ottawa ON.


I'm the featured guest in the Winter 2018 edition of Canadian Music Teacher Magazine. Pianist Lori Elder and I discuss childhood projects, pedagogical publications, and other composition adventures. 



Here's what I know about this month:

1st and 2nd: Magnificat (mezzo-soprano soloist with 10 treble parts) - St. John's Boys' Choir in Collegeville MN

3rd: Magnificat  - Princeton University Chapel Choir in Princeton NJ

3rd and 10th: Magnificat - Northwest Chamber Chorus in Seattle WA

9th: Not Roses (soprano and guitar) - Christiane Riel and Louis Trépanier at the OGS Guitar Gala Night

19th: Udo, Shalom (youth choir and youth orchestra) - the premiere of part of a commission by Ottawa's music and social development program OrKidstra in celebration of its 10th anniversary. The text consists of the word peace in thirty spoken languages and seven sign languages. NOTE: This performance has been postponed.

In Flanders Fields (unaccompanied SATB or TTBB chorus) has been recorded on a CD by the Prairie Chamber Choir - the CD will be released this month. I don't yet know what it's called!

This Fragile Web (for SATB chorus with violin and piano) is now available from Cypress Choral Music


I'll be in British Columbia for a little while this month, adjudicating at a Canadian Music Festival in West Kelowna and giving composition workshops in Campbell River.


2nd: In Flanders Fields (unaccompanied SATB) - Vocaal Ensemble Similare in Beveren, Belgium

4th: Hopewell Cape (orchestra: 2222/2200/timp/strings) - the opening number on the opening concert of the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra's season

4th: The Dawn is Not Distant (SSAA chorus with piano) - Texas Woman's University Concert Choir at the closing concert of the NCCO conference in Baton Rouge LA

7th and 11th: Bagatelle (flute, horn, piano) - TriO, first in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and then in Skopje, Macedonia

11th: Magnificat (women's choir) - Tromsø Akademiske Kvinnekor in Tromsø, Norway

11th: Autumn Colours in the Canal (SSAA chorus with piano) - students at the University of Denver

11th and 12th: Candles (unaccompanied SSAATTBB) - DaCapo Chamber Choir in Kitchener-Waterloo ON

12th: In Flanders Fields - choir of Robertson-Wesley United Church, Edmonton AB

12th: March to the Bastion (youth orchestra) - youth orchestra in Kelowna BC

19th and 26th: The Dawn is Not Distant - Vrouwenkamerkoor Cantilare in Tilburg and Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands

24th: Bagatelle - students at the University of Alberta

25th: The Dawn is Not Distant - Oriana Women's Choir in Toronto ON

26th: Not Roses (a new work for soprano and guitar) - Christiane Riel and Louis Trépanier at Memorial University in Saint John's NL (premiere)

29th: first and second movements of Three Short Stories (arranged for flute and two guitars) - students at the University of Ottawa


PLEASE NOTE: all my publications with Frederick Harris Music (i.e. Legends & Lore, Comics & Card Tricks, Jumping in the Mud, Imprints, Sunny Days, Groovin' Through Christmas, Costume Party, Fall Fair, and Get Fiddlin') are being transferred to digital publication. Until they are available in digital form, books can be ordered directly from me. Please contact me for details.

First of all, a bit of pedagogical news: my new reading comprehension series, called Daily Reading, is now available from the Leading Note music store. It consists of six large volumes of reading exercises for piano students in conservatory grades 1 through 6 (each volume contains enough for one academic year of lessons: 35 weeks of exercises, 6 days per week). The series begins by developing the fundamental skill of recognizing and executing written pitches and rhythms; once the fundamentals are in place, the focus gradually evolves to the more complex challenge of transforming a visual representation into a musical experience. Take a look at the Daily Reading page on this site for more information. 

Here are the performances that I've heard about this month:

7th: In Paradisum will be performed at Lawrence University in Appleton WI

21st: A new short piece called Lullaby (for violin and piano) will be premiered by members of the Ottawa Chamber Players (in this case, my sister Catherine Donkin on piano with violinist Sophia Hsiao-Fei Pan) here in Ottawa.

28th: A new choral piece called The Grail Bird will be premiered in Ithaca NY by the Cornell Chorus (commissioned as part of their No Whining, No Flowers project). The text for this composition was constructed from the field notes of ornithologist Melinda LaBranche on the day (back in April 2004) when she saw an ivory-billed woodpecker (which many people had believed was extinct). This piece is scored for on-stage choir, off-stage choir, and speaker. 

And: My choral piece Autumn Colours in the Canal, commissioned and premiered a couple of years ago by the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston ON, is now available from Graphite Publishing


This summer hasn't been as busy as previous summers, but there have been a few events:

I had two pieces performed at the Music and Beyond festival here in Ottawa on July 11th: Maps of Europe from the piano piece The Light That Remains, performed by Order of Canada recipient Dr. Elaine Keillor; and In Paradisum, performed by the Capital Chamber Choir.

Over in Peterborough, Canoe Legends (an orchestral work incorporating a collaboration with Indigenous vocal/percussion ensemble Unity) received its second performance by the  Peterborough Symphony Orchestra at an outdoor festival on July 15th. Most of the funding for this piece came from an Ontario Arts Council grant. 

From July 31st to August 4th, I taught composition and harmony at uOSMA (University of Ottawa Summer Music Academy). At the grand concert the piano faculty performed my new piece for two pianos, eight hands, entitled The Happy Ending.

And there's one more concert coming up that I'm aware of: on August 27th, the Amarok Ensemble will perform my Piano Trio at Festival Pontiac Enchanté in Luskville QC. 

[Update - The Magnificat gets to go to all kinds of places that I will probably never see. It seems that the Western Washington University women's choir performed it in Estonia in June, while Javier Busto's choir, Aqua Lauda, has performed it a number of times in very nice-looking parts of Spain in the reasonably recent past.]

May and June

I don't yet know much about performances in May and June, but most of the ones I do know about are here in Ottawa, which is a little unusual. I'll add events as I hear about them...

May 7: Bytown Voices performed In Flanders Fields at their concert entitled Made in Canada

May 11: The senior string orchestra at Canterbury High School will perform Lacus (for string orchestra and guitar ensemble) with local guitartists

May 12: The junior string orchestra at Canterbury High School will perform a new set which for now is called Suite for Strings

[update: May 13: Kingston Capital Men's Chorus sang In Flanders Fields in Kingston ON]

[update: June 3: Hamilton Children's Choir sang Magnificat in Hamilton ON]

June 4: Aella Choir will perform the Magnificat at a concert entitled Her Voice here in Ottawa.

June 26: Cantus will perform In Flanders Fields in Chautauqua NY.

June 29: A string quartet made up of musicians from the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra will join forces with the Indigenous vocal/percussion ensemble Unity to perform a piece that was co-written by Unity and me, entitled Between the Water and the Sky. This will be performed at an outdoor music festival in Peterborough ON and will also feature dancers, courtesy of Public Energy


My Compositional Devices collection, created at the behest of the Royal Conservatory of Music, is now available on RCM's online Teacher Portal. The collection features a 16-part slideshow series entitled Music Composition from Micro to Macro outlining fundamental concepts, as well as lesson plans, worksheets, and diagrams that music teachers can use, accommodating both theory-based and discovery-based approaches to composing music. Not everything is online yet; I think the missing materials will show up over the next few weeks.

March 31-April 8: The Dawn is Not Distant - Cornell Chorus on their tour of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. 

April 1: Three Cummings Settings - soprano Madeleine Lake at a recital in London ON

April 2: Cats & Patterns - Duo Rideau in Sherbrooke QC

April 7: Hopewell Cape - Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Toronto ON as part of the Canada Mosaic Project.

April 8: In Flanders Fields - Symphony of the Kootenays Choir at a choral and symphonic concert in Cranbrook BC entitled "A Vimy Ridge Memorial". 

April 9In Flanders Fields - Concordia Concert Choir in Edmonton AB

April 20: The Guppy and The Llama from Four Choral Critters - Camerata Isla (chamber choir at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi) in College Station TX 

April 20-23: In Flanders Fields -Cantus in Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.



The Canadian Guitar Quartet got some good reviews of their new CD, Mappa Mundi. My composition for guitar quartet and cello is the title track. A review from guitar magazine Minor 7th called my piece a "powerful and awe-inspiring work" that "makes a striking and unexpected finale to the disc." You can read the full review here.

March 3: In Flanders Fields (unaccompanied TTBB chorus) will be sung in Fort Myers FL by Cantus as part of their season-long tour of a programme entitled No Greater Love Than This.

March 4: A Better Time Will Come (SSAATTBB with soloists) was commissioned and will be premiered in Edmonton AB by i Coristi on their concert entitled Dust to Dust.

March 4, 5: This Fragile Web (SATB with violin and piano) will be performed by DaCapo Chamber Choir in Kitchener-Waterloo ON on their concert entitled Mid-Winter Songs.

March 8: Two of my pieces will be featured on two separate collections of music by female composers (in celebration of International Women's Day): the Magnificat (mezzo-soprano solo with ten treble parts)  will be included on a 24-hour Women in (New) Music Marathon by Second Inversion, "a 24/7 online stream, blog, and community dedicated to rethinking classical music with cross-genre and experimental new works" - and Mappa Mundi can be heard on Classical Discoveries with Marvin Rosen on WPRB (103.3 FM; Princeton NJ). 

March 11: Autumn Colours in the Canal, newly published by Graphite Publishing, will be featured in a reading session at the ACDA conference in Minneapolis MN - I will add this piece to my site very soon. The Dawn is Not Distant (published by Cypress Choral Music) will also be featured in a different session (but I'm not sure what day).

March 12: Trio (for flute, cello and piano) will be performed in Vancouver BC by members of West Coast Chamber Music. If all goes as planned, I will attend this concert!

March 12: Two pieces from The Light That Remains (for solo piano) will be performed by pianist Elaine Keillor at a chamber concert here in Ottawa.

March 12, 13: Cats & Patterns (for piano four hands) will be performed by Duo Rideau at two locations in Toronto ON. 

March 13, 14, 15: Hopewell Cape (for orchestra: 2222/2200/timp/strings) will be premiered in Moncton, Fredericton, and Saint John NB by Symphony New Brunswick. This short piece was a joint commission by Symphony New Brunswick and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as part of the TSO's Canada Mosaic project. The TSO will be performing it in April. 

March 19: Three pieces from The Light That Remains will be performed by pianist Elaine Keillor in Kanata ON, thus completing the premieres of all six pieces in this set over the 2016-2017 season.

March 22: On the Beach at Night Alone will be premiered by mezzo-soprano Carole Portelance with me at the piano - this will happen here in Ottawa at a Musical Arts Club concert.

Happy New Year

Two choirs are taking In Flanders Fields (TTBB version) on tour in the coming weeks: the Cornell University Glee Club will sing it in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah on their January tour; and Cantus (who never seems to stop touring) will sing it on January 6th, 7th, 29th, February 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 18th in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, California, Illinois, and Iowa.

January 15th: Cats & Patterns (6 pieces for piano 4 hands) will be performed here in Ottawa as part of St. Luke’s Recital Series.

January 21st: Magnificat will be performed by Belle Canto of Edmonton.

February 4th: My new orchestral composition Canoe Legends, made possible thanks to a grant from the Ontario Arts Councilwill be premiered by the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra. This piece was commissioned in celebration of the orchestra’s fiftieth anniversary, and the concert features author James Raffan (director of the Canadian Canoe Museum) talking about his adventures in the north. My orchestral work portrays scenes from two legends about canoes and incorporates a performance by the Indigenous vocal/drum ensemble Unity. Thanks to a residency grant from the SOCAN Foundation, I will also be spending several days in Peterborough before the performance to work with the musicians and give presentations and workshops to young musicians and elementary and junior high students. 

OAC logo again.jpg

CDs: Later this month ATMA Classique will release the Canadian Guitar Quartet’s latest CD, entitled Mappa Mundi – named for my composition Mappa Mundi for guitar quartet and cello (played by cellist Rachel Mercer). The Capital Chamber Choir will also be releasing a CD that includes my In Paradisum.

Other stuff: the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has all kinds of Canada 150 celebrations going on – I’ve got some orchestral premieres coming up in connection with this but will give more information in the next update. 

November and December activities:

Nov. 11thIn Paradisum was performed in Ottawa at a joint concert by the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir and the Capital Chamber Choir.

Nov. 11th: In Flanders Fields was featured on a program called Salute in Song (Classical MPR), sung by Cantus

Nov. 12th: three pieces that were commissioned by the BC Registered Music Teachers’ Association Mid-Island Branch were premiered at a concert of Canadian music in Nanaimo BC. The pieces are: 1) Tubbub, a piano duet that celebrates Nanaimo’s annual bathtub races; 2) March to the Bastion, a piece for student string orchestra (which was named by one of the students); 3) My Heart Soars, a piece for children’s choir and piano with text by Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation.

Nov. 16th: the Magnificat was performed by the UCSB Women’s Chorus in Santa Barbara CA.

Nov. 20th: three pieces from The Light That Remains (which were premiered last month) were performed again by Elaine Keillor, this time at a concert of Canadian music performed by Dr. Keillor and vocalist Gloria Jean Nagy in Kanata ON.

Nov. 20th again: the Magnificat was performed by the Western Washington University Advanced Women’s Chorus in Bellingham WA.

And Cantus performed In Flanders Fields on November 4th5th6th9th11th, and 13th in Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

Dec. 2nd and 11thThe Dawn is not Distant was performed by a women’s choir called Sounding Joy in Stanford KY and then Danville KY.

Dec. 3rd: The Canterbury Trebles, an Ottawa-based women’s choir, sang the Magnificat at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal QC.