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Read an interview with Alexina

Alexina Louie, O.C.

Award Composer

One of the most frequently performed Canadian classical composers, Alexina Louie is a two-time Juno Award-winner of international renown.  Dr. Louie has been widely commissioned and performed by Canada’s leading orchestras, new music ensembles, chamber groups and soloists.  She has toured extensively and gained both personal acclaim for her compositions and recognition for Canada’s new music abroad. Her works have been performed by major conductors including Pinchas Zukerman, Sir Andrew Davis, Leonard Slatkin, Alexander Lazarev and Charles Dutoit, among others.

In March 2002 at the launch of the NAC New Music Plan, the National Arts Centre named Alexina Louie as one of three recipients of the $75,000 NAC Composer Awards. Each composer was commissioned to create three works, and to work closely with the National Arts Centre Orchestra on a series of new music education initiatives. Dr. Louie’s first commission, String Quartet No. 2, had its world premiere in July 2003 during the Great Composers Festival. In February 2006, the NAC Orchestra premiered her second commission, a work for full orchestra entitled Infinite Sky with Birds. In addition, a commissioned orchestration of her work originally scored for cello and piano, Bringing the Tiger Down From the Mountain II, was premiered at the NAC and then performed during the NAC Orchestra’s British Columbia Tour in November 2004. Alexina Louie accompanied the Orchestra on tour presenting a series of composition workshops with high school and university music students. The Orchestra performed Infinite Sky with Birds again in 2007 both at the NAC and in Toronto, and will perform the piece on its Western Canada Tour in October-November 2008. Alexina Louie was Lead Composer of the NAC Summer Music Institute’s Young Composers Programme in 2005 and will again join the NAC Orchestra on its Western Canada Tour.

The National Arts Centre and CBC co-commissioned Alexina Louie’s Shattered Night, Shivering Stars, which the NAC Orchestra premiered in 1997. This piece along with four other Alexina Louie works covering orchestra, choral, concerto and vocal styles were performed by the Orchestra led by Mario Bernardi and recorded by CBC Records. The resulting CD, Shattered Night, Shivering Stars, won a Juno Award in March 2000.

A recipient of The Order of Ontario for outstanding musical contributions, Dr. Louie’s imaginative and highly crafted music stems from a wide variety of influences.  These span her Chinese heritage to her theoretical, historical and performance studies. Dr. Louie regularly investigates musical scores and recordings, literature, poetry and visual arts – combining this with introspection and continuous composition – for a style that is uniquely her own, a musical blend of East and West.

A frequent contributor to films, Alexina recently collaborated with her husband, Esprit Orchestra Music Director/conductor/composer Alex Pauk, to score orchestral music for Don McKellar’s feature film Last Night (winner of the Prix de Jeunesse, Cannes Film Festival, 1998).  Their score received a 1998 Genie nomination for Best Original Score and the music has since been released as a CD on the Sony Classical label. Other Louie/Pauk film and TV scores include Jeremy Podeswa’s feature film The Five Senses, Podeswa’s TV movie After the Harvest, Rhombus Media’s docudrama Ravel’s Brain, and Rhombus Media’s feature film Perfect Pie.

Alexina Louie’s mini-opera Toothpaste created for television with librettist Dan Redican (Puppets Who Kill), has been broadcast in over a dozen countries (see Burnt Toast, eight comedic mini-operas for television was their next collaboration. Her ballet score Wolf’s Court, with choreography by Matjash Mrowzewski for the National Ballet of Canada, was the first major Canadian composition to be performed in Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in June 2007 during the Centre’s inaugural season.

As composer-in-residence of the Canadian Opera Company, Alexina Louie had her full-length opera, The Scarlet Princess, with Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) premiered in concert by the COC in April 2002.  

Dr. Louie has served as composer-in-residence at music festivals, including the 1993 Scotia Festival, the 1994 Vancouver Chamber Music Festival and the 1996 Boris Brott Summer Music Festival and the 1999 Banff Arts Festival.

Alexina Louie was awarded an honourary doctorate from the University of Calgary in 1997. She was a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. In 2003, Dr. Louie was given the SOCAN Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award for being the most frequently-performed Canadian classical composer, her third time receiving the award since its inception in 1990. In 2005 Alexina Louie became an Officer of the Order of Canada and in the fall of 2006 she was inducted into The Royal Society of Canada.

April 2008