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Saman Shahi – Breathing in the Shadows

Breathing in the Shadows is the debut album from Iranian-Canadian composer, Saman Shahi, set to be released September 25, 2020 through Halifax-based label, Leaf Music. The album includes three song cycles, two of which are based on poetry by women from across the globe. The title cycle, “Breathing in the Shadows” tells stories of oppression through alienation, resistance, and self-actualization. Resonating with many communities that historically have lived through the experiences of these struggles, the poems have an inherent musicality, evocative imagery, and a powerful message of unity and hope. The poets represented in this cycle are Forough Farrokhzad (Iran), Carilda Oliver Labra (Cuba), Dora Gabe (Bulgaria), Zhai Yongming (China), and Titilope Sonuga (Nigeria). Breathing in the Shadowsfeatures Maureen Batt – Soprano and Tara Scott – Piano. This cycle was commissioned by Maureen Batt with the support of the Ontario Arts Council and premièred through the recital series Crossing Borders.

The second cycle “Orbit” is a work commissioned by tenor Fabián Arciniegas , set to the poetry of Serbian-Canadian Jelena Ćirić. Winner of the inaugural Canadian Amateur Musicians’ Association (CAMMAC) composition competition in 2019. Set within three movements, the poetry highlights the murky areas of human relationships, uncertainties and inner battles we all experience while interacting with others. “Orbit” features Fabián Arciniegas  – Tenor and Tara Scott – Piano. 

In the third song cycle “Songs of a Wandering Soul,” Saman explores his musical identity rooted in his Western Classical training, minimalism, Contemporary Art music, Progressive Rock, Jazz and Iranian traditional music.  The music leaps back and forth between these worlds much like an immigrant trying to figure out a new place to belong.  The poetry used in this cycle is drawn from Shahi’s teenage years where he was trying to navigate his new life in Canada with words in the early days of blogging. The work displaces the pulse constantly to create an inner sense of groove that changes from measure to measure. “Songs of a Wandering Soul” features Tiffany Hanus – Soprano, Saman Shahi – Piano, Peter Lutek – Woodwinds, Derek Gray – Percussion, Scott Peterson – Electric and upright bass, Natalie Wong – Violin and Cheryl Ockrant – Cello. 

‘Breathing in the Shadows’ is a collection of pieces that I have grown to embrace as some of my most authentic and honest work. I am so humbled to be surrounded by colleagues who believed in my work that enabled the coming to fruition of this album in such high quality and artistic finesse. – Saman Shahi 

Saman Shahi is an award-winning and published composer, pianist, conductor and educator based in Toronto. He’s active in classical music, new music, Iranian traditional music, rock and electronic music, and because of his constant activities in Canada and abroad he has become a sought after performer and composer. Saman’s compositions, including some of his short film scores have been performed in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. As a pianist and conductor, Saman has been an avid performer and advocate of new music in Toronto, and he regularly performs with a variety of Ensembles and musicians. Saman is an Affiliate Member of the Canadian League of Composers, Associate Composer at the Canadian Music Centre as well as a SOCAN member. He is also one of the founders and the executive director at the Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto, ICOT, a 7 year old art organization that bridges cultures through music and art. Saman is also an active member of the Circle music band, a rock fusion group in Toronto. He was appointed as the music director at Peterborough concert band in 2019. Saman also works as a composer-educator with the Canadian Opera Company.

Breathing in the Shadows
Release date: September 25, 2020
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SamanShahiMusic.com

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ALICE PING YEE HO – VENOM OF LOVE

A tale of serpent-demons and mortals entwined in forbidden romance, Venom of Love is set to be released September 18, 2020. From one of Canada’s most acclaimed composers, Alice Ping Yee Ho is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including; the 2019 Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize and is a two-time Juno nominee. Written as full length dramatic music for dance in 4 acts, Venom of Love is based on “Legend of the White and Green Snakes” a Chinese tale seeped in oral tradition and finally written down during the Ming dynasty more than 600 years ago. Canadian lyric coloratura soprano Vania Chan shares the tale of love, jealousy and betrayal being the active ingredients in a story of amazing transformations and ultimate redemption. Written for electronic tape, live soprano and percussion, 7 dancers, multimedia video and lighting design, Venom of Love was originally commissioned by Toronto’s Little Pear Garden Contemporary Dance Theatre in 2014 was directed and choreographed by Emily Cheung.

Hong Kong-born, composer Alice Ping Yee Ho is one of Canada’s most sought after composers of contemporary works. Critics have called her music dramatic and graceful, while praising its “organic flow of imagination,” “distinctly individual” style”, “colourful orchestration”, and “emotive qualities”. Influences evident in her proudly eclectic approach include Chinese folk and operatic idioms, Japanese Taiko , jazz,  pop culture, and other contemporary art forms. Her ongoing goal is to explore new musical styles that are provocative to the ears.

“Colors and tonality are two attractive resources to me: they form certain mental images that connect to audiences in a very basic way.” [AH]  

A twice JUNO Award Nominee (2015, 2018), she has an impressive discography released on the Centrediscs, Naxos, Marquis Classics, Blue Griffin, Electra, and Phoenix labels. She has four solo albums (Centrediscs/Naxos) devoted to music written for different genres: “Ming” for percussion, “Glistening Pianos” for two pianos, “The Lesson of Da Di” features her full length award winning opera, and “The Mysterious Boot” features chamber music for flute, cello, and piano. Her fifth album was recently released through Centrediscs/Naxos of her children’s opera The Monkiest King with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company. Her new project including a new opera CHINATOWN commissioned by City Opera Vancouver, on a libretto by Canadian renowned writer Madeleine Thien, opens in September, 2021 at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Ms. Ho holds a Bachelor of Music degree in composition with high distinction from Indiana University and a Master of Music degree in composition from the University of Toronto. Her teachers have included John Eaton (USA), Brian Ferneyhough(Germany), and John Beckwith (Canada). ​She is a noted classical pianist and an active advocate of contemporary music. She has performed in many new music festivals, including a solo piano recital recorded by CBC Radio 2 in which she premiered Tan Dun’s solo piano work “Traces II”. She now makes her home in Toronto. https://www.alicepyho.com/

Canadian lyric coloratura soprano Vania Chan received her Master of Music in Classical Voice from the Manhattan School of Music in New York, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from York University, Toronto, receiving a B.F.A. with Specialized Honours in Music. Her “gently shimmering coloratura” can be heard in the recording of the Dora Award winning opera THE LESSON OF DA JI (Toronto Masque Theatre), which received a critic’s choice review in Opera News, New York. She often performs with the Rezonance Baroque Ensemble, showcasing their collaborative program “Handel’s Heroines” at the Early Music Festival in Bloomington Indiana, in Toronto, Hamilton, and at the Richmond Hill Performing Arts Centre. https://www.vaniachan.com/

Venom of Love
Digital Release only
Release date: September 18, 2020
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