Origins of “Songs of Hope”

More than a year ago we applied to the Canada Council for the Arts with the following words:

“We are living through times challenged by pandemic, climate change and political unrest. As a collective of artists working within a creative circle associated with the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra, we have asked ourselves how artists can and should respond to the times we live in. Our answer has been the one word “Hope”. Drawing on various texts from the classical to the new, and set within our own musical styles, we will jointly conspire to infect our audiences virally with Hope.”

“This project will result in the composition of new works for mezzo soprano, soprano, and chamber ensemble by members of this collaborative. The works are unified by the theme of “Songs of Hope”. 

The project was sparked by and evolved through conversations between mezzo-soprano, Danielle MacMillan and SPO Music Director and composer, Ronald Royer and the working group was expanded to include additional composers, Maghan McPhee, soprano and 7 performer collaborators: These include the four members of the Odin Quartet (Alex Toskov, violin / Tanya Charles Iveniuk, violin / Matt Antal, viola / Samuel Bisson, cello); plus Kaye Royer, clarinet; Lisa Tahara, piano; Gilles Thibodeau, French Horn. 


The scope of work was conceived as a year long creative process developed by a group of composers/librettists, musicians, singers, and recording technicians who have experience working together successfully on various individual and collaborative projects coordinated by Ronald Royer, in partnership with the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra over recent years.

We are exploring a new way of working that is arising out of our practice and we seek to explore further.


Composition is usually a solitary practice. As that solitary state is consistent with the way the pandemic locked us in our solitary lives, artistic practice is mirroring our recent shared history. This project is conceived to involve us in working more collectively, as we explore the theme of “Hope”.

Group creation is part of our organizational DNA. It is perhaps significant that SPO has presented a number of works composed by ICOT (Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto), who work collectively, a model of working arising out of the Persian musical tradition. Also, in recent years, SPO’s New Generation Composer program has “grown up:” attracting composers working at a more advanced level in their emerging careers; offering more workshops and mentorship; and building a multi-generational community of alumni who continue to work within our informal artistic collective. So, as we work on an artistic project with messages of hope for the audience, we also aspire to develop a new and hopeful way of working together.

This project also will bring together composers at different stages of their lives and careers, with a variety of lived experience and cultural perspectives.

Now after months of work we are nearly there on March 30, we will be holding a day-long workshop with composers, musicians and mentors in attendance.

On April 26th the full cycle will be presented at Heliconian Hall, with highlights on our subscription series on April 27th.