New Works Calgary celebrates 35 years by honouring co-founder Quenten Doolittle

On April 5, New Works Calgary will mark their 35th anniversary with Alberta Double Bill. In addition to closing out their 2018-19 season, Alberta Double Bill will honour New Works co-founder Quenten Doolittle, who passed in March 2018 at the age of 92.

A noted musician and former professor of music at the University of Calgary – and partner of local legend Joyce Doolittle – Quenten Doolittle is also remembered as a composer, painter, and champion for the arts in Calgary. His roster of musical compositions includes a variety of orchestral, chamber, vocal and solo works, as well as opera and theatrical collaborations with Canadian and international companies, including in Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal, New York, and the United Kingdom.

“New Works Calgary is thrilled to be celebrating 35 seasons in a community that is now thriving with new music and contemporary performance groups,” says Simon MacLeod, president of New Works Calgary. “Whether you realize it or not, many of the classical music groups in Calgary and Edmonton would not exist if it weren’t for the impact of Quenten Doolittle.”

For 35 years, New Works Calgary has presented contemporary 20th and 21st century works, with a particular focus on Albertan and Canadian composers. Friday’s Alberta Double Bill is no different, featuring works by Canadian composers Heather Hindman, Evelin Ramon, Anna Pidgorna, Monica Pearce and Doolittle, himself, as well as the world premiere of like pathways in autumn (Paul Steenhuisen, 2014), and The Raven Translations (Carmen Braden, 2019).

The evening begins with performances from Edmonton’s visiting UltraViolet Ensemble, who bring a wealth of experience to performing new music, both as a collective and individually. Formed in 2013, the ensemble includes Chenoa Anderson (flute), Allison Balcetis (saxophone), Roger Admiral (piano), and Amy Nicholson (violin/cello).

Rounding out the recital is Calgary-based Ensemble Resonance, the city’s oldest professional chamber ensemble and one that specializes in Canadian contemporary repertoire. Members Michelle Todd (voice), Stan Climie (clarinet), Steve Lubiarz (violin), Colleen Athparia (piano), Mary Sullivan (flute) and Daniel Poceta (violin/cello) are accomplished chamber musicians with a broad range of international performing expertise, each of whom bring their years of experience to the evening’s complex and engaging works.

One of the pieces they’ll be performing is Carmen Braden’s aforementioned The Raven Translations. In 2014, New Works Calgary launched the Quenten Doolittle Commission Award, which honours Doolittle every two years with a new work composed in his name by a prairie-based artist, and Braden’s piece is the most recent.

In The Raven Translations, the composer “translates” the playful, chattering vocalizations of Alberta ravens as imagined in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven – prophetic, mysterious and threatening.

“As I was writing this piece, I watched many ravens flying and playing outside my home,” Braden explains. “At the same time I was being constantly and delightfully distracted by my eight-month old daughter, and our interactions were full of her own discovery of sound and language, as well as the literature of Dr. Seuss … These, and the parallel poetic structures in Poe’s The Raven, led to the strong focus on spoken and sung text in The Raven Translations.”

Alberta Double Bill promises an evening of creative and moving exploration of Canadian works performed by two of Alberta’s preeminent new music ensembles, as well as a touching tribute to a man who spent much of his life dedicated to raising the profile of new music in Calgary and inspiring innovative musical experiences for all.

(Photo courtesy NewWorks Calgary.)

Alberta Double Bill takes Friday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church (1121 14 Ave SW). Tickets are $20 ($15 for students/seniors) and available for purchase on Eventbrite. Visit for more information.

Shannon McClennan-Taylor is a writer, publicist, and arts/culture junkie with a bachelor’s in English Lit and a master’s in International Journalism. When not at the theatre, cinema, or record store, she’s probably knitting. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.