A Composer’s Letter by Andrew Balfour

Every year, we invite a Canadian composer to write an open letter for the program pages of the Contemporary Showcase Festivals taking place across the country.  This year’s composer is Andrew Balfour.



Thank you to ACNMP for giving me this opportunity to reach out to all of you in these uncertain times. The wide, all-encompassing impact of COVID 19 has touched our lives and careers in all ways, and the uncertainty of the future is certainly frightening. At the same time, I feel that that we are on the cusp of exciting and monumental changes to the landscape of music-making of all genres. I dislike labels to different styles of music, such as classical, rock, jazz, country, folk etc., and I sometimes feel that we have to break down the barriers of these labels to go into the true spirit of our creativity and to ascend beyond the boundaries of the Euro-centric approach to music-making.

There are new and undeniable changes in the future of music-making, and that may be unsettling for so many that are steeped in the old traditions of composing and performing contemporary music. The old institutions such as symphony, opera, ballet, choral, chamber are already trying to adapt to this future, and I feel that perhaps COVID 19 has presented us with an opportunity that has been a long time coming. We already knew long before the virus that major changes were vital for the survival of these institutions. This time is important for us to communicate, listen, collaborate, reach out and most importantly respect each other as we go down a new path of music creativity and production.

As a composer, this presents monumental changes; we have to be up to these challenges of ever-changing landscapes -social, economic, cultural, environmental, and, even political considerations.  The creative voices of our music, dance, theatre, literature are more important than ever at this time. Society will always need the voices and vision of artists.

I feel that collaborations and multi-medium explorations will be important for our future creativity. Thinking outside the box seems more vital than ever. As we have been locked down for some time for the past 6 months – and most likely seem destined to some more of social isolation – we can take this time to reach out and communicate, study and listen to what other artists are doing and how they are approaching their own creative projects.

For so long, we have been led by the institutions of performance and funding by THEIR definition of what we have to do in our creative silos. I feel that it is time to take back the idea of innovation, outside-the-box creativity, and collaborations. This is our time.

Our voices are more important than ever.  Music performance and production, at least in the form that we have been brought up with, have changed forever. I feel that is a good thing.  It will break down barriers and make more opportunity for artists in a multicultural country, such as ours, to tear down the layers of hierarchy in the arts and focus on the creativity of our wonderful and important art.

Most importantly, no matter what, my last thought is this: Be true to yourselves, be true to your music-making and your spirit.

Be well, be safe, and be true.

Chi megwiich!!

Andrew Balfour