James Rolfe

James Rolfe_lowqualityJames Rolfe
As If (2013)
premiere: Aventa 2013/14 Concert Series
Commissioned with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts

Ask You Dance Me (2008)
Canadian premiere: Mar. 27, 2011

Toronto composer James Rolfe has been commissioned and performed by ensembles in Canada (including Arraymusic, Continuum, Esprit Orchestra, Soundstreams, and Vancouver New Music Society), the USA (Bang on a Can All-Stars, Cassatt Quartet), Europe (Ensemble Contrechamps de Genève, Ensemble Avant Garde, Ives Ensemble, Ixion Ensemble, Nash Ensemble, and Nieuw Ensemble), and New Zealand (175 East). He has received grants and commissions from The Canada Council, The Ontario Arts Council, The Toronto Arts Council, The Laidlaw Foundation, Opera.Ca, and CBC Radio. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000, the K. M. Hunter Music Award in 2003, the 2005 Louis Applebaum Composers Award, and the 2006 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music.

James Rolfe has written for chamber ensemble, orchestra, choir, voice, and the operatic stage. Among the latter is Beatrice Chancy, a tragedy set during the last days of slavery in Canada, which received an extraordinary reception from audiences and critics alike during productions by The Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Company between 1998 and 2001 in Toronto, Dartmouth, and Edmonton. His chamber opera Rosa and the masque Orpheus and Eurydice were both produced in 2004. Elijah’s Kite, an opera for children, was premiered in New York in April 2006 by Tapestry New Opera Works with the Manhattan School of Music, and given its Canadian premiere at Rideau Hall in October 2006. His new opera Swoon was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike at its December 2006 premiere by the Canadian Opera Company. James is currently working on new operas for the Queen of Puddings and for the Canadian Opera Company, as well as new works for the ASKO Ensemble (Netherlands) and Trio Mediaeval (Norway).

As if (2013)
for 15 instruments
(piccolo, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion
(1 player), harp, piano, 2 violins, viola, violoncello, and bass)
Percussion: triangle, med. cowbell, hihat, snare drum, high tom tom,
low tom tom, bass drum, vibraphone

Ask you dance me (2008)

“I have a fascination with dance music. Its intention seems innocent enough: to make you want to dance. Yet there is a sinister side to such simple music being able to carry us away–it must be strong stuff. I think of Mozart (Don Giovanni, Act One Finale), of Stravinsky (Histoire du Soldat), of Funkadelic (Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow).

When I wrote Ask You Dance Me, I played with the word Asko, leading to Ask You, to Ask Me, to Ask You Dance Me, Me Ask You Dance, and so on. These playful little jiggles formed a structure on which to hang the first movement. The second and third movements are based on popular songs, though the origins are obscured by other processes (including some faux Beethoven transcribed from a stuffed Beethoven doll). The results are hardly danceable; this is more a reflection on dance music.” – James Rolfe

Ask You Dance Me was written for The Asko Ensemble with the assistance of The Canada Council for the Arts.