Derek Charke is a JUNO and three-time ECMA award-winning composer and flutist. He has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, Toronto Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Symphony Nova Scotia, St. Lawrence String Quartet, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, as well as an impressive list of other performers and organizations. Derek is a professor of composition and theory at Acadia University, he co-directs the Acadia New Music Society, and he continues to perform regularly as a new music performer and improviser on the flute. Although his music tends to defy categorization it has been described as post-modern and post-minimal, inventive, rich textured, full of colour, and imbued with drama and rhythmic vitality. Sepia Fragments for the St. Lawrence String Quartet won the 2012 JUNO Award for Classical Composition of the Year. Reel Variations on a Jig(as performed by Mark Adam & himself) and Between the shore and the ships (as performed by Helen Pridmore & Wesley Ferreira) won East Coast Music Awards in the same category. His Kitchen Party CD, featuring himself and percussionist Mark Adam, won the 2015 ECMA Award for Classical Recording of the Year.
Many works explore environmental topics. His most recent environmentally inspired work is Drift, a piano duo commissioned for the remarkable Duo Turgeon: Anne Louise-Turgeon and Edward Turgeon. Drift muses on lake effect snow and the concept of drift — i.e. to oscillate around a fixed position. Tangled in Plastic Currents for cellist Jeffrey Zeigler (former cellist of the Kronos Quartet) deals with the plastic clogging our oceans. His second symphony, Earth Airs (commissioned for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's 25th Annual New Music Festival), is a choral symphony that muses on the infinite nature of air using text adapted from the Greek Philosopher Anaximenes of Miletus. Symphony No. 1 ‘Transient Energies’ for Symphony Nova Scotia explores a soundscape of energy production. After Chaos, the Earth and Love came into being, commissioned by Harvey and Louise Glatt for the National Arts Centre Orchestra,takes its inspiration from Plato and Hesiod and their philosophies on the creation of the universe. Falling from Cloudless Skies for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra focusses on strange meteorological phenomena, and includes a soundscape of ice. Warning! Gustandoes Ahead for the National Flute Association addresses the destructive nature of wind. In the Falling Dark 1, commissioned by Musikon (Halifax, NS) for pianist Barbara Pritchard, is about dusk, or twilight; known in French as ‘Entre Chien et Loup’. The sequel In the Falling Dark 2 was composed for pianist Jennifer King. Oikos/Ecos for soprano Janice Jackson is a commentary on our state of affairs. Disturbances of Circadian Rhythm for flutist Chenoa Anderson deals with sleep patterns. Song of the Tides, commissioned in 2006 by Mark Hopkins for the Acadia University Wind Ensemble, plays with ocean sounds, and is featured on a recent Acadia New Music Society CD, Live Wired.
His Wired series was created to feature solo instruments or small ensembles. So far there are works for alto saxophone, trumpet, horn, bassoon, flute, and wind quintet. Each work contains a middle movement ‘AND’ that plays with disjunct, but lyric ‘endless’ chromatic melodies. The series includes Wired and Wound for Tristan De Borba, saxophone, and Simon Docking, piano; Rewind and Fast-forward for Fifth Wind Quintet; Wound and Released which was premiered at the 2014 International Trumpet Convention by Terry Everson, trumpet and Shiela Kibbe, piano; and The Engine Continuum which was premiered by Derek Charke and Eugene Cormier, guitar. Wired and Wound is also featured on the Acadia New Music Society CD, Live Wired, and was recently nominated for a 2016 ECMA Award for Classical Composition of the Year.
Derek has written many pieces for the flute including a popular series of flute ensemble works such as Raga Cha, Raga Saat and Raga Nau, which was commissioned by Sonja Giles and Kim Scott for the 2013 National Flute Convention. He has also written and premiered two chamber concertos for flute: The Winds of Winter and In Sonorous Falling Tones. His flute works are available from the Canadian Music Centre (except for Raga Saat which is now published by Theodore Presser).
Derek has worked with the Kronos Quartet on several pieces including a Concerto for String Quartet (2011) which was commissioned and premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Tundra Songs (2007) which was commissioned by the LA Philharmonic Association for the Kronos Quartet and Tanya Tagaq with lyrics by Laakkuluk Willamson Bathory. Tundra Songs was released on the Centrediscs label in 2015. His latest work about the Athabasca Oil Sands called Dear Creator, help us return to the centre of our hearts was premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2015.
Derek’s composition teachers included David Felder, Louis Andriessen, Steve Martland, Paul Patterson, Cindy McTee, and Martin Mailman. He attended the University of North Texas, the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, the Koninklijk Conservatorium in the Hague, and the State University of New York at Buffalo where he received his Ph.D. in composition. Derek also earned a Master’s degree in flute performance from SUNY Buffalo where he studied with the late Cheryl Gobbetti Hoffman. During his undergraduate degree he studied trumpet with Dr. Leonard Candelaria, while also pursuing the flute.
Derek is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre.