DEREK CHARKE is a JUNO and ECMA award-winning composer and flutist. He has been commissioned by artists such as 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 teaches 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. His music often encompasses tonal/modal harmonies and melodies, sometimes with a strong rhythmic pulse in conjunction with extended instrumental techniques, sometimes paired with soundscapes.

Sepia Fragments for the St. Lawrence String Quartet won the 2012 JUNO Award for Classical Composition of the Year. Elissa Poole from the The Globe and Mail writes: “Derek Charke’s smeared lines and quivering textures have an immediate appeal…”. Reel Variations on a Jig (as performed by Mark Adam and himself) and Between the shore and the ships (as performed by Helen Pridmore and Wesley Ferreira) won East Coast Music Awards in the same category. Derek has written many pieces for the flute, including a series of flute quartets such as Raga Cha, Raga Saat and Raga Nau. His Wired series was created to feature solo instruments. There are works for flute, alto saxophone, trumpet, horn, bassoon, and wind quintet. Each work contains a middle movement called ‘AND’ that plays with a disjunct, but lyric ‘endless’ chromatic melody. As a flutist, his Kitchen Party CD with percussionist Mark Adam won the 2015 ECMA Award for Classical Recording of the Year.

Several of his works explore environmental sound. Tangled in Plastic Currents for cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, muses on the plastic clogging our ocean. His 45-minute Symphony No. 1 ‘Transient Energies’ for Symphony Nova Scotia, explores a soundscape of energy production sounds. Stephen Pedersen from the Chronicle Herald writes: “His ear for instrumental tone as well as the shimmering timbres of natural sounds of automobiles, wind turbines, flowing water, gurgling oil, shovelled coal and the clatter of trains over buzzing steel rails is amazingly acute and all-inclusive...” Falling from Cloudless Skies, a 15 minute work commissioned for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, focuses on a soundscape of ice. Warning! Gustandoes Ahead for the National Flute Association, deals with destructive nature of wind. 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.

Derek has written a number of works for the Kronos Quartet including a Concerto for String Quartet (2011), Cercle du Nord III (2005) and Tundra Songs (2007) commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and Tanya Tagaq, with lyrics by Laakkuluk Willamson Bathory. His latest work for Kronos is a piece about the Athabasca Oil Sands called Dear Creator, help us return to the centre of our hearts (2014).

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.

Photo by Perry Jackson

© 2015 Derek Charke – All rights reserved