Derek Charke is a JUNO and 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 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.
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.
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 (Raga Saat is now published by Theodore Presser). He has also written two chamber concertos for flute, The Winds of Winter and In Sonorous Falling Tones. 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; and Wound and Released which was premiered at the 2014 International Trumpet Convention by Terry Everson, trumpet and Shiela Kibbe, piano.
Some of his works explore environmental topics. 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. Falling from Cloudless Skies 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. He is currently working on his second symphony entitled Earth Airs, and he recently completed a work for the National Arts Centre Orchestra called After Chaos, the Earth and Love came into being.
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.