DEREK CHARKE is a JUNO and three-time ECMA award-winning composer and flutist. Derek has been commissioned by world-renowned artists including 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 at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia where he teaches composition and theory, 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-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, often paired with soundscapes created from field recordings.
Sepia Fragments, commissioned 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...” Two of his works, 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 popular series of flute quartets including Raga Cha, Raga Saat and Raga Nau. More recently his Wired series was created to feature solo instruments — so far there are works for solo 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.
Many works explore environmental issues. For example, 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, including: oil, gas, water, and wind. 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 falling ice sounds. 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. The title translates from Greek and Latin roots as our house, and more particularly, in the ecological sense, our planet earth. Disturbances of Circadian Rhythm, for flutist Chenoa Anderson, deals with sleep patterns.
Derek has worked often with the Kronos Quartet. Works include 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.
As a professional flutist, Derek continues to perform regularly as a new music soloist and improvisor. His Kitchen Party CD with percussionist Mark Adam won the 2015 ECMA Award for Classical Recording of the Year. Derek earned a Master’s degree in flute performance from SUNY Buffalo where he studied with the late Cheryl Gobbetti Hoffman. During his undergraduate degree at the University of North Texas he studied trumpet with Dr. Leonard Candelaria, while also pursuing the flute.
Derek’s composition teachers included David Felder, Louis Andriessen, Steve Martland, Paul Patterson, Cindy McTee, and Martin Mailman. He held a prestigious four year Presidential Fellowship at SUNY Buffalo, as well as a NUFFIC grant from the Dutch government to study with Louis Andriessen. He attended the University of North Texas (during which he received the Outstanding Student in Composition Award and the David M. Schimmel Memorial Composition Scholarship), the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, the Koninklijk Conservatorium in the Hague, Netherlands, and the State University of New York at Buffalo where he received his Ph.D. in composition.