Ecology of Being

“Ecology of Being” will be featured in Canada in summer 2020 at Toronto Summer Music, Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, Stratford Summer Music, Tuckamore Festival and Musique Royale.  Eco poetry by Shannon Webb-Campbell as well as short personal reflections by Dahn and Steeves will act as interludes between 50 minutes of new music in this program. The program has the flexibility to allow for a cameo short speech by local scientist or environmentalist.

Ecology of Being

Over the coming months with funding through the Canada Council’s New Chapters program, we will embark upon “Ecology of Being” – a project involving five newly commissioned works which will pay homage to the earth, speak to climate change and consider what we may be leaving the next generation.  Through this project it is our hope that we will inspire reflection about the state of our natural world and the part mankind has played in its rapid, alarming, and ominous changes. This project is also about playing tribute to the gloriousness of our earth, celebrating its power and reflecting on our reliance on nature not only for survival but for our resilience and healing.  The composers for Ecology of Being are Dawn Avery, Carmen Braden, Ian Cusson, Melissa Hui and Bekah Simms; eco poems by Shannon Webb-Campbell are a part of Melissa’s work. (Thanks goes to Shannon for allowing us to use “Ecology of Being” (the title of one of her poems) as the name for the project as a whole.) We invite you to click on the Ecology of Being tab for photos, videos, thoughts about the project as we learn the works, interview the composers, and contemplate our relationship to our nature world.  You can also follow us on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/duoconcertante and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theduoconcertante/.  Please use #EOB to share your own thoughts and photos as well as a chance to be featured.

We all – hopefully – have a relationship with nature.  I (Nancy writing here) was lucky to grow up in a beautiful rural area of Nova Scotia, on a property of 85 acres, with chickens, pigs, big vegetable gardens and a lake in the middle of the woods all to ourselves. My parents had moved from Long Island, NY with my three older brothers (I was only two) leaving behind more financial stability and fancier schools for a “simpler” life of living off the land (and without a toilet for 4 years).

When I think about who I am it is intrinsically tied to those woods and fields –  woods in which I would play and build treehouses and fields I would lie in and hear the wind and birds and bugs and just breathe.  There was the delicious quiet of feeling small as I listened to nature’s exquisite sounds and a ridiculously fortunate and full space in which to exist. These are experiences I repeatedly summon during jet lagged, anxious nights, which moor my spinning head and calm a racing heart. Without these memories to hang on to, alongside daily ventures into nature for walks and runs, I am truly lost.

Tim shares similar experiences. The son of two biologists, his happiest childhood memories are of being at his father’s knee, following him along the banks of the South Saskatchewan river helping him collect prairie crocus, Saskatoon berries, wild rice and Equisetum on the wild prairie.  His father was years of ahead of his time in recycling – reusing, mending and mending again, making do – before that concept became a thing. Dinner conversations were about the rise of agriculture and its role in the decimation of habitat and ecosystems.

Years later now, Newfoundland has become our home and with it grows an ever-deepening respect for its winds and appreciation of its pristine and cleansing air. Stepping out of the airport after a tour (yes, I’m aware of/embarrassed by the irony inherit here), at the first deep breathe of that magnificent sea air, we say to ourselves, thankfully – we’re home.

It is difficult to even think about what our children’s future may become on this planet.  (I write this recognizing that, for many it is too late: climate crisis related despair and death has already come.) I am tempted to bury this grief, anxiety, guilt, and hopelessness, pushing them down as far as they will go. Thankfully, advocates like Greta Thunberg, Naomi Klein, David Suzuki and millions of protesters fiercely and fearlessly fight to try to keep our minds and hearts on task.

Music has often reflected upon social and political events of its time and our project aims to do that. Ecology of Being is about – through music and poetry – treasuring the earth, examining our complex relationship with it and truly valuing what we’ve taken for granted for so long.   It’s about thinking, feeling, experiencing both the trauma of a lost earth, but also about treasuring the joy of a world we love.


Special thanks to David Jaeger, Bev Diamond, and Christian Mondor at the Canada Council for your guidance and wisdom.

Five outstanding North American composers are involved in the project:

–  Melissa Hui, faculty of composition at McGill, formerly at Stanford, recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship (1997), Fromm Foundation commission (2000)

– Ian Cusson, Composer-in-Residence with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (2017-2019) and Composer-in-Residence for the Canadian Opera Company (2019-2021). Of Métis and French-Canadian descent, his work explores Canadian Indigenous experience including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures

– Bekah Simms, JUNO nominee, 2019 Barlow Prize Winner, 2018 Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music

– Dawn Avery, Mohawk and American composer/ethnomusicologist and Grammy nominee

– Carmen Braden WCMA-nominated composer from Canadian sub-Arctic.


“Ecology of Being” will be featured in Canada in summer 2020 at Toronto Summer Music, Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, Stratford Summer Music, Tuckamore Festival and Musique Royale.  Eco poetry by Shannon Webb-Campbell as well as short personal reflections by Dahn and Steeves will act as interludes between 50 minutes of new music in this program. The program has the flexibility to allow for a cameo short speech by local scientist or environmentalist.