Fantasia on Canadian Carols/Fantaisie sur des Airs de Noël canadiens

  1. 2(2=picc).2(2=ehn).2.2./

    (harp is optional, alternate part combining timpani and percussion for 1 player)

    Other Versions: Orchestra with or without SATB Choir or SA Children’s Choir; Chamber Orchestra with Choir or Children’s Choir; and String Orchestra with Choir or Children’s Choir

Composed: 2016

Duration: 10:00″


I was interested in writing two orchestra works, one for Christmas and another to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canada in 2017. Finally, I realized I might be able to combine both these ideas into a single work, a Fantasia on Canadian Carols. I realized that I only knew of the Huron Carol. In the summer of 2015, I started to research the history of Christmas carols in Canada, which took me on a fascinating discovery of Canadian holiday traditions. I found three categories: carols that travelled from Europe and remained the same; carols that travelled from Europe and evolved into a Canadian variant; and new carols composed in Canada. I also discovered some uniquely Canadian Christmas music, including “Santa Claw” songs, found in the Maritimes.

I started talking about my idea to friends who gave me the idea of writing two versions, one for orchestra and the other for choir and orchestra. I chose to base my Fantasia on a group of four older traditional carols representing three areas of Canada: Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. I decided to title this work in both our languages since two carols are sung in English and two in French.

The Huron Carol

The Huron Carol is considered to be the first Canadian Christmas carol, probably first sung in 1641 or 1642, and written by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Ontario. Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people to a French folk song Une Jeune Pucelle (A Young Maiden). The lyrics of this carol combines the birth of Jesus with Huron religious concepts. Today, this carol is commonly heard with the English lyrics written by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926.

Il est né, le divin Enfant

Il est né, le divin Enfant (He is born, the divine Child), is originally a traditional French carol, but travelled to Canada to become part of French-Canadian Christmas celebrations. Ernest Gagnon, an important 19th century collector of French-Canadian folksongs, used this carol in his Cantiques populaires pour la fête de Noël (1909), a wonderful collection of French Canadian Christmas carols for choir and organ. The melody in this version is slightly different than the original French carol.

The chorus of this carol has strong musical connections, “He is born, the Heav’nly Child, Oboes play; set bagpipes sounding. He is born, the Heav’nly Child. Let all sing His nativity.”

The Cherry-Tree Carol

The Cheery-Tree Carol is an old traditional English carol from the early 15th century. There are different versions of this carol, so it is not surprising that it found a new melody and lyrics in Canada. The important collector of folksongs from the Maritimes, Helen Creighton, collected a beautiful version from William Riley, who lived in the aptly named Cherry Brook, Nova Scotia. The lyrics tell an apocryphal story of the Virgin Mary, occurring while traveling with Joseph to Bethlehem for the census.

La Guignolée

La Guignolée or La Guiannée, is a French medieval tradition that travelled to French Canada with the first French settlers. It became popular in Quebec, parts of the Maritimes (including New Brunswick), and a few French-Canadian communities in the United States. Occurring on either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, the singing participants went door to door asking for food and drink, plus donations for the poor. The backside of the pig was considered a prize, and if not available, the group would ask to take the eldest daughter or even threaten to burn down the house. According to Marius Barbeau, the great 20th century collector of French folksongs, the rowdy group was followed by an old buggy (to contain the gifts), and all the dogs of the neighourhood. Ernest Gagnon discovered the catchy melody from the area around Montreal and Quebec.

Commissioning and First Performances

The Fantasia on Canadian Carols was commissioned and premiered by the International Symphony Orchestra (Douglas Bianchi, conductor) joined by the International Symphony Singers (Dr. David Troiano, conductor) on December 2, 2016 (Clyde Township, Michigan) and December 3 (Sarnia, Ontario); the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra (Ronald Royer, conductor) on December 3 (Scarborough, Ontario); Symphony New Brunswick (Michael Newnham, conductor) joined by the Louisbourg Choir (Monique Richard, conductor) on December 3 (Saint John, New Brunswick), December 5 (Moncton, NB) and December 6 (Fredericton, NB); and the Brantford Symphony Orchestra (Philip Sarabura conductor) on December 10, 2016 (Brantford, Ontario).

Exuberance (chamber orchestra)



Other Version: Orchestra                                                                                                                                       

Date: 2010
Duration:  6:00

The Oxford dictionary defines exuberance as “the quality of being full of energy, excitement, and cheerfulness; ebullience.” I was excited when conductor Brian Jackson approached me with the idea of a short virtuosic overture for orchestra. After discussing what he was envisioning, I realized the word “exuberance” reflected his ideas well and could be used as the title. The process of composing this upbeat composition was a particularly enjoyable experience for me.

Exuberance starts with an introductory flourish, followed by the main theme played by a solo oboe. This theme is passed through the orchestra, often partially, but occasionally as the full theme. The music slows, becomes more serene and introduces a new theme played by a solo clarinet. After this second theme is played by the full orchestra, a short clarinet cadenza transitions the music back to the original exuberant theme and music. A final coda section leads to a triumphant brass led ending.

Commissioning and First Performances

Exuberance for Orchestra was commissioned by conductor Brian Jackson in connection with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Orchestra London, the Thunder Bay Symphony, and the Victoria Symphony and was supported by a Toronto Arts Council Music Creators and Composers Grant. The first performances occurred on January 13, 2011 at the River Run Centre, Guelph, and January 14 and 15, 2011, at the Centre in The Square, Kitchener, performed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Brian Jackson, conductor. This was followed by performances by Orchestra London on Feb. 4 and 6; the Victoria Symphony on April 7, 8, 9 and 11; and the Thunder Bay on April 16, 2011, all conducted by Brian Jackson.

On Tour in China with the Ontario Festival Orchestra

The Ontario Festival Orchestra, Jerome Summers conductor, performed Exuberance in Suzhou, Yancheng, the Changshu District, Nanjing, and Hangzhou, all in the area surrounding Shanghai, China. A highlight of the tour was the New Year’s Eve concert in the Yancheng Theatre, which was also broadcast on Chinese television to millions of people in China and beyond (including Canada). Mr. Royer had the privilege to be the guest of honour for the mayor of Yancheng, sitting next to him during the concert.

The Ontario Festival Orchestra, New Year's Eve 2011, Yancheng, China
The Ontario Festival Orchestra, New Year's Eve 2011, Yancheng, China
Dr. Jeannie Pool, Brian Jackson, Kaye Royer, Ronald Royer & Louise DiTullio after a concert with the Niagara Symphony
The Ontario Festival Orchestra in rehearsal, Nanjing, China

Mirage (chamber orchestra)



(alternate part combining timpani and percussion for 1 player)

Other Versions: Orchestra, String Orchestra and Quintet

Date: 2010

Duration:  9:45


My intent in this composition is to explore the shifting and illusionary world of the dream state. Mirage begins with a slow meditative introduction representing the act of falling asleep. A solo viola cadenza follows, starting a sequence of musical episodes, each emphasizing different emotions and parts of a dream. As the string orchestra enters, the music takes on a melancholy air with occasional mysterious interludes. In the next section, the music speeds up and takes on a restless and more intense character employing a bluesy and jazz-infused theme. The music moves into a more flowing and serene section before leading into a faster and more agitated section representing the dream taking a more troubled direction. Leading to an unsettling climax, the music abruptly stops leaving silence. The original meditative music returns as the dreamer starts to awake entering that in-between world of wondering if the dream was real or not.


          Mirage is based on three musical motifs which are continuously evolving and developing, giving the music an unstable yet unified character. The first two motifs are heard in the opening five bars. The third motif is introduced in the first allegro section. The form can be considered a fantasia or fantasy variation.

Motif 1 – ascending perfect 5th, minor 2nd, and perfect 5th (bars 1-3)

Motif 2 – descending minor 2nd, and major 3rd, then an ascending major 2nd (bars 4-5)

Motif 3 – ascending minor 3rd, major 2nd, and minor 3rd (bars 44-45)

Commissioning and First Performance

Mirage was originally composed for orchestra and was commissioned by the Orchestras Mississauga (John Barnum, music director) with the assistance of a Canada Council for the Arts composer residency grant. The re-orchestrated version of Mirage for string orchestra was commissioned by the Orchestras Mississauga and Soundstreams Canada (Lawrence Cherney, artistic director) and again was assisted by the Canada Council for Arts composer residency grant. The first performance of the string orchestra version was on February 19, 2007 at the Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, featuring the Amici Strings and the University of Toronto Schools String Ensemble conducted by Joaquin Valdepenas.


A Festive Overture



(alternate part combining timpani and percussion for 1 player)

Other Versions: Orchestra and Septet

Date : 2005

Duration:  7:10


Festive Overture is based on, and inspired by, a short overture that I wrote for a young people’s theatre project called A Storyteller’s Bag. Based on three Ojibway stories, this project was developed by Peggy Hills McGuire, music director of The Chamber Music Society of Mississauga (and principal second violinist of the Mississauga Symphony). Besides the overture, I wrote the music to the story called The Star Lily.

After I was commissioned to compose a symphonic overture for the Mississauga Symphony, I had the idea of lengthening The Storyteller’s Bag Overture from three to seven minutes and expanding the instrumentation from seven musicians (clarinet, string quintet and percussion) to a full orchestra. After discussing this idea with the music director of the Mississauga Symphony, John Barnum, I began the process of transforming The Storyteller’s Bag Overture into what would become the Festive Overture. This resulting Overture changed a simple three-part ternary form into a more developed and complex sonata allegro form, allowing for several variations of the introductory material and the first or main theme (heard first by unison strings). The second theme (first heard by the solo clarinet) also received a second and varied appearance. Since the original idea of both overtures was to capture some of the joyful enthusiasm and wonder of youth, I was very pleased when the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra asked to co-sponsor the commissioning of the Festive Overture.

Commissioning and First Performances:

Festive Overture was co-commissioned by the Mississauga Symphonic Association and the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. The Mississauga Symphony, John Barnum music director and conductor, gave their premiere on March 27, 2004 at the Hammerston Hall, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, Ontario. The Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Glenn Mallory music director and conductor, gave their premiere on May 22, 2004, at the Great Hall, Hamilton Place, Hamilton, Ontario. This was part of a special 40th Anniversary Concert celebrating the foundation of the orchestra and Glenn Mallory’s directorship. The Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra received funding for the commission as part of an Ontario Trillium Grant project.

Travels with Mozart



(alternate part combining timpani and percussion for 1 player)

The Tarantella (Finale) can be performed as a separate concert piece.

Other Version: Wind Ensemble (14 players)

Date: 2005

Duration: 15:36

  1. Theme “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen”
  2. Variation I, London- Symphony no.1
  3. Variation II, Munich- Minuet
  4. Variation III, Mannheim- The Mannheim Orchestra
  5. Variation IV, Rome- Allegri’s Miserere
  6. Variation V, Prague- Furiant
  7. Variation VI, Vienna- TheTurkish Influence
  8. Variation VII, Paris- Gavotte
  9. Finale, Naples- Tarantella

Travels with Mozart:  Variations on a Theme from “The Magic Flute” seeks to explore the ways in which exposure to a variety of cultures can positively affect an artist and his music.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an excellent example of a composer who came in to contact with diverse cultural influences in the second half of the eighteenth century.  Leopold Mozart knew that raising his prodigiously gifted son in provincial Salzburg would limit his musical development (and future employment).  Leopold introduced his son Wolfgang to a lifestyle of travel which would see Wolfgang tour nine countries and visit over two hundred European cities.  Wolfgang spent one third of his lifetime traveling, experiencing a great variety of cultures, music and musicians.   Mozart was also eager to learn about and be influenced by cultures outside of Europe.  The Turkish influence on Mozart’s music is well known through such compositions as the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, the Piano Sonata in A Major, K330, (with the famous Rondo alla Turca) and the Violin Concerto #5.  Beda Hubner, librarian at St. Peter’s in Salzburg wrote in his diary on November 29, 1765:

There is a strong rumour that the Mozart family will again not long remain here, but will soon visit the whole of Scandinavia and the whole of Russia, and perhaps even travel to China, which would be a far greater journey and bigger undertaking still….

Obviously, the Mozart family did not have this experience, but it is interesting to consider that they apparently thought about making these trips.

Like Mozart, Royer has been profoundly influenced by exposure to a diversity of cultures, music and musicians through travel, recordings and living in multicultural cities such as Toronto and Los Angeles.   In Travels with Mozart:  Variations on a Theme from “The Magic Flute”, Royer references and pays tribute to a variety of cultural influences from North and South America to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Each variation is titled after a city in which Mozart spent a fair amount of time and is based on a musical element or idea that was present in that city during Mozart’s time.

Variation No. 1 – London: Mozart’s Symphony No. 1

Mozart wrote his first symphony in London at age 8 or 9 influenced by J.C. Bach and C.F. Abel.

Variation No. 2 – Munich: Minuet

Mozart wrote numerous minuets during his life and composed some excellent examples of this genre in Munich.

Variation No. 3 – Mannheim: The Mannheim Orchestra

The Mannheim orchestra was famous for its technical expertise including dramatic dynamic changes and the crescendo.  The orchestra was also one of the first groups to include clarinets and overall, greatly influenced Mozart.

Variation No. 4 – Rome: Allegri’s Miserere

Allegri’s Miserere was only allowed to be performed in the Sistine Chapel.  Mozart heard this music and remarkably, was able to write down the music from memory.

Variation No. 5 – Prague: Furiant

The Furiant is a common Czech dance that emerged as a form late in Mozart’s life.  The minuet from Mozart’s symphony no. 40 uses rhythms similar to ones found in a Furiant.

Since the rhythm of a Furiant is similar to some common Latin American rhythms, Royer added other Latin American elements including the use of conga drums.

Variation No. 6 – Vienna: The Turkish Influence

Turkish military music was popular in Vienna (and other European cities) and was a well known influence in Mozart’s music.  Royer wrote this variation in the style of Turkish classical music of the Ottoman era.

Variation No. 7 – Paris: Gavotte

The Gavotte was a popular French dance. Mozart wrote a couple of Gavottes including one for a Paris performance.  Royer combined the Gavotte with elements of Gamelan music from Bali.

Finale – Naples: Tarantella

A popular Neapolitan dance named after the tarantula spider, its origin predates Mozart’s time.  Included in this variation is a quote from Beethoven’s Variations for cello and piano based on the same Mozart theme as Royer’s composition.  Mozart met Beethoven as a young man and was impressed by him.

The Commissioning of Travels with Mozart

For the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart in 2006, Canadian composer Ronald Royer was commissioned to compose by a group of five orchestras, with performances in three countries, Travels with Mozart: Variations on a Theme from the Magic Flute for chamber orchestra. The five orchestras were:  Jyvaskyla Sinfonia (Finland), Patrick Gallois, conductor; Peterborough Symphony Orchestra (Canada), Michael Newnham, conductor; Scarborough Philharmonic (Canada), John Barnum, conductor; International Symphony Orchestra of Sarnia/Port Huron (Canada/U.S.A.), Jerome Summers, conductor; and Toronto Sinfonietta (Canada), Matthew Jaskiewicz, conductor.  Sinfonia Mississauga (Canada), John Barnum conductor, also supported and performed Travels with Mozart.

In 2004, the Jyvaskyla Sinfonia co-commissioned (with Orchestras Mississauga) Ronald Royer to compose Dances with Time, which was the first time a Canadian composer’s music was performed by this excellent professional chamber orchestra. Due to the success of this event, music director Patrick Gallois and the Jyvaskyla Sinfonia commissioned Mr. Royer to compose a new work to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. In Canada, the Peterborough Symphony and conductor Michael Newnham took the lead in developing this project, inviting other orchestras to take part in commissioning and performing this new work. The International Symphony gave the United States premiere.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from the Laidlaw Foundation (based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada).

In 2016, Ronald Royer arranged Travels with Mozart for a 14 player wind ensemble for the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra’s Canadian Panorama concert and recording.