From Roots to Branches: The roles of Tradition, Spirituality and the Other in my music

My musical development has its origins in the Byzantine cantor’s droning choir of my neighbourhood Greek Orthodox church and the Volos branch of the Hellenic Conservatory, “East” and “West” constantly changing seats during my childhood and adolescence depending on the day of the week. My studies in the USA led me to the very heart of Abstract Expressionism towards the end of my formal education in the late 1970s. Surprisingly in retrospect, I learned most of what is still relevant in my music in the coffee-houses of Danforth Avenue in Toronto by playing piano and accordion with ad hoc Greek bands throughout the 1980’s. In the early 1990’s I was creatively exposed to the Other through a CBC national project on Canadian identity (“The Idea of Canada—1992”) and a subsequent one on Inuit Culture (“Footprints in New Snow”—1995). Since then, I have been seeking the cultural Other everywhere I can find it, very often in unsuspecting places. Along the way, my unwavering faith in the redemptive power of the Christ has elucidated my search but has also refined and redefined my understanding of what this means for the 21st Century cultural milieu, beyond fundamentalist religious traditions and credal exclusions. This presentation touches on a few watershed moments in a journey of constant twists and turns in search of a deeper and more profound Us by embracing and including not only the Other but also the Opposite.


Short Bio;

With two 2017 Juno nominations and Juno Awards in 2017, 2008 and 2006, several national and international awards and a slew of recent commissions by internationally recognized touring artists such as violinist Hilary Hahn, percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, the Winnipeg and Montreal Symphony Orchestras and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet among others, University of Toronto professor Christos Hatzis is widely recognized as “one of the most important composers writing today” (CBC) and “a contemporary Canadian master” (New Yorker.)

Hatzis is pioneering a distinct breed of 21st Century music which combines intellectual complexity and clarity, emotional/psychological directness and technical mastery of various media and musical idioms. His recent work focuses on indigenous issues, geopolitical diversity, migration, environmental consciousness and human rights. Although technically challenging, Hatzis’s music has established a deep and direct connection with a growing number of musicians and listeners of every walk of life worldwide (his audio playlist has registered over 1,700,000 hits since 2008). Two of his recent large-scale works, GAIA and GOING HOME STAR: Truth and Reconciliation are indicative of Hatzis’s most recent musical thinking. GOING HOME STAR: Truth and Reconciliation a ballet score for Inuit throat signer Tanya Tagaq, the Northern Cree Singers and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra based on the subject of the Indian Residential Schools, was commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet under the auspices of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The critical response to GOING HOME STAR has been unanimous: “The music for Going Home Star may be the best ballet composition ever created in Canada.”—THE GLOBE AND MAIL; “Christos Hatzis’s tour-de-force score . . . is a game-changer.”—WINNIPEG FREE PRESS; “One of the most powerful and moving works composed by a Canadian composer”—David Dalle, CKCU FM. Based on the themes of climate change, social unrest, migration and nativist reaction, GAIA for Inuit throat singer Tiffany Ayalik, Arabic vocalist Maryem Hassan Tollar, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra plus surround audio had its first performance in 2017 with aspects of the work still under development. (“Such are these golden moments in art”—WINNIPEG FREE PRESS).

Hatzis’s music is constantly presented in performance and broadcast (over 100 events worldwide in 2016 and over 120 in 2017) with a stream of CD recordings on Naxos, Deutche Grammophon, Centrediscs, EMI, Analekta, Sony, CBC and other major and independent labels, several of them all-Hatzis albums. Recent work includes the premieres of Thunder Drum by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and Ecstasy by pop singer Sarah Slean and the TBSO; the premiere and Canadian Tour of GOING HOME STAR by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2014 and 2016, preceded by The Isle is Full of Voices, which was commissioned and premiered by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 2014, opened the Eurasia Festival in Russia with the Urals Philharmonic Orchestra in 2015 with recent performances by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw and Naples Philharmonic Orchestras, the National Symphony Orchestra of Greece and the South Netherlands Philharmonic; the US and European tour of Coming To and Dystopia by violinist Hilary Hahn; Four Songs on Poems by Elizabeth Bishop by soprano Suzy LeBlanc and Symphony Nova Scotia, and Lamento by Sarah Slean and Symphony Nova Scotia. Hilary Hahn’s D.G recording which included Coming To won a Grammy Award in 2015 and topped many international top and top 10 lists that year. Upcoming projects include an all-Hatzis CD with Canadian pop icon Sarah Slean and Symphony Nova Scotia and a number of YouTube videos. Hatzis often writes about contemporary music and its relationship to today’s society and recently written a book on Pythagorean harmonic philosophy called “Resonance”.