Composers Festival spotlight: Christopher Mayo

A native of Toronto, Christopher Mayo is the first Canadian to be a resident composer for the Mizzou International Composer Festival.

A composer of orchestral, chamber, vocal, and electronic music, Mayo (pictured) received his bachelor of music degree with honors at the University of Toronto, where he was awarded the Glenn Gould Composition Prize and the William Erving Fairclough Scholarship. He relocated to London in 2003 to study at the Royal College of Music, where he earned a master of music in 2004 and a Ph.D in composition in 2011.

His time there resulted in a number of opportunities, including appearing in the BBC Two television documentary Classic Goldie, helping UK drum and bass musician Goldie to write a commission for the London Symphony Orchestra. The LSO has gone on to record two of Mayo’s own works, releasing their version of “Therma” in 2013, and Mayo’s contribution to the multi-composer Panufnik Variations project in 2016. (While in London, Mayo also was a member of the Camberwell Composers Collective, which included 2012 MICF resident composer Charlie Piper.)

Since moving back to Toronto, Mayo has continued to collaborate occasionally with popular musicians, penning string arrangements for performers including Carly Rae Jepsen, Drake and Tanya Tagaq for the Polaris Music Prize awards ceremony, and writing orchestral arrangements of a number of Jepsen’s hits for her debut performance last month with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Other recent projects include “Streets become Liars,” which was premiered in March by Crash Ensemble at New Music Dublin 2017, and, of course, “Beast (for Hugo Ball),” the work Mayo has written for Alarm Will Sound to perform at the MICF’s “Eight World Premieres” grand finale on Saturday, July 29 at the Missouri Theatre.

Characterized by a distinctive rhythmic language and a wide range of influences, Mayo’s music has been performed by orchestras including the LSO, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and others.

He has had chamber works commissioned by London Sinfonietta, MATA Festival, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Ensemble contemporain de Montreal +, Motion Ensemble, and more. His chamber music also has been played by new music groups including ACME, L’arsenale, Aurora Orchestra, Aventa and Land’s End Ensemble; at festivals including the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival, the Cheltenham Festival, and the Marrakech Biennale; and at venues ranging from Le Poisson Rouge to Wigmore Hall.

Mayo’s vocal works include “Death on Three-Mile Creek,” commissioned in 2011 by Carnegie Hall, and “Under Dark Water,” commissioned by Esprit Orchestra.

He frequently collaborates with artists from other disciplines, and in recent years has created new dance scores for Rambert Dance Company, New Movement Collective, and for the English National Ballet’s performance at the Coronation Gala at Buckingham Palace. Mayo’s chamber opera “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” was cited as a “deft mix of documentary, pulsating drones, electric guitar and sparing percussion” in 2014 by BBC Music Magazine.

Christopher Mayo was interviewed by the Columbia Tribune‘s Aarik Danielsen for a feature story about the 2017 MICF, which you can read here. He also was interviewed by KMUC’s Trevor Harris for the station’s “Mizzou Music” program, and you can listen to that interview here.

You can hear samples of Mayo’s music on his SoundCloud page and in the embedded players below.

“Pike and Shot” (2008), performed by Paul Widner (cello) and Philip Thomas (piano) at Continuum Contemporary Music’s performance on April 25, 2013 at the Music Gallery in Toronto.

Excerpts from various works

“First Screening” for orchestra and film, recorded September 25th, 2016 by the Victoria Symphony, conducted by Tania Miller.

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