“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent”
Montreal composer Elizabeth Ekholm graduated from McGill University with a Ph.D. in Music Education, specializing in choral / vocal pedagogy. She worked as a choral conductor and voice teacher for many years and her research in this field has been published in The Journal of Research in Music Education and The Journal of Voice, among others. She sings professionally in several ensembles, including the Opéra de Montréal Chorus, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Ensemble Scholastica and occasionally with Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal, Ensemble Vocal Arts-Québec and Musica Orbium.
Elizabeth has been involved in music all her life. Her first love has always been a cappella choral music, having grown up in the Russian Orthodox tradition where both her mother and uncle were distinguished choir directors. Her father was a jazz bass player, who introduced her to jazz and American popular music. Both her parents loved opera. Thus her early musical influences – from liturgical chant to pop, jazz, folk, rock and opera – all contributed to her palette of compositional materials. She was fortunate to have been able to study composition with Robert Fleming, one of the most prolific Canadian composers of his generation, at Carleton University in Ottawa, and with another eminent composer Robert Frederick Jones at McGill University. As a singer herself, she tries to write very sing-able music, in which each voice has melodic integrity even when the overall sound may be harmonically complex.
Elizabeth has been involved in liturgical music for many years, having been music director at Loyola Chapel, Concordia University in Montreal, for ten years and more recently a professional chorister at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. Much of her liturgical music for a cappella choir has been performed at the Cathedral, thanks to the encouragement and support of their renowned former music director, the late Patrick Wedd. Three examples, Prayer of Saint Francis, Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, can be found on YouTube. Ensemble Scholastica, a professional recording ensemble of nine women who specialize in medieval music, has also recorded three of Elizabeth’s pieces – Quinque prudentes virgines and Benedicamus Domino: Tu lux refulge – for their 2017 CD, entitled Ars elaboratio, and Beatus venter for their recent CD, entitled Saints inouis, both on the ATMA Classique label.
In recognition for her excellence as a composer, Elizabeth Ekholm was the 2016 winner of the Debbie Fleming Prize for Choral Composition for her Prayer of Saint Francis, which was premiered by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at their Choral Splendour concert in June, 2017 and published by Cypress Choral Music in 2019. Prayer of Saint Francis is an a cappella setting of the prayer for peace commonly attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, which begins “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” The jury commented: “There is a lovely sense of attention to the text and the overall piece is well thought out and executed. Ekholm uses beautiful, warm harmonic language, inventive transitions and modulations, and has a very nice melodic sense.” More recently, Elizabeth’s composition for a cappella mixed chorus, O Magnum Mysterium, was selected by an international panel of eminent composers, including M° Ennio Morricone, as 3rd prize winner of the 5th International Competition of Choral Composition Ennio Morricone 2018. That same year, her Sanctus for male choir won 3rd prize in the 6th International Composer’s Competition Opus Ignotum for youth choirs held in Prague, Czech Republic.
of compositions, performances and recordings
1984 - All things change – cycle of 4 songs with piano accompaniment: Mother moon, Swept off my feet, All things change, and In the rain - recorded and broadcast by CBC radio.
1995 – Threefold Amen – SATB a cappella – performed at the Church of St. Andrew and St Paul, Montreal.
1997 – Incidental music for the film Symposium on Love: The Devastating Little Breath Of Eros - Awakening song, Dance in the light of love and Yoiking.
- This music was also included on a CD of the soundtrack of this film.
1997 – Seek and ye shall find – 4-part canon for voices, with drones and guitar accompaniment performed at Loyola Chapel, Concordia University, Montreal.
2001 – Be still and know that I am God – solo voice with piano accompaniment - performed at Loyola Chapel.
2002 – Holy, holy, holy – SATB a cappella - performed at Loyola Chapel.
2005 – As a child (Ps. 131) – voice, flute and piano - performed at Loyola Chapel.
2014 – 2015 - Missa Silvestris – missa brevis for SATB a cappella – Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei performed at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, in 2016 – Gloria never performed yet.
Performance of entire mass by Minimum 12 choir scheduled for 2020.
2015 – Quinque prudentes virgines, elaboration for women’s voices a cappella, and Benedicamus Domino : Tu lux refulge, original composition for women’s voices – performed in concert by
Ensemble Scholastica and recorded on their CD Ars Elaboratio (2016) on ATMA Classique label.
2016 – Prayer of Saint Francis – SATB a cappella - winner of the Debbie Fleming Prize for Choral Composition and was premiered by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at their Choral Splendour concert in June, 2017, and published by Cypress Choral Music in 2019.
2016/2017 – Magnificat and Nunc dimittis – SATB a cappella – performed at Christ Church Cathedral on June 11, 2017, along with Prayer of Saint Francis.
2017 – Maori Lord’s Prayer – TTBB a cappella – setting of a beautiful English version of the Lord’s Prayer, based on Maori spirituality and incorporating Maori chanting.
2017 - The Wise Men – TTBB a cappella, setting of poem by G.K. Chesterton.
2017/2018 - O Magnum Mysterium – SATB a cappella, 3rd prize winner in the 5th International Ennio Morricone Composition Competition, Florence, Italy.
2018 – Sanctus – TTBB a cappella, 3rd prize winner in the 2018 Opus Ignotum International Composition Competition, Prague, Czech Republic.
2018 – Gold – SATB a cappella - in honour of 50th anniversary of Reading Phoenix Choir.
2018 – Ubi caritas / Psalm 23 – SSAATTBB a cappella.
2018 – O splendidissima gemma – SSAA a cappella – inspired by Hildegard von Bingen – presented in workshop by singers from Ensemble Scholastica and programmed for their
June 2020 concert.
2019 – Beatus venter, elaboration SA, recorded by Ensemble Scholastica on their new CD Saints inouïs, to be released in May 2020 on the ATMA Classique label.
2019 – Christmas Carol, SATB a cappella, a setting of a poem by Sara Teasdale.
2020 – Ich mag nit tanzen, for women’s voices (SSAA) with Tibetan singing bowl, a setting of a poem by Mechthild von Magdeburg (1207-1282?), commissioned by
Ensemble Scholastica for their June 2020 concert.
2020 - Hope, for SATB a cappella, a setting of a poem by Joseph Addison.