George Fenwick


In November 2021, the Calgary Youth Orchestra performed a tribute concert for George.

I’ve left his original writing of ‘news’ and descriptions of his pieces here for posterity.

On Sunday, November 22 (2015!) the Calgary Youth Orchestra, under the direction of Edmond Agopian, presented the premiere of “Bella”, my new piece for orchestra. The concert, Northern Soul, took place at the brand new Bella Concert Hall, located in Mount Royal University’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.

Yes indeed – there is a connection between the title of the piece, and the hall where it will be premiered. “Bella” (the piece) was commissioned by the Calgary Youth Orchestra to commemorate the opening of the hall. Bella (the concert hall) opened this past summer. Its excellent acoustics and mid-size capacity combine to make it a very welcome addition to Calgary’s musical community.

Bella was also a person, of course: Mary Belle Taylor, mother of Calgary philanthropist Don Taylor, who provided the keystone grant that enabled the construction of the Taylor Centre.

The piece I have written was inspired by a story about Bella Taylor. In 1912, at the age of 21, she travelled by train from Kingston, Ont. to join her husband, who had gone ahead to establish a homestead in Alberta. Due to some miscommunication (texting wasn’t an option), Bella disembarked at a railroad siding somewhere in the vast Eastern Alberta prairie, where she spent a night alone and without shelter, shivering as she listened to the sounds of unknown creatures going about their business somewhere out in the darkness. The story ends well, of course. Bella and her husband were soon reunited, and over time became leading citizens of the province.

There are two musical characters in my piece: the immense, unforgiving, and foreboding landscape of the Canadian prairies, as seen through the eyes of a newcomer; and Bella, a spirited young woman who is confronted by the reality of making her way in this unfamiliar and remote place. I have already given away the ending: our heroine finds a way not only to accept her new circumstances, but also to thrive within them.

The Northern Soul concert also featured a marvelous Russian pianist, Konstantin Shamray, who  performed Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, and Scriabin’s Symphony #1. For the finale of the Scriabin, the CYO was joined by Mount Royal University’s Kantorei and Artio choirs; the Cum Vino Cantus choir; and vocal soloists Stephania Romaniuk and Jerald Fast.

FYI, there was a ‘sneak-a-peek’ performance of the piece at 2:00 pm on Sunday, Nov. 15, in the Eric Harvie Theare at the Banff Centre. This concert was the  culmination of the annual Youth Orchestra Symposium, and featured performances by the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra, Edmonton Youth Orchestra, and Calgary Youth Orchestra.

Sarah Hoyles of CKUA radio interviewed me earlier this week (Feb. 2014), and the interview was aired on the ArtBeat show on Sunday, February 23  and again on Wednesday (February 26).

A podcast of the program will be posted on the show’s webpage ( shortly after it airs on Sunday.

Sarah and I talked about my new string orchestra piece, Silver City. 

It was presented by the Kensington Sinfonia on Sunday, Feb. 23 at Hope Lutheran Church in Calgary (3527 Boulton Road NW).

On Thursday, February 13 (2014!) at U of C’s Rozsa Centre, the University of Calgary Wind Ensemble performed the premiere of the wind ensemble version of Black Jacques (le chat noir).  Gareth Jones, the director of the ensemble, commissioned this new version of the piece.

This is the fourth “life” for Black Jacques.  The piece was originally scored for string quartet, and has been succeeded by a version for string orchestra (thanks to Chris Sandvoss) and full orchestra (thanks to Edmond Agopian).

Black Jacques has been performed in Calgary, Cranbrook, and in several locations in France during the Calgary Youth Orchestra’s tour in 2012: Reims, Isigny-sur-mer, St. Aubin-sur-mer, and… in Paris.  France, that is.

The U of C wind ensemble recorded Black Jacques in the studio in 2014.  

On September 28-30, 2012, the multimedia piece Lakeside was shown continuously outside the Nickle Theatre at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

Lakeside is a piece for solo viola, digital soundscape and digital video (10:00).  It honours the life and legacy of the late Leonard Leacock, and was created as part of Mount Royal University’s Centennial Celebrations.

Four Calgary artists collaborated to create Lakeside: visual artists Mirian Fabijan and Oli Siska, and sound composers George Fenwick and Laurie Radford.

Leonard Leacock was an accomplished composer, pianist, and photographer, but his greatest achievement was enriching the lives of generations of Mount Royal Conservatory students by giving them piano lessons, during a tenure that spanned seven decades.  In keeping with Leacock’s dedication to educating young people, several talented Conservatory students recorded contributions to the soundscape of the piece: Caroline Kim, Clio Mawdsley, Krishan Power, Scott Ross-Molyneux, and Natalie Wiebe.

The solo viola part was performed by Gabe Kastelic.

View this piece here:

The Calgary Youth Orchestra performed the orchestral version of his piece, Black Jacques (le chat noir), during its tour to France, under the swingin’ direction of Edmond Agopian.

Performance venues for the tour included the fabulous La Madeline church in Paris (located a stone’s throw away from the Place de la Concorde), the Cryptoportique Gardens in Reims (dating back to 300 AD, easily the oldest venue for my music to date), and two beautiful towns in Normandy: Isigny-sur-mer, and St-Aubin-sur-mer.

Thanks to the CYO players for their spirited and skillful performances!

The video of the premiere performance of my string quartet piece, Compassion, is now up on youtube. Thanks to Gerhard Westphalen for the technical assist!

Compassion was premiered by the UCalgary String Quartet, at the Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary on March 2, 2012. The members of the quartet are: Edmond Agopian (first violin), Teresa Lane (second violin), Dean O’Brien (viola) and Beth Root Sandvoss (cello). The videorecording was made by NUTV, the U of C’s community television station.

In 2009, the Dalai Lama visited Calgary, and this composer, George Fenwick, was fortunate to hear him speak. Fenwick was struck by the notion that all conflicts, large and small, can be resolved peacefully when individuals approach one another from a position of compassionate understanding.

Compassion” is a musical representation of that idea.

The concept of the piece is expressed musically, and also visually. The players begin apart, not listening to one another. The first violinist tries to impose order, but the order breaks down. The players begin to work together and listen to one another, first in a duet, then a trio, and finally in their traditional quartet formation. By the end of the piece they are throwing motives and ideas back and forth, proving that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

“Compassion” was commissioned with the generous support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Lakeside, a multimedia piece honouring the life and legacy of the late Leonard Leacock, was recently posted on youtube.

Four Calgary artists collaborated to create “Lakeside”: visual artists Mirian Fabijan and Oli Siska, and sound composers Laurie Radford and George Fenwick. Several musicians contributed to the project: Caroline Kim, Clio Mawdsley,Krishan Power, Scott Ross-Molyneux, and Natalie Wiebe. The solo viola part was performed by Gabe Kastelic.

NUTV has posted a videorecording of the UCalgary String Quartet’s premiere performance of “Compassion”, for string quartet. The concert took place on March 2 at the University of Calgary’s Rozsa Centre. Click here to view it:

FYI, there are three pieces on the program:

Mozart, String Quartet #18

Fenwick, Compassion

Brahms, String Quartet #1

Yes, I was keeping some fine company that evening. Amazingly, not everyone thought I should be the one “voted off the island”. I have loyal friends!

If you’re in a hurry, you can fast forward to find the beginning of “Compassion” about a third of the way through the concert, but I recommend you take your time, and have a listen to everything.  You’ll be glad you did.

The members of the UCalgary String Quartet are: Edmond Agopian and Theresa Lane, violins, Dean O’Brien, viola, and Beth Root Sandvoss, cello.  I’m very grateful for them for commissioning the piece, and for playing it so very well.

“Compassion” was commissioned with the generous support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

The Calgary Youth Orchestra, under the direction of Edmond Agopian,  performed the premiere of the full orchestral version of “Black Jacques (le chat noir)” at 8:00 pm on April 22, at the Leacock Theatre, Mount Royal College, Calgary.

This is the third version (third life?) of Black Jacques. It was originally written for string quartet, and I have also arranged it for string orchestra.  The CYO will perform the piece during their tour of France in August of this year.

Many thanks to the Rozsa Foundation, for their generous support of this project.