Program Note

Phantom Suns was commissioned by Alex Pauk and the Esprit Orchestra in celebration of their 30th anniversary season. As such, I wanted to write a piece that reflected the meaning of their name "Esprit" in some esoteric way. Phantom Suns draws its inspiration from parhelia, or sundogs, an atmospheric phenomenon in which twin suns appear as lustrous spots of light in the sky on either side of the sun. At times, they may be connected by a circular halo around the sun. They may also appear as one portion of an elaborate network of interconnected arcs and other designs in the sky. One can observe them anywhere in the world, but typically when the sun is low on the horizon. They are caused by sunlight refracting at a 22 ̊ angle through ice crystals high in the cirrus clouds.

The piece is in two movements that present two very contrasting musical takes on phantom suns. The first, Luminescence, is inspired by the actual atmospheric phenomenon as it tries to musically depict light beams that are refracted and colored as they pass through other atmospheric conditions such as cloud masses. The brass section provides the primary 'light vibrations' while the strings and winds give refractions of that light. The second movement, Cipher, is written in acknowledgement of the cryptoanalysts in Poland and at Bletchley Park who made such a difference to the outcome of the Second World War.  The relationship I have drawn between the atmospheric phenomenon and the code breakers in this piece is fittingly cryptic, requiring perhaps an enigmatic leap of thought.

Phantom Suns is dedicated to Alex Pauk and the Esprit Orchestra - may they have another 30 great years - and was composed with the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts.