A Lively win

Dinuk Wi­jer­atne’s 13-minute or­ches­tral piece “Poly­phonic Lively” nabs the Master­works Arts Award and a 25K purse.


Com­poser Dinuk Wi­jer­atne could not be­lieve it when he heard the news he’d won the Lieu­tenant Gover­nor of Nova Sco­tia Master­works Arts Award last week. “I heard wild ring­ing on my phone from a friend con­grat­u­lat­ing me,” says Wi­jer­atne. “I thought it was a hoax for a mo­ment, so I needed con­fir­ma­tion be­fore I could cel­e­brate.”

For­tu­nately, the truth was his or­ches­tral score “Poly­phonic Lively” won Nova Sco­tia’s largest an­nual award for a work of art. It adds to his al­ready im­pres­sive list of ac­co­lades, in­clud­ing Juno and ECMA wins and his ap­point­ment as com­poser-in-res­i­dence at Sym­phony Nova Sco­tia.

Vast and worldly ex­pe­ri­ences in­form the Sri Lanka-born com­poser’s $25,000 award­win­ning work. Hav­ing grown up in Dubai, stud­ied in the UK and be­ing in­vited by the Os­car-win­ning com­poser John Corigliano to visit his stu­dio in New York, Wi­jer­atne sees how dif­fer­ences can be com­ple­men­tary.

“I like ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that mu­si­cal voices, each con­vey­ing an idea that is ei­ther sup­port­ive or sub­ver­sive, can co­ex­ist in a way that of­ten eludes us in to­day’s world,” he says. “An orches­tra is it­self a metaphor for a com­mu­nity rich in dif­fer­ence, but com­mit­ted to unity.”

Nom­i­nated by pro­lific com­poser Chris­tos Hatzis and per­formed by SNS, the 13-minute “Poly­phonic Lively” gar­nered praise from the Master­works jury for be­ing “ter­rific in a vis­ceral way,” in­te­grat­ing an ar­ray of mul­ti­cul­tural in­flu­ences.

De­spite large mone­tary prizes, Wi­jer­atne— who has been de­scribed by the Toronto Star as “an artist who re­flects a pos­i­tive vi­sion of our cul­tural fu­ture”—re­mains hum­ble as he con­tin­ues to en­ter­tain and in­spire. “I’m try­ing not to look ahead too much; I just try to make ev­ery project as mean­ing­ful as pos­si­ble,” he says. “When you live in the mo­ment and make ev­ery note count, great things can hap­pen.”

Wi­jer­atne tries to “live in the mo­ment and make ev­ery note count.”

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