Harry Stewart Somers, CC, composer, pianist (born 11 September 1925 in Toronto, ON; died 9 March 1999 in Toronto, ON). Harry Somers was one of Canada's most prolific, original and important composers. Incredibly versatile, he produced major scores for stage, concert hall, film, radio and television, and employed voices, instruments and synthetic sounds in a wide variety of forms, traditional and contemporary. Always associated with intense feeling, his work is simple, eloquent and forceful, often using juxtaposition of styles, dramatic silences and sharp fluctuations in volume, which he called “dynamic unrest.” His music is internationally respected and performed throughout the Western world. He received major commissions from most of Canada's musical and theatrical organizations, and was a keen promoter of Canadian music. He was the first Canadian composer to be made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Early Years and Education

Somers began piano study in the fall of 1939 at age 14 after meeting a doctor and his wife — both accomplished pianists — who introduced him to classical works. He took private lessons with Dorothy Hornfelt (1939–41) and studied so intensively that at age 16 he entered the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto (now the Royal Conservatory of Music), where his piano teachers were Reginald Godden (1942–43) and Weldon Kilburn (1945–48). He also studied in San Francisco with E. Robert Schmitz in the summer of 1948.

Somers was a gifted pianist and gave several recitals in the late 1940s, including one of Barbara Pentland's music and one of his own in March 1948 at the Royal Conservatory. He had begun composing without guidance in 1939, but in 1941 he joined John Weinzweig’s class. Except for a period of service with the Royal Canadian Air Force (1943–45) he was with Weinzweig until 1949, when a $2,000 Canadian Amateur Hockey Association scholarship afforded him a year in Paris with French composer and teacher Darius Milhaud.

Career Highlights and Commissions

In 1948, Somers gave up his burgeoning career as a pianist to devote himself to composing. During the 1950s, he also mastered the guitar. He continued to compose prolifically, earning extra income as a music copyist, an activity that refined the meticulous penmanship for which his manuscripts are known. Some of his earlier commissions include: Five Songs for Dark Voice (1956), by the Stratford Festival for Maureen Forrester; String Quartet No. 3 (1959), by the Vancouver International Festival for the Hungarian Quartet; as well as The Fisherman and His Soul (1956); Ballade (1958); and The House of Atreus (1963), commissioned by the National Ballet of Canada.

In 1960, he returned to Paris on a Canada Council fellowship to observe trends and to compose. He also studied Gregorian chant in Solesmes, France. Back in Toronto, he composed Lyric (1960) for the Koussevitzky Foundation in New York and supported himself through commissions, many of which came from the CBC, including Movement for Orchestra (1961), Evocations (1966) and Voiceplay (1971), for Cathy Berberian. He was also commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) to compose Stereophony (1963).

After becoming concerned with the teaching and performance of Canadian music in schools, he participated in the John Adaskin Project in 1963 and served as a consultant for school music in Toronto’s North York suburb in 1968 and 1969. He also hosted a CBC TV youth concert series in 1963 and the CBC Radio series Music of Today (1965–69). (See also: Music at the CBC.)

In 1967, the Montréal International Competition commissioned the vocal piece Kuyas (based on a Cree story), which Somers also used in his highly acclaimed opera Louis Riel, which was commissioned by the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation (now the Chalmers Fund) for the Canadian Opera Company (COC) as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations. It was later performed with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Washington, DC, during the US bicentennial celebrations.

An $18,000 grant from the Canadian Cultural Institute in Rome allowed Somers to live in Rome (1969–71), where he completed Voiceplay and Kyrie, fruits of a growing interest in new vocal techniques. Late in 1971 he returned to Canada via the Far East, where he experienced various aspects of Eastern music and philosophy. His Music for Solo Violin (1974) was commissioned by the Canada Council, the Guelph Spring Festival and the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who also gave its premiere. In 1977 he visited the USSR, where he attended performances of his own works, met Soviet composers and spoke about contemporary Canadian music.

Somers’ many commissions indicate the level at which his work was appreciated. In the 1980s, his commissions included: Three Limericks (1980) for the Guelph Spring Festival; Elegy, Transformation, Jubilation (1981) for the TSO; Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (1984) for the Guitar Society of Toronto; the test-pieces Movement for String Quartet (1983) and Shaman's Song (1983), for the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition respectively; and the operas A Midwinter Night's Dream (1988) for the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, Serinette (1990) for Music at Sharon, and Mario and the Magician (1992), after Thomas Mann's novella of the same name, for the COC.

His output through the 1990s included the Third Piano Concerto (1996) for James Parker and the Esprit Orchestra. With the poet P.K. Page he composed a choral piece for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. In this latter part of his career, he accepted fewer commissions, and tended to compose only for musicians he favoured. Tribute concerts at the University of Ottawa and the National Arts Centre in 1995 honoured his 70th birthday. In October 1993, he gave the opening address at the Alberta Music Conference, and in 1997 he was writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor's first Word and Music Festival.

Trademark Style and Characteristics

At the presentation of Somers’ honorary degree from the University of Toronto in 1976, John Beckwith remarked: “[Somers'] music has been created... out of a mastery of the technical processes of his time, out of a wide intellectual curiosity, out of a sense of his relation to tradition... Through it all runs a remarkable elemental quality which... identifies the Somers style like a thumbprint...”

Although Somers absorbed many influences in the course of his career (e.g., Weinzweig, Bartók, baroque counterpoint, 12-tone procedures, Gregorian chant), his music retained certain trademarks independent of trends, such as the serialism of the 1950s. Many of these characteristics can be found even in his student works. The piano pieces of 1939–41, written before his studies with Weinzweig, are mood essays with descriptive titles and a marked interest in non-functional harmonic colour. A favourite device is the parallel movement of fourths, fifths, triads, and the seventh and ninth chords. This persists in his works of the 1940s (e.g., the introduction to the first movement of North Country, 1948).

String Quartet No. 1 (1943), Somers’ first large work, written under Weinzweig's guidance, contains a number of elements carried forward into, and refined during, the late 1940s and 1950s: the extended melodic line (probably a result of exercises designed by Weinzweig to exploit a single line); ostinatos, often with a strong rhythmic drive; points of tonal repose in non-tonal contexts; the accumulation and release of tension (often through textural density) over an extended arc; and, finally, the use of rhetorical, declamatory gestures at climactic moments.

By the time of North Country, these elements had evolved into a distinctive style in which the communication of intense feeling was balanced by effective scoring and driving rhythms were contained within compact ternary structures. The first movement of North Country evokes a bleak, rugged landscape through the slow unfolding of spare melody in the violins’ high tessitura against a quasi-ostinato of short, rhythmic figures.

Somers’ “long line” functioned as a vehicle for intensity as well as a provider of continuity. Two main types of line are used. One unfolds slowly within a small range of pitch and often is accompanied thinly by nervous rhythmic interjections. Characteristic of this line are a falling minor second in a long-short rhythm, sharp dynamic fluctuations in otherwise sustained elements or short melodic segments, silences of varying lengths interrupting the line, and a built-in accelerando at the point of climax (often associated with the falling second). Examples can be seen in the final page of the Rhapsody (1948), the opening of Stereophony (1963) and Music for Solo Violin (1974). The second type of line may include one or more of these traits, but is more active rhythmically with wider intervals and greater range, and usually is accompanied by one or more continuous voices. Examples are the violin’s theme in the Prologue of Symphony No. 1 (1951), the opening of Lyric and several of the long vocal solos in Louis Riel.

Another Somers device has been the deliberate use of tension in manipulating the listener's emotions. In the 1950s, he generated such tension with neo-baroque counterpoint and with a juxtaposition of contrasting styles, i.e., the superimposition of tonal on non-tonal material. The effectiveness of Somers' counterpoint can be seen in Passacaglia and Fugue (1954), in which each section grows to a climax through the accumulation of imitative voices. Of 14 large works written between 1951 and 1959, 10 involve some fugal writing. Style juxtaposition, which first appeared in the second movement of Somers’ Suite for Harp and Chamber Orchestra (1949), was less successful in works of the 1950s (e.g., The Fool, 1953; and Piano Concerto No. 2, 1956) than in Louis Riel (1967), where folksong, tonal writing, taped material and Somers’ own atonal fabrics work together to achieve a high dramatic impact.

Tension is produced also by sharp fluctuations in volume (Somers called them moments of “dynamic unrest”), which may be applied to single notes, to segments of a melodic line or, especially in orchestral works, to sustained vertical aggregates. In fact, the growth pattern of many of Somers’ works is an extension of a crescendo-decrescendo dynamic shape. A striking example is the fifth of Five Concepts for Orchestra (1961). The broad structure of many of Somers’ post-1940 works is ternary (e.g., Symphony No. 1; Five Concepts; Twelve Miniatures, 1964) and this probably is a result of the tendency to plan works around the build-up, achievement, and release of tension.

Somers’ orchestral works of the 1960s grew, in part, from his music for the film Saguenay (1956), in which he worked with non-thematic colours and textures. At first this affected only abstract works (Lyric, Five Concepts) but later it led to experiments with other dimensions: visual (Movement), spatial (Stereophony), and theatrical (The House of Atreus). In these works, tonal or modal elements (common in pre-1959 works) are no longer present. The basis of pitch organization is a 12-tone series. Although Somers used a series in the mid-1940s, he did not employ it throughout a work until 1951 (in Symphony No. 1 and 12 x 12). His subsequent use of series (in all major works including Louis Riel) was flexible and intuitive, tailored to complement other dimensions of a given work.

In 1963, Somers began showing particular interest in the voice, using phonetic sounds, timbral inflections and minute ornamentation. In Twelve Miniatures, Evocations and Louis Riel these colour a traditional treatment of words. However, in two large works of the 1970s, the fabric consists mainly of non-semantic sounds and colour inflections. Voiceplay is a wordless lecture demonstration of new vocal techniques for singer/actor, and Kyrie (1972) is a 25-minute work for vocal quartet, choir and instruments. In Kyrie, the text is derived exclusively from the phonetic sounds of the words “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.” Somers’ command of new voice techniques extends to performance; he recorded Voiceplay, and sang the original taping of an ornamented and electronically elaborated folk ballad for the opening scene of Louis Riel.

The earmarks of Somers' style are reflected in his works for solo instruments, in particular piano and violin, and for small combinations of instruments. (For further discussion see Composition, instrumental solos and duos: Piano solos.)

Somers' special interest in extended vocal techniques continued in three works of the early 1980s: Limericks, Shaman's Song, and Chura-churum (1985). The first, written for the Healey Willan centenary, threatens to smother its text, three ribald limerick verses, by lengthy rhythmic and textural inventions — the result being a “profane” sequel to Kyrie. In both Shaman's Song, an Inuit text set for solo voice and prepared piano, and Chura-churum, a Sanskrit text set for eight amplified solo voices and a small instrumental ensemble, the virtuosic demands achieve an intensity commensurate with the mystery and spiritual elevation of their subjects. Chura-churum may be the most notationally complex of all of Somers' scores.

The trilogy Elegy, Transformation, Jubilation was “conceived as evolving from the homophonic to the multiphonic, from one group to five,” according to Somers’ note in the score. The large orchestra is spatially separated, divided into five unequal groups; the work calls for four assistant conductors in the “Jubilation” section, coordinated by means of click-tracks. The “Elegy” is a late example of Somers's eloquent long-line melody. Substantial solo-and-orchestra works of the 1980s are the Concertante for violin, percussion and strings, and the Guitar Concerto; the latter was developed from a five-note scale pattern whose treatment the composer said was “distantly related to those principles applied to the Indian ragas.” (See also Concertos and concertante music.)

Starting in 1976 with Love-in-Idleness, a solo scene based on Shakespeare's Titania, Somers renewed his involvement with musical theatre. The later 1980s saw the premieres of the children's opera A Midwinter Night's Dream and the “festival opera” Serinette. In an interview in 1990, Somers said that in his work on the former he had “wanted to go back to square one” stylistically, and to deliberately simplify his musical means. Both operas are on Canadian themes, aligning with an unselfconscious nationalism which marks Somers' career — from the early ballet Ballade and Louis Riel to his Images of Canada television scores and the two suites of folk song arrangements for chorus; the latter are among his most accessible and often-played works.

Personal Life

Somers' first wife, Catherine Mackie, died in 1963. In 1967, he married the Canadian actress Barbara Chilcott. He died of prostate cancer in 1999 at age 73.

Honours and Legacy

After Somers’ death, various concerts were dedicated to his music: James Parker, Jean Stilwell and the Esprit Orchestra performed at Massey Hall in November 1999; Victor Feldbrill conducted the TSO in May 2000; Serinette was revived in concert in Toronto in May 2001; and screenings of Images of Canada took place at the CBC Museum in Toronto, also in 2001.

In the mid-1970s, CBC issued an LP boxed set of Somers' compositions. His work was not often recorded on CD until after he died. CBC Records released Harry Somers: A Celebration in 2000 (SMCD 5199), and Centrediscs launched A Window on Somers, a seven-disc series, in February 2001, through the Harry Somers Recording Project.

Somers was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers. In 1976, Somers received the prestigious Wm Harold Moon Award from PROCAN (now SOCAN) for bringing international recognition to Canada through his music. In 1986, he was the subject of a half-hour documentary, The Music of Harry Somers. His archives are held at Library and Archives Canada.

Awards

Critics' Award, Cava dei Tirreni Summer Festival, Italy (1965)

Honorary Degree, D Mus, University of Ottawa (1975)

Honorary Degree, D Litt, York University (1975)

Honorary Degree, LLD, University of Toronto (1976)

Italian Government Award, Government of Italy (1976)

Wm Harold Moon Award, SOCAN (1976)

Companion, Order of Canada (1971)

Best Classical Composition, Picasso Suite (1964), Juno Awards (1997)

Compositions

Stage, Film, Television

  • The Homeless Ones, TV operetta, narrator, voices, orchestra, words by Michael Fram (1955). CBC-TV Toronto, 1956. Ms.
  • Faces of Canada, incidental music, full orchestra (1956). CBC-TV Toronto, 1956. Ms.
  • Ballade, ballet, full orchestra (1958). Ottawa, 1958. Ms.
  • Saguenay, film score, chamber orchestra (1956). Ms.
  • Movement (formerly Abstract for Television), full orchestra (1961). CBC-TV Toronto, 1962. Ric, 1964.
  • The House of Atreus, ballet, full chamber orchestra (1963). Toronto, 1964. Ms.
  • The Gift, incidental music (1965). CBC TV Toronto, 1965. Ms.
  • And, dance, soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone, dancers, chamber ensemble (1969). CBC TV Toronto, 1969. Ms.
  • Images of Canada, incidental music for TV, various ensembles (1972–5). Toronto, 1973, 1976. Ms.
  • Death of Enkidu: Part I, chamber opera, 5 voices, actor, female dancer, flute, clarinet, 2 horns, harp, piano, 3 percussion, libretto by Martin Kinch (1977). Ms.
  • The Merman of Orford, mime, flute, horn, violoncello, percussion (1978). Ms.
  • Mario and the Magician, opera, words by Thomas Mann and Rod Anderson (1992).
  • See also The Fisherman and His Soul; The Fool; Louis Riel; A Midwinter Night's Dream; Serinette

Orchestra

  • Sketches for Orchestra, conducted by Roland Leduc (1946). Toronto, 1947. Ms. RCI 88.
  • Slow Movement for Strings (movement 2 of String Quartet No. 1), string orchestra (1946). Toronto, 1946. Ms.
  • Scherzo for Strings, string orchestra (1947). Toronto, 1947. AMP 1948. RCI 41 (with Toronto Symphony Orchestra)/CBC EXPO-15/RCI 238/10-ACM 7 (with Hart House Orchestra).
  • North Country, string orchestra (1948). Toronto, 1948. BMIC 1960. RCI 154/10-ACM 7 (with CBC Symphony Orchestra)/Centrediscs CMC-2987 (with National Arts Centre Orchestra)/MEAD 1003 (with educational information and film strip).
  • Symphony No. 1. (1951). Toronto, 1953. Berlin (rental).
  • Prelude and Fugue for Orchestra (1952). Toronto, 1952. Ms.
  • Passacaglia and Fugue (1954). Toronto, 1954. BMIC, 1958. RCI 180/10-ACM 7 (with CBC Symphony Orchestra)/Louisville LS-661 (with Louisville Orchestra, conducted by Robert Whitney).
  • Little Suite for String Orchestra on Canadian Folk Songs (1955). Toronto, 1956. BMIC, 1956.
  • Fantasia for Orchestra (1958). Montréal, 1958. BMIC, 1962. RCI 230/RCA LSC-2980/Mel SMLP-4039/10-ACM 7 (with Montréal Symphony Orchestra).
  • Lyric for Orchestra (1960). Washington, 1961. BMIC, 1963.
  • Movement for Orchestra (1961). Ric, 1964.
  • Five Concepts for Orchestra (1961). Toronto, 1962. BMIC, 1964.
  • Stereophony (1963). Toronto, 1963. Kerby, 1972. B&H.
  • Picasso Suite, sm orchestra (1964). Saskatoon, 1965. Ric, 1969. CBC SM-241 (with Atlantic Symphony Orchestra).
  • Those Silent, Awe Filled Spaces, orchestra (1978). Ottawa, 1978. Ms.
  • Variations, string orchestra (1979). Ms.
  • Elegy, Transformation, Jubilation: In Memoriam Four Suicides (1981). Toronto, 1981. Ms.
  • Of Memory and Desire, string orchestra (1993).

Soloist(s) with Orchestra

  • Piano Concerto No. 1. (1947). Toronto, 1949. Ms.
  • Suite for Harp and Chamber Orchestra (1949). Toronto, 1952. BMIC, 1959. Col MS-MS-6285 (with CBC Symphony Orchestra; Judy Loman, harp)/RCI 86/10-ACM 7 (with CBC Symphony Orchestra; Maria Iosch, harp).
  • Piano Concerto No. 2. (1956). Toronto, 1956. Berlin (rental).
  • Five Songs for Dark Voice, alto, chamber orchestra, words by Michael Fram (1956). Stratford, 1956. Berlin, 1972 (voice, piano). CBC SM-73 (with CBC Vancouver Orchestra; Phyllis Mailing, voice)/RCI 286/RCA LSC-3172/10-ACM 7 (with National Arts Centre Orchestra; Maureen Forrester, voice).
  • Concertante for Violin, String Orchestra, and Percussion (1982). Toronto, 1983. Ms.
  • Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (1984). Toronto, 1984. Ms.
  • Piano Concerto No. 3. (1996).

Chamber

  • Duo, 2 violin (1943). Ms.
  • String Quartet No. 1. (1943). Ms.
  • Suite for Percussion, pf, 4 drums (1947). Ms.
  • Mime, violin, piano (1947). Ms.
  • Rhapsody, violin, piano (1948). Ms. CBC EXPO-16/RCI 244/10-ACM 7 (Joseph Pach, violin)
  • Woodwind Quintet (1948). Ms.
  • String Quartet No. 2. (1950). Ms. CBC SM-263/10-ACM 7 (with Vághy String Quartet).
  • Trio, flute, violin, violoncello (1950). Ms.
  • Sonata No. 1., violin, piano (1953). BMIC, 1968. RCI 221/RCA CCS-1015/10-ACM 7 (Marta Hidy, violin; Chester Duncan, piano).
  • Sonata No. 2., violin, piano (1955). BMIC, 1968. RCI 222/RCA CCS-1016/10-ACM 7 (Steven Staryk, violin; Lise Boucher, piano).
  • Movement for Woodwind Quintet. 1957. Ms.
  • String Quartet No. 3. (1959). Berlin (rental). CBC SM-45/10-ACM 7 (with Orford String Quartet)/Centrediscs CMC-0782 (with Purcell String Quartet).
  • Sonata for Guitar, solo guitar (1959). Kerby, 1972. RCI 409/MS 4427 (Michael Strutt, guitar).
  • Symphony for Woodwinds, Brass and Percussion (1961). Pittsburgh, 1961. Peters (rental). CBC SM-134/10-ACM 7 (conducted by Victor Feldbrill).
  • Theme for Variations, any combination of instruments (1964). BMIC, 1966.
  • Etching — The Vollard Suite (from Picasso Suite), flute (1964). Ric, 1969, 1970. CBC SM-114 (Jadwiga Michalska, flute).
  • Improvisation, narrator, singers, woodwind, string, 2 percussion, piano, words by William Shakespeare and W.B. Yeats (1968). Ms.
  • Music for Solo Violin (1973). Berlin, 1975. RCI 413 (Yehudi Menuhin, violin; Harry Somers, commentator)/10-ACM 7 (Yehudi Menuhin, violin).
  • Movement for String Quartet (1982). Ms.
  • Fanfare to J.S.B., brass quintet (1984). Ms.
  • 11 Miniatures, oboe, piano (1992).
  • Magic Flute, flute, tape (1997).

Piano

  • Strangeness of Heart (1942). BMIC, 1947. RCI 93/RCI 132 (Ross Pratt, piano)/1976. RCI 450 (Karen Quinton, piano).
  • In manuscript: Étude (1943); Flights of Fancy (1944); Dark and Light (1944).
  • 5 Piano Sonatas (1945–57). (No. 1,2,5) Berlin, 1979. (No. 3, 4) Berlin, 1980. (No. 1) RCI 450 (Reginald Godden, piano)/(No.2) RCI 450 (Paul Helmer, piano)/(No. 3) RCI 251 and RCI 451 (André-Sébastien Savoie, piano)/(No. 4) RCI 451 (John McKay, piano)/(No. 5 “Lento”) CBC SM-102 (Walter Buczynski, piano)/(No. 5) RCI 452 and Mel SMLP-4023 (Antonin Kubálek, piano)/(No. 5 “Lento”) CBC SM-162 (Walter Buczynski, piano).
  • Three Sonnets (1946; orchestra version, 1952). (No. 2 and 3 only). BMIC, 1948 (piano), 1976. RCI 450 (Karen Quinton, piano).
  • In manuscript: Solitudes (1947); Four Primitives (1949).
  • 12 x 12: Fugues for Piano (1951). (No. 1) FH, 1955. (Complete) BMIC, 1959. RCI 452 (Jacinthe Couture, piano).
  • Nothing Too Serious (1997).

Choir

  • “Where Do We Stand, O Lord?,” SATB, words by Michael Fram (1955). BMIC, 1955. RCI 130 (conducted by Geoffrey Waddington)/10-ACM 7 (with Festival Singers).
  • Two Songs for the Coming of Spring, SATB, words by Michael Fram (1955). BMIC, 1957. RCI 206/10-ACM 7 (with Montréal Bach Choir).
  • “God, the Master of This Scene,” conducted by J. Taylor (1962). OUP, 1964; GVT, 1973. Cap ST-6258/Sera S-60085 (with Festival Singers)/2-Audat WRC6-696 (with University of Alberta Concert Choir).
  • Gloria (liturgical), SATB, 2 trumpet, organ (1962). OUP, 1964; GVT, 1973. CBC SM-53/10-ACM 7 (with Tudor Singers of Montréal)/RCA LSC 3043/Mel SMLP-4030 (with Tor Mendelssohn Choir)/VBC 001 (with Van Bach Choir)/World WRC1-4159 (with All Saints' Cathedral Choir, Halifax).
  • “The Wonder Song,” SATB, words by Harry Somers (1963). BMIC, 1964. CBC SM-19/10-ACM 7 (with Festival Singers).
  • Crucifixion (Passion Psalm), SATB, English horn, 2 trumpet, harp, percussion (1966). Ms.
  • Five Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (traditional), SATB, piano, collected by Kenneth Peacock (1968). GVT, 1969. RCI 339/CBC SM-105/RCA LSC-3154/10-ACM 7 (with Festival Singers)/Centrediscs CMC-0281/RCI 564 (with Elmer Iseler Singers)/Protone PR-154 (with University of Southern California Chamber Singers)/(“Feller From Fortune”) Fantasy Sound FS-23498 (with Medway Senior Choir)/(“Feller From Fortune”) 2-Audat WRC6-696 (with University of Alberta Concert Choir).
  • Kyrie (liturgical), SATB, soli, instrument ensemble (1972). Published Exile vol. 1, no. 3 (1973). Centrediscs CMC-2385 (with Elmer Iseler Singers;Roxolana Roslak, soprano).
  • Trois chansons de la nouvelle-France/Three Songs of New France (traditional), SATB, piano (1976). GVT, 1977. RCI 491 (with Tudor Singers of Montréal).
  • Three Limericks, SATB, mezzo, instrument ensemble, words by Anonymous and W.H. Auden (1980). Guelph, 1980. Ms. Centrediscs CMC-2385 (with Elmer Iseler Singers; Patricia Kern, mezzo).
  • Chura-churum, SSAATTBB, flute, harp, piano, 4 percussion, 8 loudspeakers (1985). Ms.
  • Also “Song of Praise,” 2 part treble chorus, piano, words by Willis Scott (GVT, 1984) and an arrangement of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” SATB, piano (GVT, 1976).
  • A Children's Hymn to the United Nations, children's chorus, piano, words by P.K. Page (1995).
  • A Thousand Ages, boy's voice, TB, orchestra, electric sounds (1998).

Voice

  • “Stillness,” soprano, piano, words by Harry Somers (1942). Ms.
  • Three Songs, V, piano, words by Walt Whitman (1946). Berlin, 1980. RCI 20 (Frances James, soprano)/Centrediscs CMC-2185 (Jon Vickers, tenor)/World WRC1-4342 (Albert Greer, tenor).
  • “A Bunch of Rowan,” med. voice, piano, words by Diana Skala (1947). BMIC, 1948.
  • “A Song of Joys,” med. voice, piano, words by Walt Whitman (1947). Med voice, piano. Ms.
  • Three Simple Songs, mezzo, words by Michael Fram (1953). Ms.
  • “Conversation Piece,” high voice, piano, words by Michael Fram (1955). BMIC, 1957.
  • Twelve Miniatures (Haiku), soprano, recorder (flute), viola da gamba (violoncello), spinet (piano), trans. by H.G. Henderson (1964). BMIC, 1965. RCI 217/RCA CCS-1011/10-ACM 7 (Mary Morrison, soprano; Nicholas Fiore, flutist; Walter Buczynski, pianist; Don Whitton, violoncello).
  • Evocations, mezzo, piano, words by Harry Somers (1966). BMIC, 1968. CBC SM-13/CBC SM-108/10-ACM 7 (Patricia Rideout, voice; Harry Somers, piano).
  • Kuyas, from Louis Riel (Cree), soprano, flute, percussion (1967). Berlin (rental). CBC EXPO-10 (with Montréal Symphony Orchestra; Gwendolyn Killebrew, mezzo)/Centrediscs CMC-1183 (Roxolana Roslak, soprano).
  • Voiceplay, singer/actor, words by Harry Somers (1971). Ms. 10-ACM 7 (Harry Somers).
  • Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, 2 actors, soprano, flute, piano, tape, words from Zen poetry, W.B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson (1975). Ms.
  • Love-In-Idleness (operatic scene), soprano, piano, words by William Shakespeare [Midsummer Night's Dream] (1976). Ms.
  • Shaman's Song (phonetics), V, prepared piano (1983). Ms.

Writings

  • “The Agony of Maurice Lowe: A reply,” Canadian Forum vol. 35 (September 1955).
  • Analysis of Suite for Harp and Chamber Orchestra, CMCentre Study Course no. 1 (Toronto, 1961).
  • “Stereophony for Orchestra,” Music Across Canada vol 1. (March 1963).
  • “Composer in the School: A Composer's View,” Mcan, 19 May 1969.
  • “A Letter from Rome,” CMB no. 1 (Spring–Summer 1970).
  • “Harry Somers' Letter to Lee Hepner,” CMB no. 3 (Autumn–Winter 1971).
  • “How ‘Music for Solo Violin’ was born,” CMB no. 10 (Spring–Summer 1975).
  • “Dr. Somers Replies,'”News, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, vol. 6 (Summer 1976).
  • “A Reply to a Citation Awarded by the University of Toronto,” CME (Spring 1978).
  • “Speaking of Music,” Music (April 1986).
  • “Conference Address,” BC Music Educator vol. 5 (May 1986).