FOUR SEASONS OF THE CANADIAN FLAG, for large Romantic orchestra, was commissioned by the National Youth Orchestra of Canada for the orchestra’s cross-Canada tour celebrating the nation’s 150th anniversary of confederation in 2017. The Ontario Arts Council provided funding for this commission which was also supported by the Saskatoon and Kingston Symphony Orchestras. These two supporting orchestras premiered a version requiring smaller orchestral forces in 2017 as well. The NYOC posted a live YouTube performance of this work from their 2017 tour’s concert at Maison symphonique in Montreal that was also broadcast on CBC and released on CD. For more information and to see a picture of the four canvasses on which the composition is based, please visit the composer’s website (johnburge.ca). The inspiration for this work is described by the composer as follows: On February 11th, 2015, the Globe and Mail newspaper included a photograph of a one-day installation that artist Maxwell Newhouse presented of his four canvasses titled, FOUR SEASONS OF THE CANADIAN FLAG. Max staged this installation in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag. A simple but resonatingly profound concept, the four large canvases of the flag present the central maple leaf of the flag in a state to match each season with « summer » being a full-sized maple leaf, « fall » a withering leaf, « winter » has a completely empty space in the middle and « spring » is but a small bud of a leaf. Max created this work in 1975 to recognize the 10th anniversary of the flag and holds the patent on the images. At the time I had been looking for an idea that could inspire a new composition that would recognize Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation and it seemed immediately apparent that these four canvasses demanded a musical interpretation. Certainly Vivaldi has done well with his four concertos modelled on the seasons. Max was in complete agreement with this idea and provided his blessing and even painted a single canvas of all four flags for me. The National Youth Orchestra of Canada immediately embraced commissioning and premiering the musical version of FOUR SEASONS OF THE CANADIAN FLAG for their national tour in the summer of 2017. The National Youth Orchestra of Canada is a large, 100-player orchestra and as many orchestras lack such instrumental numbers, I am incredibly grateful that the NYOC recognized that having a version of the piece for smaller orchestra would be of great benefit and help the work secure a more immediate place in the Canadian orchestral repertoire. This decision lead to the involvement of the Saskatoon and Kingston Symphony Orchestras. The resultant work consists of four very tightly written movements in which “Summer” is the shortest, and like most Canadian summers, simply flies along in a blur of swirling gestures contrasted with a prominent French Horn theme. “Fall” is the most introspective movement of the set and constantly emphasises passages that are always descending. “Winter” is a movement of stark, dissonant contrasts that makes the most use of distinctive percussion colours. “Spring” attempts to capture those moments when the earth starts to thaw and eventually the pent-up energy that has been frozen all winter is rejuvenated in a long build-up to a climax based on the opening French horn theme from the first movement. Spring has an almost spiritual effect in the way the resurrection of nature can mirror the soul of the observer. Throughout the work, there are moments of focused intimacy, such as the lyrical violin melody in “Summer”, the English horn focus in “Winter” and the cello section solo in “Spring” all of which attempt to personify a more individual perspective to the shifting of the Canadian seasons.