John Oliver came to international attention during 1988/89 when he won six prizes for five compositions ranging from chamber to orchestral to electroacoustic music, and has gone on to create major works for these forces as well as two operas. Forging Utopia is a collection of Oliver’s orchestral music from 1995-2006, featuring works inspired by Haida legend, paintings by Anselm Keefer and Johannes Deutsch, the poetry of Rumi, and Mark Kingwell’s book, « Dreams of Millennium ». Features the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and the CBC Radio Orchestra with mezzo-soprano Judith Forst. Oliver believes that music should resonate with the listener’s intellect, emotions, and kinetic impulses.


1 Forging Utopia (13:26)

2-9 Unseen Rain (11:37)

10 Face in the Abstract (8:52)

11 Raven Steals the Light (22:59)

The National Arts Centre Orchestra
The Windsor Symphony Orchestra
The CBC Radio Orchestra
Judith Forst


« The big piece is last. Raven Steals the Light offers 23 minutes of harmonic richness, often strong, sometimes mild. Ingenious and fascinating sound effects are created without extended playing techniques. The action never quits and continuously unfolds. Kudos to Jacques Lacombe and the CBC Radio Orchestra. » American Record Guide

« [John Oliver] orchestrates with some definite brilliance, making full use of the innovations and sonic possibilities that 100 and more years of experimentation and trial-and-error refinements have created, giving for him a legacy of artistic possibilities. And yet there is something about the music that shines, glistens and speaks in its own right as John Oliver and nobody else.

Each of the four works has its own distinct mood and sound, with « Face in the Abstract » and »Raven Steals the Light » going the more dynamic, spectacular route. The latter is a good one to start with to get a feel for his reworking of 100 years of orchestral innovations and crafting it all into his own personal signature way of proceeding.

This is new music with a capital /n/. It’s an exciting program and it will provide many hours of enjoyment and exploration for those who seek the emerging voices of today. I hope we all can follow where he goes next in future releases. He is one of the most promising orchestral composers of today. » – Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

« …a rip-roaring tour-de-force. » – Olivia Giovetti, Q2, WQXR

« A tour de force of orchestral writing, this work is a delightful listening experience. » – Elaine Keillor, CAML Review.