Paroles & Musique: Take us through Intermède Music’s creation and evolution until now.
Françoise Morin: Christopher J. Reed created Les Éditions Intermède in 1973 to fill a need in the Quebec music publishing industry. With a mission to comply with and enforce its represented artists’ financial and moral rights, the company rapidly acquired a solid reputation and was joined over the following years by many prominent artists including Gilles Vigneault, Robert Charlebois, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Diane Tell, Sylvain Lelièvre and Jim Corcoran.

In 1980, Christopher J. Reed created Intermède Média, a production music company assisting communication professionals working in film, advertising, video, television, radio and multimedia, while also providing interested producers with a music consultancy service. As a music consultant, Intermède PikMusik provides clients with search and music selection services while supplying them with the music they are looking for. The company also guarantees the granting of the duly authorized synchronization licences producers need in order to be able to sell their programs.

In 1986, Intermède Communications was created to bring together all Intermède publishing companies and for the administration of the catalogues acquired over the years. Intermède Communications puts together and produces internationally distributed instrumental music recordings that are not retailed, but specifically meant for   audiovisual producers.

Now that Christopher Reed is no longer with us, do you think that your company might be looking to more original music publishing projects or increased sub-publishing or other activity?
We are now carrying out Christopher’s decisions while continuing to convey his values. We emphasize the production of original works created by Canadian composers while incorporating new musical genres and styles. We also continue to develop our international profile. As our catalogue is now being distributed worldwide, we’ve realized this is an excellent way to promote Canadian musicians’ talent and production.

“I believe there will always be a need for music publishers.”

We remain active as a sub-publisher in Canada and have signed agreements with more libraries to provide users with access to a very broad choice of quality music being produced on every continent.

What are your short and medium term plans for your publishing company and its authors? Are you now signing new authors, for instance?
To support Canadian composers at home and around the world, we continue to emphasize the search and discovery of new talents for our new productions. We are also negotiating with sub-publishers working in territories we are not yet covering, once again with the goal of promoting our artists.

We are also facing the new challenge of going all out to help music regain its true value. It is very important that composers be aware that it is not in their interest, nor in the industry’s interest as a whole, to give their music away for free. What now looks like a short-time benefit will become a long term loss. There is a lot of work to be done in that area.

Can you tell us about the repertoire you represent, and how this is being developed and tapped here and around the world?
Of course, we embrace technological developments and benefit from the digital world, particularly the Internet, which makes it possible for users to access our repertoire at all times. Our catalogue has been accessible online for a few years now on our search and download engine for our domestic clients. We can control access and follow up easily thanks to a particularly efficient back office system patterned on our specific needs. May I add that it is a Canadian system that we are proudly promoting to our domestic and international colleagues.

We are also working very closely with our sub-publishers in a number of countries while continuing to expand our reach. Some of the relationships that were established at the time Intermède was created remain operational, and these publishers show a deep respect for composers and empathize with their current situation.

Where do you think music publishing is headed in light of today’s technological changes?
I believe there will always be a need for music publishers, and also that we must never forget about our primary objective of promoting authors and composers while advocating and enforcing their rights. A lot of work has already been done, notably to make sure that the creators whose works are being distributed online can collect royalties either through collective societies or through music producer and publisher associations, but also thanks to the great work of APEM (Professional Music Publishers’ Association), of which we are a member. We are slowly beginning to see results, but a lot remains to be done considering that, as a medium, the web stands to replace television.

In my opinion, our composers too have a major role to play. We must work together to make sure the next generation of music creators are fully aware of their rights. We’re here to protect and support composers. I am convinced that, with patience and hard work, things are going to settle down, and quality music will be restored to its formal glory.

Kevin Lau’s appointment last year as the RBC Affiliate Composer of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was no accident. Lau has single-mindedly strived for a career as a composer of large ensemble works since beginning his doctoral music studies at University of Toronto a decade ago. The TSO announcement came the day before his graduation and commencement from the University of Toronto.

But there’s lots of young composers pursuing music PhDs. It was Lau’s other work as co-founder (with conductor Victor Cheng) of the amateur Sneak Peek Orchestra and a stint as Composer in Residence with the Mississauga Symphony that really sealed the TSO deal. And there were other compositions and commissions as well, for the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ensemble Paramirabo, Orchestra Toronto, Kindred Spirits Orchestra, South Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic and Hannaford Street Silver Band, among others. Lau had clearly demonstrated his passion, drive and talent.

As Affiliate Composer for the TSO, Lau is expected to compose a new work each year for two years; his first piece, Treeship, was conducted by Peter Oundjian at Roy Thomson Hall in July 2013, and his second effort will be performed as part of the orchestra’s New Creations Festival in March 2014.

“I love composing so much that I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

In addition to composing for the orchestra, Lau’s other TSO responsibilities include education outreach, programming, and Canadian content advocacy.

Lau says he started writing “the moment I got the news of the appointment. Treeship is only a 10-minute piece, but it took me longer to write than anything I had done before it. And it took the whole time I was allotted.”

Hearing the work performed at Roy Thomson Hall was a thrill for Lau but the process, from first reading through rehearsals to opening night, was nerve-wracking.

“You have to prepare yourself for it and they don’t make it easy on us,” says the composer. “The musicians are amazing and they’ve seen and played so much great repertoire. So you want to make sure you write something that’s worthy of their performance. They’re not only older and more experienced, but there’s a lot of them. The TSO is about 80 pieces with a big string section, bigger than I’ve ever worked with before.”

Lau knew his first work for the TSO would not be his last, but he still wanted to give it everything he had in terms of musical ideas.

“The first piece was about exploring what I could do with the symphony,” he says. “My new piece is a bit darker and I’m being more careful with what I want to express.

“I feel very privileged,” he says. “This position has given me amazing opportunities. I love composing so much that I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

Dennis Ellsworth was working in a restaurant kitchen when he realized he was ready to launch his solo music career. The Prince Edward Island native had already cut his first album (Chesterfield Dweller of the Year) while living in Toronto, the city he had relocated to in order to pursue his chef’s training. Returning home to work in Charlottetown, he began writing songs, singing and playing guitar with the alt-country band, Haunted Hearts, recording two albums, winning a slew of awards, and building a solid fan base.

But it wasn’t until he found himself feeling both disenfranchised with the restaurant industry and saddled with the weight of performing with a band that Ellsworth realized it was time to strike out on his own as a musician. On a whim, he decided to send an e-mail to musician and producer David Barbe (Drive-by Truckers, Bob Mould/Sugar) in Athens, Georgia, asking if he’d be interested in working together. “In my mind I’d already decided that if he said alright, I would make an attempt at an honest solo career,” recalls Ellsworth.

Ellsworth embraces a flexible approach to songwriting.

Barbe’s answer resulted in Ellsworth’s 2012 award-winning album, Dusk Dreams, which not only cemented his reputation for honest and contemplative songwriting, but also confirmed that he’d found the right musical path.

Ellsworth, who embraces a flexible approach to songwriting that leaves lots of space for inspiration and collaboration, says he knows within the first few minutes of working on a song if he’s on to something. “If I’m not I’ll go and do something else,” he says with a laugh.

While it’s a far cry from the kitchen, making music allows Ellsworth to tap into the creativity that first drew him to cooking. It’s why he prefers going into the studio with his songs incomplete, allowing his hired players and producers to weigh in with their ideas.

“I try to let things happen naturally because I feel like something is guiding us,” he says about the process that allows him to release his work into the unknown. When he’s onstage, however, Ellsworth, is free to keep the reigns firmly in hand. “When I perform live,” he says, “that’s my chance to be in control.”

Track Record

  • Though he didn’t grow up in a musical family, Ellsworth recalls being drawn to music at an early age. He began writing songs at 15, while playing in rock and punk bands.
  • Ellsworth won Album of the Year and Roots Contemporary Recording of the Year (both for Dusk Dreams) and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year (for the song “Electric Stars”) at the 2013 Music PEI Awards.
  • Thanks to two recent tours, Ellsworth is starting to build a fan base in the U.K., most recently sharing the stage with English folk artist John Smith. The two, who have since co-written songs, met when they were paired through a program run by Music PEI.

Discography: Solo Chesterfield Dweller of the Year (2010), Strange Boat (EP) (2011), Dusk Dreams (2012), Hazy Sunshine (2013) With Haunted Hearts Thank You, Goodnight (2009), Howdy (2010)
SOCAN member since 2000