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Remembering Jocelyn Morlock

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We are profoundly saddened by the loss of Manitoba composer Jocelyn Morlock. Her work has been featured at several Winnipeg New Music Festivals, where she also served as a mentor to up-and-coming composers in the WNMF Composers Institute.

Last season, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra opened a concert with her 2018 JUNO Award-winning piece, My Name is Amanda Todd. This powerful work was inspired by the 15-year-old from Port Coquitlam, BC, who loved singing and expressing herself through music. Todd tragically took her life in 2012 after years of cyber abuse, harassment and bullying at school. Morlock has been a very generous 

“The shocking news of Jocelyn Morlock’s sudden death has shaken me to the core,” says Daniel Raiskin, WSO Music Director. “Why, again and again, are the best taken from us? I was privileged to perform Jocelyn’s music on many occasions, meet her and work with her. I know how much we lost: a wonderfully talented composer, a consummate professional and an empathetic human being. Jocelyn will be terribly missed but always fondly remembered! Rest in peace, dear friend.”

Hailed as “A lyrical wonder, exquisite writing” with “an acute feeling for sonority” (David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun) and an approach that is “deftly idiomatic” (Lloyd Dykk, Vancouver Sun), the composer’s music is also known for her deep engagement with nature. Oiseaux Bleus et Sauvages, off her album Cobalt, begins with beautiful twitterings; Golden, off the same album, conjured a Manitoba swimming hole; The Jack Pine was a piano piece inspired by Tom Thomson’s famous painting of a Northern Ontario tree. On her web page, Morlock muses how she’s also inspired by “nocturnal wandering thoughts, lucid dreaming, death.” 

Morlock was born in Winnipeg and studied music at Brandon University, where she discovered her love of music composition. She went on to the UBC School of Music, where she earned a master’s degree and a doctorate of musical arts. She was the inaugural composer-in-residence for Music on Main in Vancouver from 2012-2014. She was then appointed composer-in-residence for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the late music director Bramwell Tovey from 2014 to 2019.

“Though we lived on opposite sides of the continent, I counted Jocelyn amongst my closest friends and most valued colleagues,” says Haralabos (Harry) Stafylakis, WSO Composer-in-Residence. “A warm and empathetic confidante, a musical philosopher, a nurturing teacher, and always ready with a keen wit and clever insight, Jocelyn was the kind of person we were fortunate to have in our lives and our community. My deepest condolences to her partner, family, and those who knew her. This is a tremendous loss for us all, and I take solace that she will live on in our memories and her beautiful, powerful music.”

Morlock’s works have been performed across the world. Cobalt, a concerto for two violins and orchestra, was her first commission for the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 2009. Some of the groups that have interpreted her work include the Vancouver Cantata Singers, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Saskatoon Symphony, the Niagara Symphony, and the trio of baritone Tyler Duncan, soprano Robyn Driedger-Klassen, and pianist Erika Switzer, which premiered her Perruqueries, written with Leacock Award-winning humorist and Winnipegger Bill Richardson.

The National Arts Centre flew its flags at half-mast to honour the artist.

Morlock’s international career was launched at the 1999 International Society for Contemporary Music’s World Music Days with Romanian performances of her quartet Bird in the Tangled Sky. Since then, she has become the composer of record for significant music competitions, including the 2008 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition and the 2005 Montreal International Music Competition, for which she wrote Amore, a tour de force vocal work that has gone on to receive more than 70 performances and numerous radio broadcasts.

Jocelyn Morlock was 53. She is survived by her long-time partner, composer, trumpeter, and Hard Rubber Orchestra leader John Korsrud. A dedicated music educator, she taught music composition at the UBC School of Music.