Jul 31, 2019

Stella Ter Hart has spent the last five years, with her husband, bringing a farm property with a heritage orchard back to production.

It has been a labour of love, with the emphasis on labour, at their property just north of Inverary on Loughborough Lake. Stella always finds time for music, however, and working on compositions is one of a number musical interests that has animated her life ever since she was child growing up in Estevan, Saskatchewan. Music, and music education eventually took her to Toronto. Her interests in music are broad and her studies at the Toronto Conservatory resulted in her receiving four diplomas, in performance, composition, pedagogy and theory. She later taught in New Brunswick, eventually returning to Ontario and living near Bobcaygeon.

“We were living in Bobcaygeon and when my husband was ready to retire we looked at this property on Loughborough Lake, and decided that, although it was run down, it had a lot of potential,” she said, in a interview last week.

The apple trees in the orchard all had a silver tinge in the bright sunshine when I paid her a visit, and she explained that they were covered with a clay based spray that keeps insects from the tender fruit, an organic pest control technique. The clay washes off before the fruit comes ripe, and if all goes to plan the harvest of heritage apples will be ready in time for the second annual Frontenac Open Farms event on September 8.

But on this day the subject was music, not apples.

“I enjoy entering composing competitions,” Stella, “they provide a focus for me, and a deadline, to complete something.”

She has been involved in music her whole life, both playing and composing, and a has gravitated towards composing choral works.

This spring, she entered the Lirit Women’s Chamber National New Music Composition competition. The contest involved composing music for a text called “The Last Note” by the Canadian poet Jill Solniki.

Stella spent quite a bit of time reading and re-reading the poem to get a clear picture about what it was about, and in her interpretation the poem was full of humour.It concerns the last note of a movement in classical piece, an orphan note seeking refuge as the audience sits in awkward silence during the interval before the start of the next movement.

“No one really knows what to do during that time. Do they clap, do they sit still, talk to their neighbour, and I saw the note bouncing around.”

Her interpretation led her to compose a light hearted setting for the poem, and it turned out the be a good interpretation because it won the contest. She received a cash prize and the “Last Note” will have its debut performance in the Spring of 2020.

“It is a thrill to win a prize, although I enjoy competitions even if I don’t win. There is excitement in reaching the long list, the short list, in coming close,” she said, alshe grants that winning is still the best outcome.

The Lirit Choir, sponsor of the Lirit Prize, is a Toronto based choir devoted to the exploration of the range of Jewish music. They perform throughout the year in community performances and at an annual major concert, which is where “The Last Note” will be performed.

No matter what needs to be done in the orchard when that concert comes about, Stella Ter Hart will be headed to Toronto to experience the performance.

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