Vivian Fung, Composer
JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung has a unique talent for combining idiosyncratic textures and styles into large-scale works, reflecting her multicultural background. NPR calls her “one of today’s most eclectic composers.” This is supported by many of her works, including Clarinet Quintet: Frenetic Memories, a reflection on her travels to visit minority groups in China’s Yunnan province; Earworms, commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, which musically depicts our diverted attention spans and multitasking lives; and The Ice Is Talking, which uses three ice blocks to illustrate the beauty and fragility of our environment.
Highlights of upcoming performances include the digital world premiere of two operatic scenes based on Fung’s oral family history in Cambodia with librettist Royce Vavrek, part of Edmonton Opera’s The Wild Rose Opera Project; a United Kingdom tour of a new work with the Tangram Collective; the premiere of Fung’s fifth String Quartet by Canada’s Lafayette String Quartet; the French premiere of Earworms by the Orchestre de Paris; and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s UK premiere of String Sinfonietta. She is working on a new project about identity with soprano Andrea Nunez and Royce Vavrek, an expanded version of her Flute Concerto, and upcoming percussion works for Katie Rife and Ensemble for These Times.
Recent season highlights include the world premiere of a new flute concerto, Storm Within, by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and principal flutist Christie Reside; the U.K. premiere of Birdsong, performed by violinist Midori at Kings Place in London; the world premiere of String Quartet No. 4 “Insects and Machines,” performed by the American String Quartet; and the world premiere of her Trumpet Concerto with Mary Elizabeth Bowden (who is currently performing the piece on tour) and the Erie Philharmonic. Bowden’s recording of the Trumpet Concerto with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras will be released on Çedille Records. In July 2020, the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s new Virtual Orchestra gave the world premiere of Fung’s Prayer, a unique work recorded in isolation for an online performance led by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin during the COVID-19 pandemic. A creative collaboration between CBC Music and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the CBC Virtual Orchestra brought together 36 of Canada’s finest classical musicians from 28 different orchestras from every province in Canada to record the piece. Nézet-Séguin led The Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance of Prayer in September 2020 as part of the orchestra’s revised digital fall season and again for frontline workers in May 2021.
Fung has a deep interest in exploring cultures through travel and research. In 2019, Fung traveled to Cambodia to connect with her roots and collect research for a new opera. She traveled to Southwest China in 2012 to study minority music and cultures, continuing research that previously inspired Yunnan Folk Songs (2011), commissioned by Fulcrum Point New Music in Chicago with support from the MAP Fund. As a composer whose trips often inspire her music, Fung has also explored diverse cultures in North Vietnam, Spain and Indonesia. She toured Bali in 2004, 2008, and 2010, and competed in the Bali Arts Festival as an ensemble member and composer in Gamelan Dharma Swara.
Fung has received numerous awards and grants, including the 2015 Jan V. Matejcek New Classical Music Award for achievement in new music from the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), a Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the New York Foundation for the Arts’ Gregory Millard Fellowship, and grants from ASCAP, BMI, American Music Center, MAP Fund, American Symphony Orchestra League, American Composers Forum, and the Canada Council for the Arts. She is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre and served on the board of the American Composers Forum.
Many distinguished artists and ensembles around the world have embraced Fung’s music as part of their core repertoire, including the Chicago Sinfonietta, Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra (Canada), Detroit Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, San José Chamber Orchestra, American String Quartet, Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Metropolis Ensemble, Civitas Ensemble, and Jasper Quartet, to name a few. Fung’s Glimpses for prepared piano has been championed by a diverse group of pianists, including Conor Hanick, Jenny Lin, Margaret Leng Tan, and Bryan Wagorn. In addition to Nézet-Séguin, conductors with whom she has collaborated include Alexander Shelley, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Peter Oundjian, Cristian Măcelaru, Mei-Ann Chen, James Gaffigan, Long Yu, Andrew Cyr, Rei Hotoda, Barbara Day Turner, Daniel Meyer, Edwin Outwater, Steven Schick, Gerard Schwarz, and Bramwell Tovey.
In 2012, Naxos Canadian Classics released a recording of Fung’s Violin Concerto [No.1], Piano Concerto “Dreamscapes,” and Glimpses. The Violin Concerto, commissioned by the Metropolis Ensemble, earned Fung the 2013 JUNO Award for “Classical Composition of the Year.” Several of Fung’s other works have also been released commercially on the Telarc, Çedille, Innova and Signpost labels. Her Pot Roast a la RBG was featured on Çedille Records’ CD Notorious RBG in Song about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her Birdsong was released as part of the Civitas Ensemble’s Çedille album Jin Yin, which was named one of The Chicago Tribune’s “most alluring classical recordings of 2020.”
Passionate about fostering the talent of the next generation, Vivian Fung has mentored young composers in programs at the London Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Forum, San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players, and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. She recently received an “Outstanding Career Influencer” Award from Santa Clara University, where she serves on the composition faculty.
Born in Edmonton, Canada, Fung began her composition studies with composer Violet Archer and received her doctorate from The Juilliard School, where her mentors included David Diamond and Robert Beaser. She lives in California with her husband Charles Boudreau, their son Julian, and their shiba inu Mulan.