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Benton Roark – Bio

With music stylistically described as “a dark and interior vision” and “floor-stomping blues” (The Georgia Straight), “ardent and soaring” (The National Post), and “divergent” and “trippy” (The Vancouver Observer), composer and singer-songwriter Benton Roark has firmly established himself as a unique and genre-defying new voice in North American music. His compositions have been performed by a variety of ensembles, artists, and organizations throughout North America and Europe, including Tapestry Opera, the Bozzini String Quartet, Redshift Music, Théatre Re, the Victoria Guitar Trio, and Aventa. Roark has also enjoyed critical acclaim as a performer of his own work, both as a bandleader and solo artist with projects such as The Benton Roark Band and Rollaway (“dirty-southern-gothic-rock-country-folk”, Discorder Magazine).

The past few years have seen Roark at the centre of a number of ambitious projects in the avant-garde music theatre realm. December 2011 saw the premiere of Shadow Catch (Daphne Marlatt, libretto), a Japanese Noh- influenced chamber opera he produced and co-composed for Vancouver’s 125th Anniversary (“rich with haunting evocative score”, The Bulletin). In April 2014, he composed the original music for Tapestry Opera’s Tap:Ex Revolutions (“a fluid, riveting experienceSchmopera). Other recent theatre works include Hover, an opera staged in an indoor pool, Off Leash, a dark comedy set in a dog park, and Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge, a narrative exploration of depersonalization disorder (“a mysterious landscape of instrumental timbre”, The WholeNote). Recently nominated as Classical Composition of the Year by the 2016 West Coast Music Awards, this work has been presented by Redshift Music in Vancouver, by Sound Symposium in St. John’s, and by Ear Heart Music in Brooklyn featuring Arkora, a collective founded by Roark and conductor-composer-soprano Kathleen Allan.

In many ways, this work served as a follow-up to Roark’s latest record with his band Rollaway, The Return of the Lonesome Coyote Patchwork Pulpit, and Sundry Other Tales from the Rainbow’s End. Inviting comparisons to Neko Case, Fleet Foxes, and My Morning Jacket, Roark wrote, produced and released this record in 2010 to glowing reviews. The Georgia Straight of Vancouver wrote “if he keeps making records as good as this one, Roark is welcome to stay here as long as he likes”, whereas Britain’s Maverick Magazine discussed the “poetry” and “complexity of Roark’s lyrics” and Discorder called the album just plain “really good”. The Return was Roark’s fourth record of original work in a songwriting career that has spanned over a decade with multiple projects and locales, including New York, Toronto, Vancouver, and Atlanta, where early efforts labeled him a “crafty folk experimentalist with an ear for jazz atmospherics” (Creative Loafing). Work on a fifth record - Deep in the Pocket, Still No Change by The Benton Roark Band – is currently underway with co-producer Guillermo Subauste and a consortium of artists across the continent.

Roark’s work can also be heard on a number of chamber music recordings, including the Bozzini Quartet’s À chacun sa miniature (CQB 2011), flutist Mark Takeshi McGregor’s Sins and Fantasies (Redshift Records 2014), and Arkora’s Songs fromthe Rainshadow’s Edge (Redshift TK444). Ongoing projects include commissions from Toronto’s Tapestry Opera (The Whisky Opera) and a new opera being developed in association with Tempest Flutes (The Handless Maiden), as well as the development of a series of microtonal glass percussion instruments created in association with This Is It Design for Redshift Music Society’s City of Water, Sea of Glass project.

Roark has been a resident artist at the Banff Centre, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, Avaloch Farm, and the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, where he was co-recipient of the Tournon Branley Prize for collaborative work in architecture and music. He has studied at the Konservatorium Winterthur in Switzerland, and he holds degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and the University of British Columbia, where he recently received his Doctor of Musical Arts. A tireless arts advocate, Roark has worked extensively with arts non-profits, serving in the past as President of Vancouver Pro Musica, and currently as Co-Artistic Director of Arkora Music and Associate Artistic Director of Redshift Music Society.

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