Raven & the First Men - University of Winnipeg

November 2015

 Part of Virtuosi Concerts, The University of Winnipeg’s International Recital & Chamber Music Series.


Raven and the First Men is a work for clarinet and string quartet by Canadian composer Timothy Corlis and honours artist Bill Reid’s monumental sculpture of the same name, depicted on the back of the (old) Canadian $20 bill. Reid’s remarkable carving is currently housed at Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology where composer Timothy Corlis spent many hours contemplating its message, a story that, according to an ancient Haida legend, goes back to the very first moment in history, a moment when an enormous raven opened up a clamshell and found little men – the first human beings - hiding inside. Raven and the First Men will be  performed by the New Zealand Quartet with award-winning clarinettist Igor Begelman, accompanied by a stunning film by David N. Dorrington.

The NZSQ’s long relationship with the clarinettist James Campbell has led to fruitful opportunities on many fronts. James introduced us to composer Timothy Corlis, whose beautiful and thoughtful music inspired James to choose him when a prestigious Toronto concert series asked him to suggest who might compose a work for him and the NZSQ.  Tim responded with a brilliant, colourful, and deeply moving programmatic work inspired by the monumental sculpture of the legendary Canadian artist Bill Reid, entitled Raven and the First Men. The story takes us back to the first moment in history when an enormous raven opened up a clamshell and found little men hiding inside. These, according to Haida legend, were the first human beings.

The music reflects different aspects of the sculpture and legend as no verbal description could.  The five of us were instantly drawn in to the drama, beautiful sonorities, clarity of ideas and imagery, and compelling sense of musical storytelling.  In addition to the music, Corlis produced an equally stunning video of images from the sculpture, which were projected during the performance.  The premiere was a great success, and we have since performed the work on tour both in North America and New Zealand.  Born in Canada, I’m conscious and proud of the heritage of great performers and composers that Canada has produced, so naturally this collaboration carries special significance for me personally."  Rolf Gjelsten, Cellist, New Zealand String Quartet

"A very fine work – warm and accessible, variously textured in keening, quivering, squalling, droney sonics punctuated by pizzicatos and wonderful glissandos that surge in wave after wave of music to an exciting climax. Standing ovation for this work commissioned by the WMCT.”  - Showtime Magazine, Toronto

 View a video of Raven and the First Men.

Raven & the First Men - University of Winnipeg - Winnipeg

Eckhart-Gramatte Hall, University of Winnipeg
Ticket Prices
Adults $55
Under 30: $35
Students*: $20
*Students must present a valid student card.



Timothy Corlis Raven and The First Men, with film by David N. Dorrington
John Psathas “Manos, Unbridled”
Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 12
Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581

The New Zealand String Quartet Gratefully Acknowledges its sponsors and funders