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Kelly-Marie Murphy. Photo: Alan Dean Photography.

Canada Council awards annual new music prize to Ottawa composer Kelly-Marie Murphy

By Greggory Clark on November 18, 2020

Ottawa-based composer Kelly-Marie Murphy has been awarded the 2020 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music by the Canada Council for the Arts. The winning composition, Coffee Will be Served in the Living Room, written in 2018, is a 10-minute piece for eight cellos that was commissioned by the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto.

Kelly-Marie Murphy. Photo: Alan Dean Photography.

The piece was inspired by an incident that occurred at the home of the late painter Jackson Pollock, who flew into a drunken rage during a dinner party and upended the table. Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, is reported to have calmly invited the guests to move to the living room, where coffee would be served. Murphy’s notes on the piece say it “explores agitation, and the underlying sadness that seems to represent Pollock. The cellos sing, cry, scream, and shout, yet try to maintain normality.”

Murphy holds a Ph.D in composition from the University of Leeds in England. She was born on a NATO base in Italy and traveled with her military family throughout her upbringing. She lived for many years in Washington, D.C. but now resides in Ottawa. Her works have been performed by the Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras and The Gryphon Trio, among others.

The Jules Léger prize, worth $7,500, is awarded annually to a Canadian professional composer who creates avant-garde chamber music.

Read more about Kelly-Marie Murphy on her website.