Trevor Hoffmann

Trevor Hoffmann

Sketching an ‘Element’ of music

Trevor Hoffmann premiers his first piece as composer in residence for the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra

Imagine the growling bass of dubstep and high-pitched riffs of electro house recreated by an orchestra.

Purists might shrivel their noses at the concept, but Trevor Hoffmann revels at the prospects of creating a futuristic fabric within which one dimension crosses over into the other. Think the music of David Guetta and DJ Tiësto brought to life with an oboe, flutes, violins, cello, snare drums and timpani.

“I’ve always wanted to write an orchestral piece that brought EDM in it,” says Hoffmann, a classically trained musician.

EDM is electronic dance music for the uninitiated – the stuff of weekend-long beach parties and raves.

At 22, the Maple Ridge musician is the youngest composer-in-resident for the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra and possibly one of the youngest composers working in B.C.

His EDM-influenced composition titled Element is the first piece he’s create for the VMO as he embarks on a two-year residency.

Hoffmann has tried his best to combine both the form of EDM and orchestra music, reimagining crazy synthesizers, bass drums, really high-guitar parts and vocals for a full instrumental lineup.

“I’ve done my best to meet in the middle of two worlds,” says Hoffmann, adding that fans of EDM will be able to pick out the similarities between their favourite electronic music artists in Element, while seasoned orchestra audiences won’t be alienated.

“So that’s what the piece is based on, recreating some of those effects.”

The orchestra will be accompanied by a chorus of 80 singers from the  Vancouver Oratorio Society.

Hoffman based the choir’s part on an anonymous text from the 19th century.

“Usually composers don’t write lyrics,” he explains. “The tradition is that they chose a text, typically a poem, and write music to that.”

He chose a poem that wasn’t too narrative.

“I wanted a fairly neutral text with nice vowels and syllables to sing,” he says.

In fact, Hoffmann might not reveal to the choir that Element draws inspiration from EDM.

“If I didn’t tell them it’s EDM, they wouldn’t even know it. They would probably just think it’s some sort of energetic, rhythmic, new music piece,” he says.

Founded by Maestro Kenneth Hsieh, the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra is dedicated to mentoring talented music graduates, helping them move from student to professional. That’s what Hoffmann loves about the organization since he’s benefitted immensely with the guidance of mentors.

“It is quite the honour to work with them,” says Hoffmann, who has also composed two pieces for the Vancouver Symphony. His Emmy-nominated television vocal arrangements are featured on the My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop.

A classical pianist since the age of four, Hoffmann also performs jazz, contemporary music, and gospel. He is currently a pianist for David Foster artist Cody Karey and also plays with the pop opera group Vivace.

Hoffmann enjoys mixing new and old. He’d like to eventually gather a community of contemporary musicians, orchestra players and singers on YouTube to reinterpret classical pieces in a  modern way.

“That’s really where my heart is at,” he says.


The Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra’s Spring Fantasy plays Saturday, March 29 at the Michael J. Fox Theatre 7373 MacPherson Ave., Burnaby at 7:30 p.m. Featured works include a selection of Haydn’s Creation and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy.

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