Death of Amanda Todd inspires orchestral tribute

What: My Name Is Amanda Todd
Where: Dave Dunnet Community Theatre, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd.
When: Saturday, Nov. 10, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25 ($20 for students) at the Royal and McPherson Box Office at 250-386-6121, online at www.rmts.bc.ca, or by phone at 250-385-9771
Note: A community outreach event featuring the Victoria Symphony, Carol Todd and Jocelyn Morlock set for Friday at 2 p.m. is free and open to the public

The Victoria Symphony will take a look at several notable compositions this weekend, from Zosha DiCastri’s Dear Life — based on the writings of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro — to pieces inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope (Jordan Nobles’ Ouroboros) and environmental change (Beka Simms’ Remnant Shoreline).

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Also included on the program for the first concert of the 2018-19 season in the symphony’s Explorations series is Jocelyn Morlock’s My Name Is Amanda Todd, which won Classical Composition of the Year at this year’s Juno Awards.

Morlock, who is composer-in-residence for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, was commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra to write the music for the piece, which premièred as part of a Canada 150 multimedia presentation.

My Name is Amanda Todd is based on the life of the Port Coquitlam 15-year-old who committed suicide in 2012 after harassment and cyber-bullying.

The beginning of the 11-minute piece was written as an epilogue, to capture the sadness of Todd’s death. “But I didn’t want the whole piece to be that,” Morlock said.

She also wanted the tone to reflect the positives of putting a halt to harassment. “You can be a force for positivity. Every person can do this little bit, and it snowballs into this giant thing.”

Following her death, Todd’s story drew international attention when a video she created about her experience of being bullied went viral.

The video, My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self-harm, has been seen nearly 13 million times on YouTube. Morlock said she wanted to encapsulate in her music the bravery of Todd, “who stood up for herself online and told her own story, which is an extremely brave thing for a teenager who is being attacked to do.”

Her daughter’s death led Carol Todd to create Vancouver’s Amanda Todd Legacy Foundation, which supports anti-bullying prevention and awareness. Morlock had the approval and co-operation of Carol Todd to compose My Name Is Amanda Todd, and asked Todd to accompany her on stage when she accepted her Juno Award in March.

“At first I wasn’t sure how I would tell the story,” Morlock said. “Before I met Carol, I thought: ‘How is this not going to be a requiem for this child who died far too young?’ I didn’t think that is what we wanted. And then I met Carol, who is so full of hope. A lot of positive things have happened because of Carol. She has given people a place to look for help.”

Todd and Morlock will be in attendance Friday at the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre for a rehearsal of My Name Is Amanda Todd.

An invitation has been extended to high school students from the Victoria, Saanich and Sooke school districts, and they will be permitted to ask questions during a question-and-answer period with Todd and Morlock.

The Saturday evening presentation of My Name Is Amanda Todd and the remainder of the program for the Symphony’s Explorations series, conducted by Bill Linwood, will not feature appearances by Morlock or Todd.

Morlock said her commitment to promoting the piece, which is now two years old, has never wavered. She hears often from people who have lost someone to suicide, and they tell her it is “somewhat cathartic” to have My Name Is Amanda Todd in circulation.

It has also helped Carol Todd, in some small way, to come to grips with her daughter’s death, Morlock said.

“I wanted this to seem truthful and be worthwhile for Carol, because she is giving up an awful lot every day of her life doing this. Trusting me with her story and her daughter’s story was huge. She was my first and most important audience.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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