The Artists

The performers of the Great War Sextet's premiere performances include:

Music Composed by Benjamin Sajo

Mixed and Engineered by Mike Mullin:

Quotes from some of the performers:

"[I am] excited to be working on a work such as The Great War, which explores Canada's cultural history from an important time in its formation." -- Pratik Gandhi

"I chose to take on "The Great War Sextet" because of Benjamin's commitment to give a voice to the unknown. I appreciate his energy and belief in the material, and I want to be a part of this energy and message." -- Felix Del Tredici

Pratik Gandhi: Our Maestro

Pratik Gandhi is a freelance conductor based in Toronto. He is currently music director of the Rouge River Winds and of Soup Can Theatre, resident conductor of the Toy Piano Composers ensemble, and vice-chair of the Concert Band division of Musicfest Canada. Over his career, Pratik has premiered dozens of new works by Canadian composers, and is credited as conductor on two albums of contemporary music: Bekah Simms' impurity chains, released on the CMC's Centrediscs label, and the Toy Piano Composers' self-titled debut album, from Redshift Records. Pratik is excited to be working on a work such as The Great War, which explores Canada's cultural history from an important time in its formation. Pratik holds degrees in conducting and percussion from the University of Western Ontario.

Felix Del Tredici: Our Trombonist

Felix Del Tredici (1990) is a Canadian trombonist specializing in the performance of contemporary and improvised music. The New York Times has described him as an “extraordinarily versatile trombonist” whose performances are “disturbing yet fascinating” and “hair-raisingly virtuosic”.

He has performed with Klangforum Wien, Musikfabrik, Ensemble Signal, the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, Kollektiv Totem, Lucerne Festival Academy, Ensemble Polywerk, No Hay Banda, and So Wrong It’s Right.

Felix is a Research Associate at MATRALAB, a research space of inter-x art where he collaborates with dancers, actors, sound artists, composers, and tech-garment designers on new works of art involving the trombone.

"I chose to take on "The Great War Sextet" because of Benjamin's commitment to give a voice to the unknown. I appreciate his energy and belief in the material, and I want to be a part of this energy and message. I predict that I will learn a great deal about myself as a performer during the next year as I prepare for this. Not only will this challenge my trombone playing, but also my commitment to acting, to reciting poetry, and overall stage presence. I am grateful for the opportunity to dig into these aspects of myself in such a serious and profound context."

Marianne Di Tomaso: Our First Violinist

Grand Prize winner of the 2006 Canadian Music Competition, Marianne Di Tomaso has won prizes in numerous competitions, including a second prize and Special Award for Best Performance of a Compulsory Work at the 44th edition of Concertino Praga (2009), and a second prize/Award for Best Performance of a Canadian Work at the OSM Standard Life Competition (2010). In 2011 and 2013, she received the first prize in chamber music categories at both the Festival de musique classique Pierre-De Saurel and the Canadian Music Competition. In 2014, Marianne was recipient of the Peter Mendell Award, a scholarship granted to the best candidate among all full-time string students enrolled in a classical music program at one of Québec’s universities or conservatories. In July 2018, Marianne participated in the Virtuoso e Belcanto violin competition in Lucca, Italy, where she was awarded the first prize. In March 2019, Marianne is invited to perform with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal for their Europe Tour.

Marianne has been a guest soloist with several orchestras, including the Laval Symphony Orchestra, I Musici de Montréal, Ensemble Amati, the Canadian Music Competition Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre de la Virée Classique under the direction of such distinguished conductors as Jean-François Rivest, James Darling, Yuli Turovsky, Alain Trudel, Jan Kučera, and Dina Gilbert.

Marianne began taking violin lessons at the McGill Conservatory of Music with Lucine Balikian. At age 10, she began her studies at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal where she studied with Johanne Arel, and received mentorship from renowned pedagogue Raymond Dessaints. Marianne holds a Diploma in Specialized Studies, as well as an Artist Diploma from the Conservatoire. In 2015, she was accepted as a graduate student at the Yale School of Music under the guidance of Ani Kavafian where she received a Master of Music, and a Master of Musical Arts. In the fall of 2019, Marianne will be starting a Graduate Diploma at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University where she will have the privilege to study with Andrew Wan.

Essie Liu: Our Second Violinist

Founder of Precious Moment Violin Service (, Essie Liu creates connections between music and life, and constantly supports good causes of cultural exchange, education, feminism and humanity by bringing a diverse range of live music to a broader audience. Her orchestra experience includes Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Ottawa Symphony and Orchestre symphonique de Gatineau. Essie holds a M.Mus in Literature and Performance (Western University), a Montessori Diploma (TMI) and is on faculty with Ottawa Suzuki Strings.

Maxime Despax: Our Violist

Canadian violist Maxime Despax is an engaged chamber and orchestral musician. Currently, he is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Toronto under the tutelage of Teng Li, with whom he also completed a Master’s degree in Viola Performance. Originally from Gatineau, Quebec, he has studied at the Conservatoire de musique de Gatineau and the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal with Emmanuel Beaudet and Jocelyne Bastien.

Maxime has performed alongside many distinguished musicians such as members of the New Orford String Quartet, the Gryphon Trio, Rob Kapilow, Krisztina Szabó, Philip Chiu, Alex Kerr, and Yehonatan Berick. He has also performed as a soloist with the Orchestre du Conservatoire de Musique de Gatineau, as well as the Indiana University Summer String Academy chamber orchestra.

An avid chamber musician, Maxime is an active member of Quatuor Despax, a family string quartet that tours extensively throughout Canada, as well as internationally in France, Italy, and Colombia. Quatuor Despax is currently the quartet in residence at Église de la Guadeloupe in Gatineau. Furthermore, Maxime is also a founding member of the Interro String Quartet, which is based in Toronto and performs throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Maxime is also an active orchestral musician, and is a member of the Orchestre Symphonique de Gatineau. He has also performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the past. Moreover, Maxime collaborates with prominent and contemporary music composers; he has performed in the Canadian premieres of Salvatore Sciarriano’s operatic work “Luci Mie Traditrici”, and Toshio Hosokawa's “The Raven”.

Jake Klinkenborg: Our Cellist

Jake Klinkenborg is a cellist from Wyoming. Klinkenborg completed his undergraduate studies at Oberlin, before moving to Montreal to complete his Master's at McGill. His primary teachers include Thomas Heinrich, Brian Manker, and Darrett Adkins. Klinkenborg has performed at festivals including the Bowdoin International Music Festival, Orford, Music Masters Course Japan, and Kneisel Hall. In 2016 Klinkenborg became a fellow of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas Global Leaders Program, which resulted in performances and teaching residencies at several Chilean and Paraguayan music institutions. Klinkenborg’s clarinet trio, Tetrakis, won the McGill Chamber Music Competition in 2017, resulting in a brief exchange at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, and advanced to the Fischoff competition quarterfinals in South Bend, Indiana. Klinkenborg’s solo projects include a series of recitals involving glowing body paint, black lights, and an audio-reactive glowing LED glass harp.

Vincente Garcia: Our Bassist

An enthusiastic music lover since a child, Vicente started playing the piano at age 10 so his parents would let him take on the electric bass, which he started at 12 years old and followed with double bass when 15. After studying double bass for a couple of years he joined the Orquesta Sinfónica de Carabobo in his native city of Valencia, Venezuela, where he played for two years before migrating.

Vicente pursued undergraduate studies in double bass with Ed Tait at the University of Toronto and was fortunate to attend the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute for two summers. He also attended the Orford Music Academy to study with acclaimed bassist, Joel Quarrington, with whom he later did his Master’s degree at the University of Ottawa.

A man of many trades and interests, Vicente is keen on learning more about the music industry and combining his career in performance with business, he obtained a graduate certificate in Music Business from Humber College and successfully completed a marketing internship with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

Vicente is now based in Ottawa, where he lives with his wife and performs regularly as a freelancer with a variety of groups in town and works at The Leading Note in marketing.

From the desk of the composer...

As a trumpet player, I've played the Last Post and Reveille since I was in public school. For every Remembrance Day ceremony, even though there are just five different pitches of the same harmonic series, it's one of the most challenging and evocative works I've ever and continue to be honoured to perform.

The Great War Sextet began from my appreciation of the capacity for the trombone to roar.

As an idealistic young teacher, like many of my generation I found my first appointment teaching overseas. In a library, feeling homesick and knackered from my labours, I discovered the book We Wasn't Pals: Canadian Poetry and Prose of the First World War. It is ironic, and appropriate, how I found such an incredible collection of Canadian experiences in England. I imagined how my own foreign adventure very loosely mirrored, in some minor and much more safer ways, the journeys of the anthology's myriad wartime authors, many of whom had their works published posthumously.

Back in Canada, again finding my place in the world, I married, settled in Ottawa, found work as both a music teacher and jewelry salesman. With the compositional process lasting the entire period of the war's centennial (2014-2018), the final movement, "No Man's Land," was completed during my honeymoon on the beaches of Prince Edward Island.

What inspired me most about this work is not patriotism as such, but moreso an appreciation for creative voices that have little been heard, whose flowering is crushed or mangle by fateful forces beyond their control. The Canadian significance comes from how one's true identity becomes apparent when thrust before stressful situations--the heroic and Romantic adventurers experiencing the horrors of war, pouring their hearts out in the universal language of intense love and abject terror.

The music thus stands humble before the poets. I hope this garland upon the text does them justice.