Piano soloist Barbara Pritchard plays as much Canadian music as she possibly can.
“There’s a huge variety of styles, everything from traditional to experimental,” she says.
“There’s so much good Canadian music out there, that I want to do my bit.”
For example, her upcoming Musikon concert, Fantastic, on May 8 at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, is a recital of piano fantasies featuring “a beautiful arrangement of an Irish love song by Paul McIntyre” and a wacky piece by Peter Hatch which begins with chopsticks and includes Gertrude Stein recitations.
In 2009, the Canadian Music Centre awarded Pritchard the title of CMC Ambassador, a designation given to “50 outstanding performers and conductors who have played exceptional roles in shaping the Canadian music scene over the course of the last 50 years,” says musiccentre.ca.
So it’s only natural that when the CMC Atlantic relaunches in Halifax, Pritchard will be part of the celebratory concert.
Made in (Atlantic) Canada on Sunday, April 17 at 7 p.m. at 1313 Hollis St., features Pritchard and Simon Docking on piano, soprano Janice Jackson, Norman Adams on cello and Jack Chen on flute. They’ll perform work by Canadian composers Clifford Crawley (Newfoundland), Richard Gibson (New Brunswick), Richard Covey (P.E.I) and short works for piano by Clark Ross, Robert Bauer, WL Altman, Jérome Blais, John Beckwith and Michael Parker. Works by Alice Ho, Linda Catlin Smith and Leslie Uyeda are also on the program. Tickets are on sale now at musiccentre.ca, and are $25, $5 for students.
Pritchard will be playing six miniatures composed for her as part of a project she has been working on for 25 years.
She gave composers an excerpt from Maggie Helwig’s poem The Other Goldberg Variations, and asked each of them to read it, then write a one-minute piece of music.
She now has 58 one-minute pieces and will play six at the April 17 concert. Beckwith’s piece will be a premiere.
“I asked for one and he gave me four,” she laughs recalling the response from the Order of Canada member. “I’ll do all four at the concert in May.”
Blais, a Professor of Composition and Music Theory at Dalhousie University, is pleased his short composition will be part of the concert marking the rebirth of the CMC in the Atlantic region.
The Canadian Music Centre is an organization that represents Canadian composers, mostly of concert music and classical music, though some members compose music for film, says Blais.
“A group of composers in the late ’50s created an organization (CMC) to function as a depository and library for their work,” he explains. “It also acts as a publisher. Canadian composers were having a hard time having their music published, distributed and fought for.”
If someone wants to perform a composer’s work, they can contact the centre and the centre will provide a score,” he continues.
“It’s a very important database. Musicians who don’t know me can search for music for a certain instrument and come across a work written for that instrument and decide to perform it.”
Pritchard notes the centre represents about 850 associate composers. It promotes their work to the general public and provides opportunities to listen on the web. And the CMC has its own recording label.
Centrediscs, established in 1981, is the only label of its kind devoted entirely to Canadian concert music, according to musiccentre.ca. Its recordings have won six JUNOs, an East Coast Music Award, six West Coast Music Awards, and two Grande Prix du Disque Canada.
CMC has a central office in Toronto and regional branches in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. The Atlantic branch, run by dedicated volunteers, was in Sackville, N.B. until 2014.
Blais thinks it makes sense for the regional headquarters to be situated in Halifax.
“It’s the biggest city of our region with the greatest number of members and events, with ensembles and individuals performing our music.”
He is very excited about the April 17 concert which will provide the centre with a presence and visibility in the community.
Peggy Walt has been hired as interim director for the CMC Atlantic region. She says there are plans in the works for a creative hub which will include a performance space, recording studio and office.
There are 40 associate composers in Atlantic Canada, including the most recent addition Chris Palmer of Symphony Nova Scotia. Dinuk Wijeratne, who earlier this month won the Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year with his piece Two Pop Songs on Antique Poems is also an associate composer. Wijeratne, a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, was appointed Symphony Nova Scotia’s composer in residence in February.
Andrea Nemetz is a Halifax-based arts journalist.