There is no doubt that the geography of Canada has an impact on Canadian artists and composers. To the unfamiliar eye, the prairie landscape may seem empty of life, even foreboding, but when closely examined, reveals an abundance of life and energy. It is impossible to drive across the west without pondering scale; the sheer bigness of the sky, the smallness of civilization's influence, the beauty of sunsets, the wildness of the weather.
It takes a particular kind of spirit to come to a new place and build a creative life. Many of the composers featured on this disc did exactly that, bringing with them a rich musical heritage, sometimes from Europe, America, or central Canada. In so doing, they added new colours and influences to the tapestry musical life in Western Canada. Home-grown composers flourished under these influences, and subsequently added their own voices to the musical culture. Many contemporary composers have traveled widely to study, teach, or perform, yet have chosen to live and work in the west. Each composer featured on this disc made a unique mark on the musical life of his/her day, a mark which the Land's End Chamber Ensemble celebrates with this project. Each work has a unique story to tell. Time allowed us to sample only a handful of the many, many significant prairies composers who enriched the lives of the communities where they lived and taught. As this project unfolded, some common themes emerged.
In a recent New York Times article, a U.S. researcher asserted that the reason North America exerts such an extraordinary influence in the world is because of the pioneer spirit that marks every immigrant who has arrived on its shores. Whenever geopolitical or economic conditions have worsened in Europe, Asia, or elsewhere on the globe, only six percent of the population had the courage and tenacity to pack family and belongings, and leave to make a better life abroad. The music on this disc is imbued that ruggedness, personal vision, fearlessness, and sensitivity to the unique beauty of the West.
As Alberta and Saskatchewan celebrate the 100'th Anniversary of their respective entries into Confederation, we hope this disc uncovers the broad spectrum of styles and visions that have marked western classical musical life. Like all new music, it bears unmistakable marks of time and place. And, like the prairies and the culture of the west, each work is imbued with a unique freshness and vitality. The listening guides below offer ways of understanding the musical culture of the day, the composers, and the music itself. We hope you enjoy studying this music, and contribute to the musical life of your community today by supporting the living composers around you.
Land's End Chamber5 Ensemble January 20, 2006.
Each of the works listed below has a listening guide, specific to that piece, oriented towards the needs of students from grades K-6, 7-9, or high school/adult listeners. These categories are guidelines only - teachers and all listeners should not be limited by these arbitrary delineations. You are invited and encouraged to explore every listening guide, to learn something extra about each piece.
- Vernon Barford: March from I.O.U. March & Two-Step (1898)
- Jack Bullough: Dream Shadows from A Prairie Suite No. 1 (1920's)
- Clifford Higgin: Meditation, Op. 39 (1935)
- Graham Morgan: Walk Slowly (1938)
- Leonard Leacock: Partita in the Style of J. S. Bach (ca. 1945)
- Violet Archer: Six Preludes (1947)
- Robert Fleming: Recollections (1954)
- Murray Adaskin: Divertimento No. 3, Moderato - Adagio maestoso (1965)
- Thomas Schudel: String Quartet, Adagio intensito, Allegro scintillante (1967)
- Malcolm Forsyth: Intimacies (1977)
- Allan Gordon Bell: Lumen (1990)
- William Jordan: Anamnesis IV, Nebelland: Adagio (1995)
- Howard Bashaw: 12M-4P-15m (2001)
- David Eagle: Soundplay 1 (2004)
- Shane Fage: Places of transcendence: prairie, by the side of the road, midnight (2005)
- Neil Currie: Rollin' down #1 (2005)