Barbara Pritchard

by Julie Berridge

On January 20, Barbara Pritchard plays the composition of Scottish born Alwynne Pritchard, followed by music from musicians and composers who were either born in Canada or who have lived in Canada for much of their lives.

Alwynne Pritchard composed Mesarch, the piece that Barbara Pritchard opens the evening with. Mesarch takes its name from the term given to plant development where the tissue that transports water and nutrients throughout the plant, develops both from the centre of the stem and from the periphery.

Pritchard the composer is also an artist and performer. Her work has been described as “playful, sinister and altogether riveting”.

Barbara Pritchard then performs Anthony Genge’s History and Memory. Genge was born in Vancouver. In addition to studying composition at McGill and the University of Victoria, he also studied with the American composer Morton Feldman and with Japanese Composer Jo Kondo in Tokyo.

In History and Memory, diverse styles are connected by reoccurring themes. However, the musical material is unified not only by the reoccurring opening figure and various tonal relationships, but also by the way that music in earlier parts of the work reappears later in the piece to reference the original material. Genge’s works displays diverse influences including traditional Japanese, Javanese, medieval and renaissance European music, Stravinsky and the music of the New York school of composers of the 1950’s.

Daryl Jamesion was born in Nova Scotia. His composition, Mountain Cherry Blossoms is based on seven of the poems in the mediaeval Japanese anthology Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each). Jamesion is noted as saying that aging, loneliness and love are the main themes of these pieces. Jamieson writes for both Japanese and Western instruments.

Pritchard then performs from a set of variations that were composed at her request. The variations are informed by Bach’s Goldberg Variations, as well as by Maggie Helwig’s poem “The Other Goldberg Variations” in Talking Prophet Blues.

The works of these composers are as interdisciplinary and eclectic as their influences. Broken Glass was composed by Clark Ross, a professor of composition at Memorial University. Genge’s Variation for Piano uses a single harmonic structure. WL Waltman writes for voice, instruments and interactive audio. Jérôme Blais is Professor of Composition and Music Theory at Dalhousie University. In his work, traditional composition and improvisation meet. Ian Crutchley’s compositions feature not only acoustic instruments but also electronic media, and music theatre. Gibson’s Twenty Four Notes is played only above Middle C. Robert Bauer is quoted as saying that he took the Bach aria, “chopped it into pieces and randomly transposed, inverted and retrograded the pieces for re-assembly with some personal added touches, partly as linkage and partly for colour”. Michael Palmer is Toronto born and completely self-taught. David Litke describes his composition as “a bird’s ear hearing of Bach’s Goldberg Aria. The set of variations ends fittingly with Dennis Farrell’s Quodlibet and Lullaby.

Variations in a musical composition take their key, tempo and style from that which comes before it and that which it develops into. January 20 promises to be a night of musical exploration and discovery!

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