John Plant, composer

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Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018)

Posted by John Plant on March 27, 2018 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (1)

A bittersweet epilogue to my last blog. I wrote to Ursula Le Guin last fall, informing her of my intention to compose an 'Earthsea' sonata. She wrote back expressing great interest, and asked me to send her a recording of the premiere. I mailed her a CD of the magnificent performance by Dominic Desautels and Tina Chong... and then received word of her death. So I thought sadly that she had never heard the piece - and then, two days later, I received a ...

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Happy New Year!

Posted by John Plant on January 8, 2018 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Since my last blog, I've been happily busy with three projects. Dominic Desautels, who performed so magnificently in the Opera Nova Scotia production of 'I will fly like a bird,' did me the honour of commissioning a sonata for clarinet and piano. Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea stories have haunted and enchanted me for the last forty years or so, so perhaps it was inevitable that they would find their way into my music. Dominic, in addition to ...

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Coastal Voices and my new choral work

Posted by John Plant on June 4, 2017 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (2)

Last weekend, the men's choir which I accompany, Coastal Voices, gave the first and second performance of my setting of Lawrence Raab's poem 'Voices Answering Back: The Vampires' - the premiere in St. Genevieve's Catholic Church in East Chezzetcook, and the second in the historic old church in Sherbrooke Village. The work was commissioned by the choir, and is dedicated to its members and to its brilliant conductor Janet Gaskin. Janet had asked me to make the work a bit of a challenge, and I...

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Faustus in Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and California

Posted by John Plant on April 16, 2017 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

On February 10 Jocelyne and I traveled to Wolfville to hear the first Canadian performance of 'Faustus: A SaxOpera' - neatly sandwiched between blizzards. Wolfville only regained power at noon on the day of the performance, and some of the musicians (incuding the indispensable - and splendid! piccolo player) arrived just in the nick of time. Once again I was moved and delighted by the skill, imagination, virtuosity and utter commitment which saxophonist Tristan de Borba, condu...

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Faustus: a SaxOpera, in Boston

Posted by John Plant on November 14, 2016 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

It seems incredible that the first performance of Faustus: A SaxOpera happened six weeks ago. Traveling to Boston to attend the dress rehearsal and the performance was a brief but shining moment. I already knew that Dr. Jennifer Bill, the saxophone soloist, had an intuitive insight into my musical, expressive, dramatic intentions; but to find a similar degree of profound comprehension in the conductor, Dr. David Martins, with the ability to convey that understanding into the hearts, minds a...

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Words and music

Posted by John Plant on September 6, 2016 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

My friend John Barnstead, discussing Julian Barnes' new novel about Shostakovich on Facebook, said something so precious and precise about what should happen when a composer sets words to music, that I can only add a fervent Amen. After quoting Pushkin's poem in Russian, he very kindly appended John Fennell's prose translation, so I shall follow suit.

 

'Barnes really does have the kind of fine, unobtrusive control of language, allusion, and narrative voice that is one of ...

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SaxOpera

Posted by John Plant on August 4, 2016 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

My ever-intensifying love affair with the saxophone is intimately bound up in my mind with the discovery of the amazing expressive resources offered by large wind ensembles. Just a week before the premiere of my first work for saxophone, I was in Wolfville for the 2013 "Shattering the Silence" festival, when I heard Dr. Mark Hopkins conduct Michael Colgrass's Urban Requiem, a thrillingly revelatory experience. Then I traveled to Boston, for the premiere of my 'A deep clear breath of l...

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Two premieres

Posted by John Plant on November 10, 2015 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (3)

The past month has been one of the most rewarding times in my compositional life. Two premieres: my Piano Quintet, in Halifax on October 4 with Blue Engine String Quartet, and Insomnia, at Carnegie Hall on Hallowe'en, with saxophonist Michael Couper, soprano Yungee Rhiee and pianist ChoEun Lee. Two peak experiences with matchless musicians; in the first I was a nervous and happy participant, in the second, a wide-eyed and goggle-eared member of the audience.


To experience...

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...instead of Russian and flamenco....

Posted by John Plant on September 4, 2015 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I have been deliciously, insanely busy this summer. Many of the projects I envisioned for my 'retirement', such as learning Russian properly and taking flamenco lessons, have been put on indefinite hold.

Ma il furto non m'accora - the loss doesn't disturb me, as Rodolfo sings to Mimi in a different context - because they've been utterly supplanted by the joys (and occasional agonies) of making music, writing it and performing it.

 

It's my immense good fortune to be...

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Opera Nova Scotia presents I will fly like a bird

Posted by John Plant on May 28, 2015 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

In July of last year I received a most welcome phone call from Dr. Walter Kemp: Opera Nova Scotia was planning to stage  'I will fly like a bird', my opera about the Robert Dziekanski tragedy, composed to Andy Wainwright's poignant librettoAnd nine months later, on Tuesday, May 5, the rehearsals began! From May 9 we rehearsed every day, with a last-minute break on Victoria Day; staging rehearsals, music rehearsals, first separately, then together. The intensity whi...

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