John Plant, composer

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Rediscovering the piano

Posted by John Plant on May 25, 2023 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I guess I should be pleased to note a slight acceleration in the rate of blog production! But this one is long overdue.

I was thrilled to learn that Louise Bessette will give the premiere performance ...

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What I've been up to

Posted by John Plant on September 8, 2022 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

It's over a year since I posted a blog entry. I'm rather appalled to learn that I haven't written anything about two major projects, both of vital importance to me.  Time to catch up with myself!

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Jocelyne, John Le Carré, and me!

Posted by John Plant on March 14, 2021 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

A lovely piece in the guardian by Nick Cornwell, John Le Carré's son, about the creative partnership Le Carré enjoyed with his wife Jane, put me in mind of my extreme good fortune in being married to Jocelyne, whose role in my work is strikingly comparable:


"For as long as I can remember, my parents have been defined by the work they did together, and by a working relationship so interwoven with their personal one that the two were actually inseparable. ... ...

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Eating my words

Posted by John Plant on February 20, 2021 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

It is ten months since my last post!

I have been feeling lucky to be in Nova Scotia, and to have a large unwieldy challenging inspiring project to keep me occupied - intensely occupied! - during these difficult days and months. The project outlined in my April 2019 blog is very much alive, but its name has changed: it is now The Heart of Things, and I am working on the eleventh of its twelve scenes.

I was extremely happy to learn that my Concerto for Orchestra is...

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Three Echoes of the Odyssey

Posted by John Plant on April 7, 2020 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

On February 16, in Montreal - that is to say, on another planet and in a different era - my Three Echoes of the Odyssey were performed by two magnificent artists, percussionist Marie Josée Simard and pianist Louise Bessette. Between the intention to write about this event and sitting down to do it, coronavirus exploded on this continent - Montreal seems now as far away as the moon. It seems almost indecent to rejoice in my good luck at being able to hear my piece and share it w...

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I will fly like a bird in Chicago

Posted by John Plant on September 19, 2019 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

We've just returned from a wonderful week in Chicago, where an adventurous and resourceful company called Thompson Street Opera opened their new season with four performances of 'I will fly like a bird', the opera I composed in collaboration with J. A. Wainwright. We were able to take a train (the 'L') straight from the airport; the company's treasurer, whose guests we were, picked us up and drove us directly to the theatre, where the final technical rehearsal was in pro...

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All of Us

Posted by John Plant on February 26, 2019 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Last July, just as I was completing the first draft of my Three Echoes of the Odyssey, playwright Wanda Graham sent me a play she had just completed, conceived as a 'music drama,' and dealing with a tormented family of fishers on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. I found her concept so compelling, so original and so musically suggestive that I engaged with it immediately. As I wrote to Arts Nova Scotia in applying (successfully!) for...

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Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018)

Posted by John Plant on March 27, 2018 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

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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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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