John Plant, composer

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Kitchen Party, Coastal Voices, Piano Quintet, ECMA

Posted by John Plant on March 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      My copy of ‘Kitchen Party’ has just arrived in the mail.  I’m writing this to the strains of ‘Dream Kitchen,’ a haunting work by Steve Naylor for flute, percussion and live processed electronics, the sixth of seven works on the CD, which emerged from the wonderful 2013 Shattering the Silence Festival (see my blog with that title below).  I’ve been listening straight through this beautifully conceived project, which also includes my ‘Capriccio’ and works by Derek Charke, Anthony Genge, Jeff Hennessy, Jim O’Leary and Bob Bauer, all gorgeously performed by Derek and percussionist Mark Adam.  Derek and Mark provided us all with an improvised gesture and asked us all to embed it into our pieces, hoping that this would provide a strand of DNA linking all the music on the CD.  A first listening delightfully confirms the successful realization of this hope.  It is rare that one can listen to an anthology of contemporary music - by eight different composers! - and come away with such a perceptibly unified experience. The CD is on the Centrediscss label, distributed by Naxos, and you can buy it here: www.musiccentre.ca/node/81880  You can also download it from itunes (search: Derek Charke Kitchen Party). 

    I’ve taken on a new responsibility - a very satisfying one. I’m the pianist for Coastal Voices, a men’s choir on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, directed by Janet Gaskin. This is a true community ensemble,  with members hailing from various communities along a fifty-mile stretch of coast, and producing a a fine full-throated salty sound, brilliantly shaped and sculpted by Janet.  One of the most inspiring projects of this ensemble has been to perform a song composed by one of its members, Jim Reid. The song, ‘Come With Me’, is an extended ballad-like portrait of the shore and the ocean beyond.  The choir commissioned composer/conductor Gary Ewer to make a choral arrangement of this work, a task which he accomplished lovingly and respectfully. It’s very moving to see ‘Come With Me’ take shape - something beautiful emerging from a beautiful milieu.

    My long silence on the blog is once again a sign of work. I just completed (yesterday!) the first movement of the piano quintet which I’m composing for Blue Engine String Quartet. On Facebook I wrote “Finished the first movement of my piano quintet this morning. It’s supposed to be a piece of abstract music, but somewhere in this process I realized that it has a strong unpremeditated autobiographical element: at first my hungry years in Montreal came to mind; then, more recently, the loss of my parents. Amazing how all this maze of notes and rests assembles itself into a kind of portrait. A sort of archeological dig into my heart!”

Exploring the world of the piano quintet has, as in the case of the saxophone, led to all sorts of amazing discoveries. I knew Brahms's magnificent F minor piano quintet, and the marvelous quintets of Schnittke, Shostakovich, Franck, Dvorak, Fauré (well, one of them).  Among the discoveries: the heartstopping quintets of Grazyana Bacewicz and Ernst Bloch (two each), the lovely quintets of Dohnnanyi, Martucci, Bax, Respighi, Bridge, and the second Fauré; fascinating works by LeFlem and Koechlin, and the thorny but stimulating work of Adès and Wuorinen. 

I am pleased to announce that 'Sandpiper' has been nominated for 'Best Classical Composition' in the East Coast Music Awards, to be awarded in April.  'I Am In Need of Music', is in the running for 'Best Classical CD' - this is the Centrediscs CD of settings of  Elizabeth Bishop's poetry, commissioned and luminously performed by Suzie LeBlanc with some of Canada's most distinguished musicians, featuring works by Alasdair Maclean, Emily Doolittle, Christos Hatzis and myself.  The Cd is available at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com  

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