John Plant, composer

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November news

Posted by John Plant on November 24, 2014 at 4:35 PM

I've been working on 'Insomnia,' for soprano, saxophone and piano, a co-commission from saxophonists Michael Couper and Dr. Jennifer Bill. It's a setting of poems from Marina Tsvetaeva's cycle of the same name. I think of it in some ways as a sequel to 'Canciones del alma,' another hymn to the sacred wild beauty of night. My own Russian is rudimentary - my 'retirement project' of learning Russian seems to be in abeyance, due to the regrettable shortage of hours in the day; but I used what Rosetta Stone and my review of old college textbooks taught me , and translated the poems myself. Tsvetaeva is a poet who combines halllucinatory intensity with dazzling Frost-like formal perfection; in translating, I had to sacrifice the latter aspect -  I don't think it's possible to achieve both. I like the Italian proverb: Traduttore = traditore! 

Some very agreeable recognition has come my way in recent months. I mentioned that Suzie LeBlanc's CD of Elizabeth Bishop settings 'I am in need of music' (including my 'Sandpiper' and 'Sunday, 4 A.M., along with works by Emily Doolittle, Christos Hatzis and Alastair Maclain) had been nominated for Best Classical CD of 2014 by the East Coast Music Association; I'm pleased to say that it won, against some formidable competitors. It was also one of five finalists for the 'Masterworks' Award of the Governor General of Nova Scotia, together with two sculptural installations, a play, and another work of music. Peter Togni's beautiful Responsio was the final winner, the first time a musical composition has been so honoured. But all the finalists were recognized at a reception in the Governor General's mansion, and I can't pretend to be other than delighted by the attention.

My opera about the Robert Dziekanski tragedy. 'I will fly like a bird' (written in collaboration with librettist J. A. Wainwright) will be staged by Opera Nova Scotia on May 22 and 23, 2015, together with Pergolesi's 'La serva padrona,' and, as a curtain-raiser, Monica Pearce's 'Aunt Helen,' about the legendary Nova Scotian folksong collector Helen Creighton. David Overton is the stage director. This will be the stage premiere, and will feature many of the same artists who performed the work in concert at Scotia Festival 2012: Marcia Swanston as the Mother; Clayton Kennedy as Robert; Blue Engine String Quartet, and myself at the piano. It was a deeply rewarding experience to work with these splendid artists, and I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to do so again.

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