Sylvia Rickard Celebration

Artistic Advisor: Sylvia Rickard
Friday, May 19, 2017 • 7:00pm

Sylvia RickardEarly beginnings were rough. Born 1937 in Toronto, I was brought up by adoptive parents. They divorced in 1948 when I and mother resettled in Vancouver, greatly missing my father. I began piano lessons with Della Johnston, marvellous teacher, who was to die soon. My new teacher, Grace Bailey, got me to the ARCT level exam, from which I fled. Instead, I received my B.A. degree, 1959, from UBC in French, German and Russian.

From 1959–1960, I studied intensive French at the Université de Grenoble, ending in a “Certificat d’études françaises” — a decorative but useless piece of paper! Foreign language, culture, history, have continued to parallel my musical career ever since.

Living in France, West Germany and India inspired me to tread lightly on Mother Earth and her oceans. I care a lot about our environment.

Private lessons with Jean Coulthard, from 1972–1976, quickened my desire to become a composer. The Banff Centre Summer School exposed me to many musical styles, teachers and genres. A scholarship there gave me further incentive to succeed. Coulthard, through CBC radio producer, Don Mowatt, got her students, including me, new delights of AIR TIME! Other advancements came by way of the Okanagan Composers’ Music Festival, where my young daughter, Janine Rickard, went to hockey school! In the Okanagan I started to adjudicate. The Johannesen International School for the Arts, or JISA, at Shawnigan Lake and Victoria, was also a fine ferment for composers.

My first international performance was in Budapest: two of my Four First Nations Songs shared a concert with two of Jean Coulthard’s Haida art songs. My music has branched out from piano and songs to orchestral, choral, chamber music, both vocal and instrumental, and lately, cabaret songs. I still love to adjudicate; have been on juries of Canada Council and BC Arts Council, and always enjoy experimenting with new idioms, while still, I hope, sounding lyrical, dramatic or comic. I love working collaboratively with poets, performers and conductors. So far my music has been heard in Canada, USA, Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Japan, and England.

Finally, I am most grateful to Sean Bickerton and to all of you at the CMC for inviting me to celebrate my 80th birthday with you in music tonight!

— Sylvia Rickard

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Program

Three Late Period Yeats Songs (Canadian première)
Poems by William Butler Yeats
I. The Old Stone Cross • II. Politics • III. Those Images
Andrew R. White, baritone; Graeme Wilkinson, piano

Existo in Anima
by Lynne Penhale (Emerging Composer)
Kimberley Manerikar, piano

Buttercup Fields
Poem by Lindsay Selwood
Catherine Laub, soprano; Rita Attrot, piano

Anywhen (world première)
Paula Kiffner, cello; Josh Layne, harp

— INTERMISSION —

Belle-mère
Poem by Claude Treil
Andrew R. White, baritone; Graeme Wilkinson, piano

Estival
Sarah Chapeskie, piano

Song for the Earth
Paula Kiffner, cello; Josh Layne, harp

Three Cabaret Songs
Poems by Dorothy Parker *
I. Unfortunate Coincidence • II. Epitaph • III. Indian Summer
Catherine Laub, soprano; Rita Attrot, piano

* The composer wishes to thank the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 
for agreeing to allow this performance of Dorothy Parker’s poetry

 

Program Notes

Three Late Period Yeats Songs (Canadian Premiere)

Always loving the poetry of William Butler Yeats, I set three of his poems for baritone and piano. Andrew R. White, of Nebraska, premiered them with pianist, Emily Tian, in San Francisco, 2013. In 2016, Andy asked me to set some more poems, this time ones written towards the end of Yeats’ life. These three are the ones I chose: The Old Stone Cross, Politics and Those Images, which Andy premiered in Silverton, Oregon, January 6, 2017, with pianist, Christopher Wicks. These late songs are perhaps leaner and more streamlined than the earlier three.

I. The Old Stone Cross

A statesman is an easy man,
He tells his lies by rote;
A journalist makes up his lies
And takes you by the throat;
So stay at home and drink your beer
And let the neighbours vote,

Said the man in the golden breastplate
Under the old stone cross.

Because this age and the next age
Engender in the ditch,
No man can know a happy man
From any passing wretch;
If Folly link with Elegance
No man knows which is which,

Said the man in the golden breastplate
Under the old stone Cross.

But actors lacking music
Do most excite my spleen,
They say it is more human
To shuffle, grunt and groan,
Not knowing what unearthly stuff
Rounds a mighty scene,

Said the man in the golden breastplate
Under the old stone Cross.

II. Politics

‘In our time the destiny of man presents its meanings in
political terms’ – Thomas Mann

How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there’s a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war’s alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms!

III. Those Images

What if I bade you leave
The cavern of the mind?
There’s better exercise
In the sunlight and wind.

I never bade you go
To Moscow or to Rome.
Renounce that drudgery,
Call the Muses home.

Seek those images
That constitute the wild,
The lion and the virgin,
The harlot and the child.

Find in middle air
An eagle on the wing,
Recognise the five
That make the Muses sing.

Existo in Anima

“Existing in the spirit” or “Life Exists” translation from Latin. This piece is a contemplative reflection and compositional discovery. How small, subtle changes can cause an incredible difference. It has been said that this piece sounds like a blend of two styles, both “Erik Satie and Beethoven.” — Lynne Penhale

Buttercup Fields

In 1986, my young friend Lindsay Selwood, then age 14, wrote Buttercup Fields, about flowers and friendship. Sadly, Lindsay was to die at age 19, of undetermined causes. Her mother, Norma Selwood, kindly allowed me to set this poem for middle voice and piano. The piece is part of the Canadian Music Centre’s Millennium Project.

Anywhen

Tonight is a world première of my newest composition. Recently having discovered a new timbral pairing of ’cello and harp, I decided to write a new piece for Paula Kiffner and Josh Layne. Its title I lifted from Alanna Mitchell’s engaging book Seasick, about the global oceans today in crisis. Mitchell used the term “anywhen” as an analogy about time, as we think of it, humanly measurable stops being a straight line or circle, all times occurring simultaneously, on the floor of the oceans, where waters are in ancient layers, old ones, very new and current ones and layers which have not yet been present, all flowing in all directions. In this piece I try to convey flowing movement at different speeds and colours.

Belle-mère

I once I asked my former French professor at U.B.C., Claude Treil, if he had ever written comic poems. I was aware that baritones and basses didn’t have much fun in their typical operatic roles of bad guys, villains, and elderly, disapproving father figures. Claude said yes, he had one such poem about his Parisian mother-in-law, Mme. Warrot, whom he called Belle, facetiously.

In 1959 my dear friend Bridget MacKenzie, also Claude’s student, joined me in a post-graduate year of French study at the University of Grenoble, with the sole purpose of learning French language and culture. Claude had asked us to contact Mme. Warrot in Paris, which we did by going to lunch at her apartment. She was very short, equally corpulent, and ate everything in sight. Her mien remained rather dour, as she ordered her daughter around as if she were a servant. Our lack of French and her lack of English made for some nervous moments.

Claude’s feelings about his belle-mère start out in each strophe with “belle,” suggesting flattering remarks which soon decay into unlovely, uncomplimentary outpourings, perhaps revealing pent-up feelings of vexation and rage caused by this femme d’un certain âge.

Belle-mère

Belle belle de mes heures
Belle de mes malheurs
Belle de tour de taille
Belle jument de bataille
Belle opulente avant-scène
Belle belle aux joues obscènes
Belle dans tes haillons
Belle comme une souillon
Belle et ample vasque
Belle à la chair flasque
Belle belle et clopinante allure
Belle et troublante posture
Belle et vaste image
Bel bel et croulant fromage
Belle aguichante clocharde
Belle odorante pocharde
Belle éléphant de mer
Belle belle-mère!

– Claude Treil

Mother-in-law

Beauty, beauty of my hours
Beautiful by my misfortunes
Beautiful waistline
Beautiful battle mare
Beautiful opulent front-scene
Beautiful with obscene cheeks!
Beautiful in your rags
Beautiful as a slob
Beautiful and large beaker
Beautiful with flabby flesh
Beautiful with limping walk
Beautiful and troubling posture
Beautiful and vast image
Beautiful and crumbling cheese
Beautiful and seductive bag lady
Beautiful odoriferous drunkard
Beautiful sea elephant
Beautiful mother-in-law!

– Claude Treil, trans. Marcel Jean

Estival

This piece of 1973 is my first work, originally called (by Jean Coulthard) Ballet Sonatina. I have since scrapped the original first movement, written some nine years earlier than the next two movements. In 1973 I felt that I was not writing in the same way, as I was a changed person. Jean helped me shape the form of this now-departed first movement, and advised me right through to the end of the piece. She urged me to enter it in the Okanagan Music Festival for Composers where, to my utter amazement, it shared First Place in the Open Category with a piece by Joan Hansen. This piece really was the gateway to my career as a composer!

Song For The Earth

Having written this piece for ’cello and piano in 2008, I decided four year ago to recast it for ’cello and harp. This re-instrumenting was the most difficult task I ever remember doing in music! Thanks to Josh Layne’s infinite patience, talent, and expertise, I managed to write something rather playable. Paula Kiffner and Josh Layne were its first performers. SFTE as we call it, is my most consciously written piece for the environment today: earth’s harmony alternating with massive bouts of man-made destruction of land, sea and sky. Mark Rudoff, ‘cello and Laura Loewen, piano, premiered it at the Wood Hall, Victoria Conservatory of Music, February 22, 2008.

Three Cabaret Songs

On poems by Dorothy Parker. Until recently I had never tried my hand at writing any kind of songs other than art songs. I felt I would like to try cabaret songs, of the smoky, late night sort. Rodney Sharman suggested I set some poems of Dorothy Parker, whose sardonic wit and sage advice about the fickle nature of men appealed to my sense of je ne sais quoi … I took my time with them, penning Epitaph in 2000, Unfortunate Coincidence in 2002, and finally Indian Summer in 2004. Barbara Ebbeson and Alison Nishihara gave the first performance of the Parker songs on Gabriola Island. I had great fun writing them, and wish I could have met Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Club over a drink. Amen.

I. Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying —
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

II. Epitaph

The first time I died, I walked my ways;
I followed the file of limping days.

I held me tall, with my head flung up,
But I dared not look on the new moon’s cup.

I dared not look on the sweet young rain,
And between my ribs was a gleaming pain.

The next time I died, they laid me deep.
They spoke worn words to hallow my sleep.

They tossed me petals, they wreathed me fern,
They weighted me down with a marble urn.

And I lie here warm, and I lie here dry,
And watch the worms slip by, slip by.

III. Indian Summer

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

— Program notes by Sylvia Rickard

 

Biographies

Rita Attrot, Piano

Rita Attrot has been teaching piano students of all ages and levels for thirty years. She also teaches piano pedagogy and is in demand as an adjudicator. Rita received her early training at the Victoria Conservatory, a Bachelor of Music at the University of Victoria and a Master of Music degree in performance from the University of Western Ontario. A gifted and sensitive collaborative pianist, Ms. Attrot held the position of Staff Accompanist at Acadia University in Nova Scotia for 9 years, worked as a free-lance accompanist for instrumentalists and singers in Toronto, and served as a coach and repetiteur at the University of Toronto Opera School. Ms. Attrot is currently Head of the Piano Department at the B.C. Conservatory of Music. She is also a member of the piano faculty at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School and the music director of St. Thomas Anglican Church in Vancouver.

Sarah Chapeskie, Piano

Sarah Chapeskie is nineteen years old and lives in Victoria, BC, where she studies piano with Pamela Smirl. She has been playing piano for eight-and-a-half years and plans to study music at university. At the moment, she is working on her Grade 10 exam with the Royal Conservatory and Conservatory Canada; she has received awards for exams with both systems, as well as for piano and composition in the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival. In addition to piano, Sarah studies cello and voice and sings with a local youth choir, Viva Youth Voices. Sarah is honoured to be performing Sylvia Rickard’s piece, Estival, and thanks Sylvia for inviting her to play.

Paula Kiffner, Cello

Cellist Paula Kiffner earned music performance degrees from Ohio State University and Peabody Conservatory. While at Peabody she was principal cellist of the Annapolis Symphony and a member of the Washington Theater Chamber Players, both under the artistic direction of Leon Fleisher. Her teachers were Harvey Shapiro, Laurence Lesser and Stephen Kates. A former member of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Kiffner has also performed as guest principal cellist of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and has performed frequently as a recitalist and concerto soloist throughout the Pacific Northwest. Her performances have been heard on CBC Radio (Canada) and KING FM (Seattle). Ms. Kiffner also works with youth orchestras in Canada and the US, and has served as guest artist and teacher at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. She is a faculty member of the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Catherine Laub, Soprano

Soprano Catherine Laub is hailed as a riveting performer with a wealth of vocal colours and incredible versatility. Much in demand as a recitalist and oratorio singer, Catherine is also one of the founders of Erato Ensemble, a vocal chamber music ensemble specializing in modern works, and she sang for several years with Kallisto, an eclectic and beloved a cappella women’s trio. For six years, Catherine performed and toured widely with the Juno nominated Vancouver Chamber Choir, Canada’s top professional choir. These collaborations all shaped her course as a composer, and Catherine specializes in choral, vocal, and vocal chamber music, with more than 80 compositions and arrangements currently in her catalogue. A musical polymath, Catherine also teaches voice, adjudicates, conducts choirs, and gives workshops for choirs and choral conductors. In 2013, she became the Artistic Director of the Roedde House Museum’s Classical Concert Series, programming monthly concerts in Vancouver. In 2015, Catherine completed a conducting mentorship with Morna Edmundson and Elektra Women’s Choir. In 2017, Catherine will begin a degree in musicology at the University of British Columbia. She currently holds voice degrees from Indiana University and Westminster Choir College. For more information, please visit www.catherinelaub.com.

Josh Layne, Harp

Harpist/composer Josh Layne has been called a “harp genius” and a “consummate musician.” He has performed extensively across Canada, the US, and in Europe and South America. Layne started composing in 2005. His solo works for harp Passage (2005) and Rhapsody (2007) were both selected and performed at the Sonic Boom festival of new music in Vancouver. Passage, Rhapsody, and Poem for solo harp (2012) are all part of Layne’s latest CD — “Passage: music for solo harp.” In the fall of 2010 Layne started a biweekly video series on YouTube called Harp Tuesday, where he talks about various aspects of playing the harp — from your first lesson to in-depth looks at advanced music. His channel has now had over 800,00 views. You can find him on YouTube by searching for “Josh Layne” or visit his website at www.joshlayne.com.

Kimberley Manerikar, Piano

Kimberley Manerikar is a pianist and composer currently completing her Masters of Music Composition at the University of Victoria (convocating Spring 2017). She has studied composition with Dániel Péter Biró and Christopher Butterfield and piano with Eva Solar-Kinderman. Kimberley is a passionate advocate for new music having premiered dozens of new works and having performed in numerous concerts and festivals including The Wayward Music Series, Sonic Lab, Oak Bay Music, and SALT.

Lynne Penhale, Composer

Lynne Penhale is a composer and performer based in Victoria. A lot of her work is based on noticing familiar sound-patterns in our surroundings and representing them musically. For example, her piece Hmm for four voices employs everyday English utterances. Penhale is a trombonist and singer in new music, classical and jazz ensembles including the Westshore Community Concert Band, Wine & Roses Salon Orchestra and the Victoria Composers Collective. She promotes more new Canadian trombone music and organizes new music events as a member of the Victoria Composers Collective. Penhale has a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Theory from the University of Victoria, studying composition with Christopher Butterfield, John Celona, and Daniel Biro. She is internationally recognized, writing for Orkest Ereprijs at the Young Composers Meeting in Holland, 2013. She has written music for Quatuor Bozzini, Arraymusic, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, St. Mary’s Children’s Choir, and the Redshift Ensemble. Some of her influences in music include Cage, Ives, Messiaen, Varèse, and Partch. She has studied and attended master classes with Annesley Black, Carola Bauckholt, Louis Andriessen, Cathy Fern Lewis, Chaya Czernowin, Anna Hostman, Farshid Samandari, Gavin Bryars, Nick Piper, Richard Ayres, Steven Tagasuki, and Wolf Edwards.

Andrew R. White, Baritone

Andrew R. White, BM, MM, AD, DMA, teaches voice and related subjects at the University of Nebraska Kearney. Previous faculty positions include Indiana University of Pennsylvania, University of Akron, Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music, and Ashland University. Operatic appearances include Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte, Endymion in Calisto, and Claudio in Beatrice and Benedict. Gilbert and Sullivan roles include Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, Pooh-bah in The Mikado, and Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe. Roles in musicals include Harold Hill in The Music Man, Billy Bigalow in Carousel, and Emile de Becque in South Pacific. An advocate of new music, he has performed new works in Boston, Cleveland, New York, and elsewhere. He has performed the works of Sylvia Rickard at the Festival of Contemporary Music in San Francisco, the Sonic Boom Festival in Vancouver, the College Music Society Southwest Regional Conference in Wichita Falls, Texas, the University of Victoria, and on the First Friday Series at the Silverton UM Church in Portland, OR.

Graeme Wilkinson, Piano

Graeme Wilkinson holds an ARCT in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto. He obtained a Bachelor of Music from L’Université du Québec à Montréal, and went on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Music at Concordia University in Montreal, under the direction of the late Christopher Jackson. During his thirty year career with Air Canada, Graeme actively pursued his musical avocation. He participates regularly in International Piano Amateur Competitions, Festivals, and Academies, and is active in Choral Work around Montreal. He continues to study Piano with his Concordia Prof, Lauretta Altman. Graeme has performed works of Sylvia Rickard in Vancouver, Victoria, the Southern Gulf Islands, and in Montreal. In 2010 he commissioned Ms. Rickard’s Brise Marine for the Concordia Graduate Chamber Ensembles.