Please join us on Monday, February 10, 2020 at 7pm in our uniquely intimate Murray Adaskin Salon for our Celebration of lost composer Ross Alden on the occasion of what would have been his 100th Birthday.
Ross Alden is the sixth composer we have now fêted posthumously, following a long and honourable line that includes Murray Adaskin, Jean Coulthard, Barbara Pentland, Elliot Weisgarber, and Hubert Klyne Headley. Mr. Alden has the distinction, though, of being only the second composer we have submitted posthumously to be awarded Associate Composer status, which was granted by the Canadian Music Centre’s Composer’s Committee late last year.
I find it incredibly poignant to offer this concert of music by a composer who was erased. Especially when the reason I am here to present his music is because I moved back to Vancouver, after twenty years away in New York City, in order to marry the man I love.
Which was the very thing Ross Alden was denied, like Alan Turing before him and countless others. Gay men and women and their transgendered cousins have been hounded by Western society through much of the last century — thousands lost their careers, homes, families, and lives — compounding the organized mass murder of hundreds of thousands more killed by the Nazis, which mention is made necessary given the recent 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
I remember my mother saying to me, when I came out to her in 1977, that her greatest fear for me was that I would end up friendless and alone, unhappy, rejected by society. Which was the logical outcome, given the world she had grown up in. Thankfully I wasn’t daunted. To the contrary. And even more thankfully, she lived to see the joy and love I found in a life fulfilled in my marriage to Tom. And despite her fears for me, my mother was always an independent thinker and was loyal and loving throughout, as was my entire family. I was/am one of the lucky ones.
But Ross Alden was not. And I encourage you to consider his music with that background in mind. Think about the social strictures and approbation Ross Alden faced. Keep them foremost in your minds. The aching loneliness he must have felt. The constant fear of exposure. The dread of making a slip. Of thinking just for a moment that you’ve found a kindred spirit and start to relax, only to realize in horror it’s a mistake. Or worse, a trap, which was common. Imagine for yourself, for just a second, that desperate need to repress every impulse to love, the desire for kinship, for friendship, all of which were a very real danger to his very existence.
So he did what gay men have done throughout Western history — blended in, suborned his own identity, suppressed his very id, with the resulting disfigurement and injury, the dis-ease, that is the very opposite of beauty and love and creativity.
But we must simultaneously keep in mind the fact that his marriages, which may have resulted from a need for social conformity, also resulted in love, and in children, including his daughter Elizabeth, who has been the driving force in bringing his music to light and seeing him properly recognized and honoured. So beauty, too, arose from the injuries and dangers he faced.
And we must recognize, also, that it was through music itself, oddly, that Ross found his muse, not the other way around. Music was his inspiration, his solace, and his communion with beauty. He held true to his own inner beauty, his creativity, his own truth, through composition.
I feel we are extremely lucky to be able to enjoy that gift this coming Monday, in a setting and nation where an openly gay, married man can stand for Ross Alden and present him on our unique and remarkable concert series, with pride.