Jean Coulthard Celebration

Artistic Advisor: David Gordon Duke
Friday, February 10, 2017 • 7:00pm

Jean CoulthardSongs and chamber works composed over four decades are featured on this evening’s program, which includes two of Coulthard’s most popular composition — the Cello Sonata and The Bird of Dawning — as well as Spring Rhapsody, composed in the 1950s, the Lyric Trio and The Pines of Emily Carr, composed in the 1960s, and the Second Piano Sonata, created in the mid 1980s.

Coulthard believed a chronological approach to understanding her work was a flawed strategy. She preferred to consider two different compositional streams in her massive output: works written for the delight of performers and audiences, and more personal works designed for self expression. The music on this evening’s program blurs this distinction: all the music, from whatever moment in time, reveals the  consistent, personal voice of a composer secure in her craft and enthralled by the joy of creation.

Download Program (PDF)


Pines of Emily Carr

Documentary Film Premiere
Written, directed, and produced by John Bolton

Sonata for Cello and Piano

First movement: In a quiet, flowing style
Joseph Elworthy, cello; Amanda Chan, piano

Spring Rhapsody

I. “Now Great Orion Journeys to the West” • Poem: Bliss Carman
II. “To a May Flower” • Poem: W.E. Marshall
III. “Admonition for Spring” • Poem: L.A. Mackay
IV. “Ecstasy” • Poem: D.C. Scott

Robyn Driedger-Klassen, soprano; Terence Dawson, piano


The Bird of Dawning

Nicholas Wright, violin; Amanda Chan, piano

Second Piano Sonata

I. Con forza drammatico allegro ma non troppo
II. Threnody
III. Allegro vigoroso

Rachel Iwaasa, piano

Lyric Trio

I. Andante lyrico
II. Berceuse (for Shauna). Lento semplice
III. Allegro moderato

Koerner Piano Trio


Program Notes

Pines of Emily Carr (1969)

Music by Jean Coulthard

This cantata is one of the most exotic items in Coulthard’s extensive catalogue of chamber music. Coulthard had many connections to Emily Carr and her circle of friends and admirers, and, as a women committed to making art in the “West beyond the West”, saw Carr’s trail-blazing career as an inspiration.

The publication of Carr’s journals Hundreds and Thousands in 1966 revealed an intimate self-portrait of the artist. As she read the volume, Coulthard began listing, on the bookstore invoice and throughout the text, sections which held special meaning for her.

Over time these selections were fashioned into a libretto and forces decided on: voice and narrator to present Carr’s words, backed up by string quartet (possibly suggested by Carr’s fondness for the Hart House Quartet), piano, and, rather unexpectedly, timpani. As a student in London Coulthard played percussion with the Royal College of Music orchestra; the addition of timpani adds depth and darkness to one of Coulthard’s most British Columbian scores.

Sonata for Cello and Piano (1946)

After what amounted to an unusually extended apprenticeship, Coulthard returned to Vancouver in the mid-1940s following studies in New York. A telling measure of her expanded compositional skills and confident artistic resolve is demonstrated in her trio of Sonatas — for piano, oboe and piano, and cello and piano — all composed in a matter of months around the time she joined the staff of the nascent Music Department at the University of British Columbia.

The Cello Sonata has had particular good fortune: it was published by the prestigious British firm of Novello, included in James Briscoe’s Historical Anthology of Music by Women Composers, and has been recorded by a number of artists. It features a conventional three-movement design which demonstrates Coulthard’s mastery of traditional form as well as her own extended (but still tonal) harmonic vocabulary.

Spring Rhapsody (1958)

Song writing was a lifelong activity for Coulthard: she began composing for voice in her teens and continued until her mid-eighties. Written a decade after the Cello Sonata, Spring Rhapsody was a commission from the Vancouver International Festival for the great Canadian alto Maureen Forrester.

Three of the texts are by “Confederation poets” — Victorian writers who were decidedly unfashionable in the middle years of the twentieth century. Coulthard found three evocative poems and added a contemporary lyric by Louis Mackay, creating what amounts to a four-movement “song sonata.” Though she would go on to create many, many other works for piano and voice, Spring Rhapsody was something of a personal favourite; Coulthard invited Forrester to sing the work on her 1978 gala Seventieth Birthday Concert.

Now Great Orion Journeys to the West

Now great Orion journeys to the West,
The Lord of Winter from the world withdraws,
And all his glittering house of cold dissolves.
Ice-storm and crust and powdery drift are gone,
And a soft hush of morning fills the world.
In rocky groves the sugar maples drip,
Till the sweet sap o’erbrims the shining pails;
The snow slides from the roofs in the warm sun;
Along spring-runs the first young green appears;
The willow sapling in the meadow lot
Put on their saffron veils with silver sheen
As if for some approaching festival;
And hark, from field to field one note proclaims
The Phantasm of Spring is on the move!

— Bliss Carman

To a Mayflower

Hath the rude laugh of Boreas frightened thee,
My dainty one, that thou hast sought to hide
Thy loveliness from the young Spring, whose bride
Thou art, and, like a novice, ecstasy
Of life renounce, in this dark monast’ry
Of mossy cells? Nay, my pale beauty, chide
Me not, that I have mocked thy holy pride
With ardent praise of so rare modesty!
For I am come to claim thee, pretty flower,
As a sweet solace for my lady’s eyes – 
That thou – thy vigil past – all in a bower
Of love, may’st blush and bloom in glad surprise;
Happy that, unawares, thy worth was known,
And all thy fragrance saved for Love alone.

— W. F. Marshall

Admonition for Spring

Look away now from the high lonesome hills
So hard on the hard sky since the swift shower;
See where among the restless daffodils
The hyacinth sets his melancholy tower.
Draw in your heart from vain adventurings;
Float slowly, swimmer, slowly drawing breath.
See, in this wild green foam of growing things
The heavy hyacinth remembering death.

— L. A. MacKay


The shore-lark soars to his topmost flight,
Sings at the height where morning springs,
What though his voice be lost in light,
The light comes dropping from his wings.
Mount, my soul, and sing at the height
Of thy clear flight in the light and the air.
Heard or unheard in the night in the light
Sing there! Sing there!

— D. C. Scott

The Bird of Dawning (1949)

In the fall of 1941 writer and broadcaster David Brock re-gifted Wyndam Lewis’ A Christmas Book; an Anthology for Moderns to his sister-in-law; ever on the look out for poetry that suggested songs or other musical adaptations, Coulthard found a short excerpt from Hamlet in the volume. “Some say, that ever ’gainst that season comes / Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated / This bird of dawning singeth all night long: / And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad; / The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike / No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, / So hallowed and so gracious is the time.”

In its first form The Bird of Dawning was for violin and piano, and dedicated to Coulthard’s grandmother. A decade later she reworked the material for solo violin, harp, and strings, the much loved version more commonly heard today.

Second Piano Sonata (1986)

Together with the two Images and the last Preludes, the Second Piano Sonata is one of Coulthard’s “late” piano works, a summing up of her thoughts about keyboard writing. Like the First Sonata composed four decades earlier, it affirms her belief in the lasting importance of traditional formal structures and expanded, tonal harmony. The middle movement is given the familiar subtitle “Threnody” — a favourite Coulthard description for music of sombre, philosophic, and even mournful character. The outer sections, on the other hand, bristle with energy and demonstrate her original, and practical, understanding of keyboard figuration and colour. The Sonata is dedicated to Jane Coop, who premiered the work in Washington D.C. in 1989.

Lyric Trio (1968)

In one of the few important public addresses Coulthard made, she delivered an autobiographical talk about the activity that a generalist composer in our country could (and probably should) engage in. One of the top categories was “writing for friends.” And Coulthard valued none of her musical friends more than the members of the remarkable Rolston family.

The Lyric Trio celebrates Tom and Isobel Rolston, who performed so many Coulthard works, and commemorates the birth of their daughter Shauna. Coulthard seemed to have no doubts that Shauna would be a cellist and that she would in time join her parents in music making. The Lyric Trio was finished in the summer months the year after Shauna’s birth, written more or less at the same time as The Pines of Emily Carr.



Jean Coulthard, Composer

Born in Vancouver, Jean Coulthard’s father was a pioneer doctor; her mother, a trained singer and pianist. From a precociously early age Coulthard began composing and by her teens her resolve to compose was obvious. With few in Vancouver who understood the nature of training a would-be professional, Coulthard spent a year in London where she had lessons with Vaughan Williams. Though her sojourn at the Royal College of Music was a pivotal point in her life, it left her with only a few of the technical basics needed for her career. She returned to Vancouver, continued writing, and sought out what advice she could garner from “criticism lessons,” first with Copland, then Milhaud and Schoenberg. Arthur Benjamin, who spent the Second World War years in Vancouver, encouraged her to write for orchestra, but it was only after intense study in New York with Bernard Wagenaar that Coulthard’s long years of apprenticeship were over.

Coulthard often spoke of how the immediate post-war years were a sort of “springtime” for the arts in Canada. Certainly her concentrated and sustained focus on composition made these productive years for her. But it should be remembered that the compositional focus of this era was very much dominated by a certain notion of progressive styles; Coulthard’s idiom was out of step. In the mid-1950s she decided to spend a year in France. A short course of lessons with Nadia Boulanger proved less than inspiring, but being re-connected with Europe was artistically nourishing. From this moment on she seemed little troubled by where she fit in the Canadian musical landscape, focussing instead on producing works in virtually every genre of classical music and working at her “parallel career” — teaching at the University of British Columbia.

By the time she faced compulsory retirement from the university in 1973, the tide was turning. A more pluralistic attitude to style emerged; performers were discovering the effective, well-crafted compositions in Coulthard’s by now extensive catalogue; the growing interest in the careers of women in music helped redefine her achievement. With advanced age came respect, honours, and a modicum of influence, all of which Coulthard enjoyed. But patterns of a lifetime meant that work continued with unflagging energy until her mid-eighties.

Today Coulthard’s posthumous reputation continues to grow. Many studies of her work have been written by graduate students. Performers at home and abroad program and record her music. More of her music is available in print that at any previous time. And (in an honour that Coulthard surely would have loved) she was the BBC’s first-ever Canadian “Composer of the Week” in January 2016, the subject of a series of five hour-long programs.

John Bolton, Filmmaker 

John Bolton is an award-winning filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada, preoccupied with revelation, consolation and transcendence, sometimes even in that order. He produces, writes and directs dramas, documentaries, performing arts pieces and the occasional disaster film through his production company Opus 59 Films. John’s most recent films are the feature length “musical docudrama” AIM FOR THE ROSES (in association with the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council), about Canadian musician Mark Haney and Canadian stuntman Ken Carter, which had its world premiere at Hot Docs and which was DOXA’s opening night film; and the short documentary DEBRIS (for the National Film Board of Canada), about Tofino, BC-based “intertidal artist” Pete Clarkson and the making of his most ambitious and personal project to date — a memorial to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami, made entirely out of marine debris from the disaster — which had its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Amanda Chan, Piano 

Amanda Chan has achieved recognition in her career as concert pianist, teacher, lecturer, adjudicator and examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. She has given concerts and masterclasses in Canada, USA, China and Europe as a soloist and chamber player. Born and raised in Vancouver, she started her studies with Edward Parker and was highly successful in her early competitive career including winning First and Top Prizes in the Canadian Music Competition National Finals, CIBC National Canadian Music Festival, Canadian Federation of Music Teachers Association National Bach Competition, “Best Interpretation of a Canadian Premiere Work”, CBC National Young Performers Competition, Concours Orchestre Symphonie de Montreal, to name a few. During her studies with Kum-Sing Lee at the Vancouver Academy of Music, she also won the Kay Meek Competition in 1993. After completing the ARCT diploma and receiving the Gold Medal for achieving the highest mark in Canada in 1987, Ms. Chan was awarded Canada Council Arts grants and numerous top awards as well as receiving full scholarships from universities to attend undergraduate and graduate degrees. Ms. Chan completed her Bachelor of Music degree at UBC under Kum-Sing Lee and Master of Music degree in Piano Performance at the University of Southern California under John Perry. Finishing head of her graduating class at both institutions, she was awarded the prestigious “Top Graduate” award for both degrees. She continued on with doctoral and post-graduate studies at USC and the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto. In the course of her education, she has also studied under Marc Durand, Andre Laplante, Jon Kimura Parker, Robin Wood and Karl-Heinz Kammerling. Her passion for tango jazz led to her becoming the pianist for the now retired band, Tango Paradiso, whose performances included invitations at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Their 2007 CD “Passion” achieved recognition at its release earning Favorite CD pick from CD Baby and 4 stars from The Vancouver Sun review. Locally, her performances are often heard on CBC-Radio and she plays occasionally as a member of The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Since 2002 she has been a Sessional Lecturer at UBC, School of Music on faculty teaching private piano and chamber music. Ms. Chan is the Head of the Piano Department at the Vancouver Academy of Music.

Terence Dawson, Piano 

British-born, Canadian pianist Terence Dawson has firmly established himself as one of British Columbia’s most respected musicians. His reputation as a solo pianist, chamber musician, orchestral pianist, dedicated teacher and engaging lecturer has resulted in repeat engagements from coast to coast across Canada, as well as in the USA, England and Asia. His many performances have garnered critical acclaim: “lucid” (Globe and Mail), “stunning”​ (Vancouver Sun), and possessing “trademark elegance and technical flair” (Georgia Straight).

He has appeared as concerto soloist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, CBC Curio Ensemble, and has collaborated with and is the pianist of choice for numerous artists and ensembles for many series, including the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, Vetta Chamber Music, Music in the Morning, The Coast Recital Society, Music on Main, The VSO Chamber Players, The Vancouver Chamber Choir, Phoenix Chamber Choir, Ballet British Columbia, and as a touring duo with both the Reside/Dawson Duo and soprano Robyn Driedger-Klassen. Dawson served as principal pianist for the CBC Curio Ensemble, Artistic Director and pianist of Vancouver’s celebrated Masterpiece Chamber Music Series, and is well known to CBC Radio audiences.  He was a featured musician for a CBC television historical documentary, playing solo works of Brahms and Liszt. His recordings include nine discs as a chamber musician.

Dr. Dawson has been a clinician for national organizations and educational institutions such as the Canadian Federation of Music Teacher’s National Conference, Conservatory Canada’s National Piano Master Classes, The Musashino Akademia Musicae (Tokyo), and many universities and schools of music. He taught for almost 20 years at Alberta’s Strings and Keys, a summer school for young musicians and is a founding Faculty member of the innovative Vancouver International Song Institute (VISI). He is a member of the faculty in residence at the annual Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Summer Institute at Whistler.

Dr. Dawson has served as a jury member for many local and national competitions including the Canadian Music Competition, The Canada Council and The Vancouver Foundation. After early studies with Janet Hammock, Jamie Syer and Lynn Johnson in Eastern Canada, his graduate studies were with Jane Coop. Since 1991, he has taught piano and chamber music at the University of British Columbia, and in 2011 was appointed Chair of the Keyboard Division, succeeding his principal teacher.

Robyn Driedger-Klassen, Voice 

At the age of sixteen, Robyn Driedger-Klassen discovered that singing came more naturally than her attempts on the piano at Bach Preludes and Fugues.  She won a few competitions in those early days and after a few years of dilly-dallying in other university programs, she decided that music was the only career for her so, she  undertook the voice performance program at UBC with vigour. Robyn has done lots of performing in lots of places.  She loves the costumes and grandeur of opera and adores the personal and intimate side of recitals. Several years ago, Robyn was hired by the Turning Point Ensemble to do a work for voice and ensemble by R Murray Schafer entitled Arcana.  Faced with singing Egyptian hieroglyphs, Robyn found herself first at a complete loss, but soon fully enjoyed unravelling the mysteries found on the page.  Schafer witnessed her successful performance and since then, Robyn has thrown herself whole-heartedly into performance of contemporary vocal repertoire.  Some of her favourites have been: a fully-staged performance of Libby Larsen’s Try Me Good King, the final words and letters of the wives of Henry VIII;  Kaaija Saariaho’s Lonh, for soprano and electronics that make lovely bird sounds; Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus, a woman’s inner monologue as she waits for a blind date; Brian Current’s Inventory, a complicated piece about a woman’s relationship with shoes; David McIntyre’s On the Road to Moose Jaw, a soaring song about a prairie drive; Leslie Uyeda’s White Cat Blues, a set of songs written for her with poems by Lorna Crozier; and Perruqueries, a commissioned set of songs about wigs from the weird and wonderful minds of Jocelyn Morlock and Bill Richardson.  This is an exciting time to be working with North American composers and Robyn is thrilled to make their songs come alive. However, she will always make time to sing Mozart, Schubert or Richard Strauss! Robyn is on the core faculty of the Vancouver International Song Institute, and is also pleasantly surprised to find herself Head of Voice at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Robyn loves books, geraniums, hikes, canoes, cups of tea and a clean house. Robyn lives with her husband and two vocal critics under the age of five. She can bake a wicked loaf of bread and in recent times, has learned a considerable amount about monster trucks, fast cars and dinosaurs.

Joseph Elworthy, Cello 

Joseph Elworthy has been a featured soloist, recitalist, and chamber music performer on such stages as Alice Tully Hall, Suntory Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, and Sejong Hall. Mr. Elworthy has been named a Fellow of The Royal Conservatory of Music for his extraordinary contribution to Canadian Arts and Culture, an honor he shares with such cultural icons as Oscar Peterson, Robertson Davies, Adrienne Clarkson and Leon Fleisher. His recordings can be heard on EMI, Sony, Archtype, and Bose record labels. Mr. Elworthy began his cello studies with Audrey Nodwell at the Vancouver Academy of Music, and continued his training under the tutelage of Eric Wilson, with whom he studied for seven years. Joseph spent multiple summers at the Banff Centre, where he first encountered esteemed cello pedagogue, Aldo Parisot. After high school, he continued his studies at Yale University and the Juilliard School under the guidance of Mr. Parisot. Upon graduation from Yale, Mr. Elworthy was the recipient of the Aldo Parisot Prize – the highest honour issued by Yale University to a graduating cellist. In September 2011, Elworthy was appointed as Executive Director of the Vancouver Academy of Music where he also serves as Head of the Cello Department. Joseph has been a visiting artist at the Beijing Conservatory, Harvard University, Royal Northern College of Music, Glenn Gould School, and the Royal Conservatory of Music. He has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts around the globe including media outlets such as CBC, Arts & Entertainment, BRAVO, PBS, Radio Europe, and NHK. In 2009, Joseph released a critically acclaimed recording of the complete Bach Cello Suites, described in Strad Magazine as: “a cogent vision of each suite impressively expressive yet contained, drawn with surgical precision making these interpretations an impressive achievement”. Mr. Elworthy has been a member of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra since 2002. Joseph plays on a rare Ferdinando Gagliano circa 1760 that once belonged to the legendary German cellist, Hugo Becker.

Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, Piano 

Hailed in the press as a “keyboard virtuoso and avant-garde muse” (Georgia Straight) with the “emotional intensity” to take a piece “from notes on a page to a stunning work of art” (Victoria Times Colonist), pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa has performed as soloist and chamber musician in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands and Germany. Known for bold and innovative concerts, Rachel combines her warmth and curiosity to touch the hearts and minds of audiences, whether she is playing Beethoven and Schumann or Ligeti and Saariaho. One half of the flute/piano duo Tiresias with Mark McGregor, Rachel has also performed with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Judith Forst, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire. Rachel has appeared for Muziekweek Gaudeamus, Music TORONTO, Vancouver New Music, Music on Main, Redshift, the Western Front, Vancouver Symphony, Victoria Symphony, the Aventa Ensemble (Victoria), CONTACT contemporary music (Toronto), New Works Calgary, Groundswell New Music (Winnipeg), and Vancouver Pro Musica. Rachel’s Western Canadian Music Award nominated debut CD, Cosmophony, has been praised as “brilliant” and “unforgettable” (Vancouver Sun) and for “the passion, intensity and the nuanced playing she’s acclaimed for… she manages to instill a sense of dynamic tension and pull to every note” (The Province). Rachel also works as Director of Development for the Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver, recognized as one of the top 5 festivals of its kind worldwide.

Koerner Piano Trio

Dedicated to the integration of educational initiatives into the world of professional music performance, Koerner Piano Trio celebrates its inaugural season in 2016/17 as Ensemble-in-Residence at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Comprising three musicians and educators of international acclaim – Nicholas Wright (violin), Joseph Elworthy (cello), and Amanda Chan (piano) – Koerner Piano Trio carries out its educational mandate through numerous outreach initiatives and performances, sharing the joy of chamber music with aspiring musicians and avid audiences. The trio is named in honor of one of the founders of the Vancouver Academy of Music, Ms. Iby Koerner.

Nicholas Wright, Violin

A native of England, Nicholas’s engagements as soloist,  chamber and orchestral musician have taken him to most of the major concert halls in Europe, Asia and North America. He has performed concertos with many orchestras including the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Royal Oman Symphony and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He made his solo orchestral debut with the York Guildhall Orchestra, playing the Dvorak Romanze, which was recorded for BBC Radio 3. Nicholas is a keen chamber musician and regularly takes part in series such as the Ribble Valley Festival and in venues including LSO St Lukes. He has collaborated with renowned artists such as Martin Roscoe and Simon Wright, performing a wide repertoire ranging from Handel to John Adams. As an orchestral musician Nicholas has worked with many of today’s leading conductors including Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev and Mstislav Rostropovich. He has worked extensively with the major chamber and symphony orchestras in London, including the English Chamber and London Philharmonic Orchestras. He performs regularly as guest concertmaster with orchestras such as the Bournemouth Symphony, BBC Concert and Ulster Orchestras. In 2003 he was made the youngest member of the London Symphony Orchestra where he held the first violin sub-principal position. He took up the post of Assistant Concertmaster with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 2012. Nicholas received his training as a scholar at the Royal College of Music in London, studying initially with Prof. Itzhak Rashkovsky and later with Prof. Rodney Friend. In addition to winning prizes at the Royal College, Nicholas has been generously supported by grants from the Martin Musical Fund, the Craxton Memorial Fund and the Royal Overseas League. This has enabled him to study abroad with many eminent musicians including Ruggiero Ricci and Gil Shaham. Nicholas enjoys teaching and has given many masterclasses in the United Kingdom and USA. He is currently on the faculty of the Vancouver Academy of Music. Nicholas plays on a violin from 1758 by Januarius Gagliano.