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« To celebrate John Beckwith’s 94th birthday last year, Confluence Concerts gave a series of three online recitals featuring over 60 of the composer’s songs, written between 1947 and 2014. Curated by the composer’s son, Larry Beckwith, the recitals featured dozens of musicians, from the young schoolchildren of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company to seasoned professionals. Attracting viewers from around the world on YouTube, the recitals offered a fine retrospective of Mr. Beckwith’s 70-year career and a superb introduction to his wide-ranging compositional idioms. It was a moving tribute from son to father, and from the performers to the composer.

One of the singers was the baritone Bradley Christensen, who is currently completing a doctoral degree at the University of Toronto with a thesis on Mr. Beckwith’s songs. “John and I met numerous times, and I cherish the memory of those interviews. I asked him, ‘In your opinion, what constitutes a good singing melody?’ His response echoed what Puccini said: ‘one note.’ To provide examples, he sang the one-note openings of four of Puccini’s most memorable arias.”

An immensely productive scholar-composer, Mr. Beckwith had a comprehensive knowledge not just of Puccini, but of the entire heritage of Western art music, and much else besides. He was especially well versed in the international contemporary music scene but made it his life’s work to explore the particular qualities of music in Canada, past and present, as both a scholar and a composer. He remained deeply engaged in both creative and academic activities up to the end of his life. New compositions appeared regularly up until 2018, and his 17th book, Music Annals, was published just three months ago… »