PREFACE TO THE SCORE
Lac Scattergood lies in the Outaouais region of southwestern Québec. Named after the British Scattergood family that first settled there in the nineteenth century, it is
situated close to Lac McGregor and the nearby town of Val-des-Monts, less than a one-hour drive across the Ottawa River from the city of Ottawa, Canada’s national
In 2019, together with my partner Allyson Rogers, I visited Carleton University professors David and Ellen Cray at the cottage they had purchased on Lac Scattergood in 1997. The bond between David and Ellen, and their love of this peaceful place, surrounded by the rugged natural beauty of the McGregor Highlands region, shone through during our visit. While “Ellen at Scattergood” is ultimately programmatic in inspiration, it is otherwise largely “absolute music” in the traditional sense. The majority of its basic thematic ideas and their development are therefore purely musical in nature, without extra-musical associations. However the emotional character, texture, tempi, and rhythmic animation of each movement are inspired by Lac Scattergood and my understanding of the many moods and textures of David and Ellen’s life at their cottage. I have always been an unrepentant melodist, and the quartet’s themes came to me quite spontaneously, with the inspiration of Lac Scattergood in
As I have held a lifelong love and fascination with the close relationship between music, movement and dance, it is my hope that the quartet (and/or its arrangement for String Orchestra) may inspire a choreographic setting at some point. Perhaps some of the descriptors listeners have assigned to the quartet’s various moods –
including “joy,” “romance,” “playfulness,” “celebration,” “energy,” “vigour,” “drama,” “transcendence,” “nostalgia,” “serenity,” “peace” and “tranquility” – might be suggestive of choreographic interpretation.
A few motivic features of the quartet may be of interest to performers and listeners. The fugato of the opening movement features a subject and countersubject that were conceived as Ellen and David in conversation. And at the end of the fugato section there is a momentary stylistic tip of the hat to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1826), whose 250th anniversary is being celebrated internationally in 2020. In the Rondo finale, the opening motives of both the Canadian and American national anthems can be heard subtly – admittedly scarcely audibly – intertwining in the Rondo’s second theme. While David and Ellen would pursue their careers and raise their family in Canada, they were both born and educated in the U.S.A.
The premiere performance of the quartet was to have been given during the summer of 2020 by the extraordinary Andara Quartet of Montreal, until the global pandemic of 2020 radically altered the lives of performing musicians around the world. The quartet’s members – Marie-Claire Vaillancourt (violon), Jeanne Côté (violon), Vincent Delorme (alto), and Dominique Beauséjour-Ostiguy (violoncelle) – have been nonetheless the most supportive collaborators a composer could ever hope to encounter. Working with the expert Venezuelan-Canadian recording engineer Veronica Galacia, the Andara Quartet recorded the work in late-July,
2020, in Montreal