Category Archives: Uncategorized

From This Place: Salish Sea Chapter

In this project, presented by some of the members of the ACWC/ACC, who live on Vancouver Island (the Salish Sea Chapter), each composer chose a local place important to them, to be the inspiration for their video. Either writing new pieces or bring in older works, the composers added video footage and photographs to create unique videos, honouring and celebrating these places.

Baby Eaglet by Christie Morrison

Eagles are among the world’s largest birds of prey. We venerate them as living symbols of power, freedom, and transcendence.  This year I was given a rich opportunity to observe the birth of an eagelette in Sidney B.C., when a good friend, who lives on the street where this event took place, invited me to her outside deck.

On a regular basis we socially distanced, observed in full view, the father, mother and the birth, of one eaglette. The year of isolation, due to covid, resulted in an overwhelming sense of despondency for me.  As I watched the eagle activities, it restored my sense of humanity.

These birds possess such admirable qualities as beauty, honour, pride, determination, and grace.


Water Rock Tree Sky by Diane Berry

I wrote this piece as a love song to the coast; to the islands, the inlets, the rocky shores, and the blue waters. Being beside or on the water has always helped me to put the challenges of every day life aside; to feel at peace with the world; to connect with the beauty of the place and the life that calls it home. The piece, for soprano, flute and clarinet, floats on gentle swells, describes sparkling sun on water, hears whispers in evergreen branches, and gazes up at a million stars in dark summer skies.


I Shall Miss the Sea by Leila Lustig

Some of my earliest memories are of the sea in southern California, and I missed it during my years in the South and other parts of the U.S., before immigrating to Canada. When I first visited Victoria 25 years ago, the sea called out to me, “Come home again!” and now here I am. Although I don’t see the sea every day, I would be heart-broken to lose it again forever to human greed and carelessness. Hence this poem, and my music arising from it.



Did You Know?

December: Euphrosyne Keefer

Euphrosyne Keefer was born on June 9, 1919 in Eastbourne, Sussex, England. From 1936-41 she attended the Royal Academy of Music studying composition, voice, piano and viola.  Her promising operatic career at Sadler’s Wells was cut short by the war and she left London.  In 1942 she married a Canadian artillery officer and came to Canada in 1945 as a war bride.  She and her husband raised five children while living in northern Ontario and Quebec.  A move to Toronto enabled her to resume her musical career as a composer, pianist and teacher.  In 1977 she moved to Vancouver, where she continued to compose solo and chamber music, song cycles, choral works and piano music.  Her music has been performed in Canada, the United States and the U.K.  After a brief illness, she died in 2003.

Euphrosyne Keefer is the only one of our Did You Know composers, who was an active ACWC/ACC member.

November: Albertine Caron-Legris

Albertine Caron-Legris (b. Caron, m. Legris) was born in Montreal in 1906, where she studied piano, voice and music composition. Her early studies were at the Conservatoire national de musique, then later in her career, she went to the Université de Montréal, and received her bachelor of music in 1942, at the age of 36. Caron married in 1918, after which she taught music in Montreal and toured throughout Quebec as a recitalist. In the 1920s, she began to gain recognition as a composer of vocal songs and piano works in Quebec. Many of her pieces used folksong harmonizations. Her songs include “Ceux qui s’aiment sont toujours malheureux”, “Soir d’hiver”, with her most well-known composition being the 1947 song, “La Berceuse de Donalda”. During her lifetime, her works were included in the concert repertoires of Canadian musicians Maureen Forester, Raoul Jobin, Marthe Létourneau, Nicholas Massue and Alber Viau. Many of her manuscripts and personal papers are held in the collection at the Library and Archives Canada. In 1972, Caron-Legris died in Montreal at the age of 66.

October: Amice Calverly

Born in London England in 1896, Amice studied art at the Slade School, and piano with James Friskin. In 1912 the family moved to Oakville, Ontario. Amice continued her musical studies at the Toronto Conservatory of Music as a student of Healey Willan.

During the First World War, she worked in a munitions factory and at the Christie Street Hospital while continuing her musical studies, and in 1922 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in England, where she studied with Vaughan Williams. At Oxford she met the archaeologist Leonard Woolley who encouraged her to pursue archaeological drawing, and in 1927 she became involved with the documentation being done by the Egypt Exploration Society of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos.

Although in her lifetime she sojourned at Abydos longer than any other place, she continued her musical interests.  Among her works are many songs, an opera, and at least two string quintets.  She died in Toronto in 1959.

September: Leila Fletcher

Leila Fletcher is a familiar name to piano students and teachers. Born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1899, she studied from a local piano teacher through her elementary and secondary school years. After high school, she continued her music education at Greenville College, in Illinois, the Royal Conservatory of Music, and the University of Toronto.

In the 1930s she was appointed music editor for Gordon V. Thompson music publishers in Toronto, then in 1949, she founded her own music publishing company called Montgomery Music.  It was based in Rochester, New York, to begin with, then moved to Buffalo and finally to Markham, Ontario. It currently still exists as a part of Mayfair music.

In her lifetime, Leila Fletcher published over 250 piano solos through her publishing house.  She is probably best known for her piano method books for young piano students, which are still being published today.

Leila Fletcher never married, and even when her publishing company was based in the United States, she never left her home in Canada, choosing to commute.

August: Laura Lemon

Laura Lemon was born in Guelph, Ontario in 1866, and grew up in Guelph and Winnipeg.  In 1890 she went to study at the Royal Academy of Music, in London, England, where she remained for the rest of her life.  Though she had left Canada, her Canadian roots can be found in her music.  She was best known for her songs, including Canada for Ever!, Dominion  and the Canadian Song Cycle, a set of four songs.  All of these works were published by Boosey between 1907 and 1911. Her most famous work My Ain Folk, a ballad of home is noted as one of the best-known songs by a Canadian composer and was recorded by a number of Canadian singers.

July: Dolores Claman 

Dolores Claman was born in Vancouver in July 1927.  She initially studied to become a concert pianist, first at the University of Southern California, then at Juilliard.  During that time, she developed a love of composition and jazz, and after graduating she moved to London, England.  While there, she met lyricist, Richard Morris, whom she worked closely with, and later married.  They moved to Toronto, where they became successful jingle writers, creating more than 3,000 jingles and earning 40 awards.  In 1968 Dolores was working for the MacLaren Advertising Agency and was asked to write the theme song for Hockey Night in Canada.  She was surprised at how popular it became.  A hockey fan herself, she realized that many involved in the broadcast were included in the credits, such as ‘lighting by’ and ‘best boy’, and asked to be credited for her work, but the CBC refused.  She sold the rights to CTV in 2008 after being unable to reach a deal with the CBC.  Another song of hers, which many older, Ontario members will recognize is A Place to Stand, Ontario’s theme from Expo 1967.

Note: When researching for this section, a few months ago, I had decided to lay out who to talk about each month, and had already decided to feature Dolores Claman in July.  As I was about to start this, her obituary appeared in our local paper.  She died on July 17th, in Spain.

June: Lozanne

Lozanne (1896-1935) was born Alma Victoria Clarke, in Kamloops, British Columbia.  Her mother was a music teacher, and her step-father was the owner of the “Kamloops Standard”. The family moved to Toronto, when Alma was six, then to Victoria a year later.  She was a child prodigy, an accomplished violinist and pianist, who performed with the Toronto Symphony to rave reviews. Shortly before WWI she married her first husband, Caledon Dolling, who died at the Somme, after which, Alma joined the French Red Cross and became an ambulance driver.  After divorcing her second husband, she devoted herself to her music: teaching and performing.  At a performance in Victoria, she met Francis Rattenbury, the architect who designed British Columbia’s legislature buildings.  Shunned by Victorian society after Rattenbury left his wife for Alma, they moved to Bournemouth, England in 1928.  It was there that she began composing and recording songs under the name of Lozanne. A recording of Frank Titterton singing Black Haired Marie, with Alma accompanying him, can be found on Youtube, and arrangements have been made of four love songs, for violin and piano (they are listed in Trinity College London’s String Syllabus).  It’s difficult to find information on Alma as a musician and composer, because in 1935 she committed suicide after being charged, but found not guilty, of the murder of her husband. The story and scandal surrounding his death, and Rattenbury’s own accomplishments as an architect, have completely overshadowed Alma Clarke Rattenbury’s musical contributions.

May: Anne Glen Broder 

Eliza Ann Glen was born in Agra, India, the daughter of a missionary. She was educated in England as singer and pianist, and in the 1880s and 90s gave singing recitals, performed as an accompanist and wrote a book on how to accompany.

About 1900 she married Richard W. C. Broder, an Irish widower, who had emigrated to Canada with his former wife. Annie joined him in Regina, then they later moved to Calgary, where she soon became an important figure in the musical community there.  She was an organist, taught piano and voice, gave recitals and was a music critic for the paper.  During that time, she was also a composer of many songs, with her most popular composition being “The Ride of the North-West Mounted Police”.  Originally it was attributed to A. Glen Broder, which may have been to prevent discrimination due to her gender.  It was arranged for band by John Waldron and was used for many years by RCMP bands.  The titles of many of her other works, such as “Song of the Chinook”, “Northern Harvest” and “Calgary, city of the foothills” demonstrate an embracing of her adopted land.

April: Elinor Dunsmuir 

Elinor Dunsmuir (1887-1938) was the granddaughter of British Columbian coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir and has been described as a ‘square peg in a round hole’. She was intelligent and talented but being female and likely gay meant that she wasn’t able to make use of those talents, or be recognized for them, so was left on the fringes of the social circles her family were a part of.  To escape some of the constraints of life in Victoria, she moved to Europe, which she loved, and where she was able to continue her musical studies.  Unfortunately, she developed a gambling addiction and squandered large sums of money, causing her family to bring her home to Canada in the thirties.  Her work was found recently in the archives of Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, a family home, and they include music for plays, trios, chamber music, a piano concerto, and two fully scored out ballets with story lines and parts for all the orchestra.  These works show that she was a gifted composer, her music a unique blend of classical and jazz, unappreciated at the time, and lost to us for close to 100 years.

In 2018, soprano Elizabeth Gerow and pianist Jannie Burdeti presented some of Elinor’s songs as part of the ACWC/AFCC’s Suffragette Concert, and recorded them later that year.  You can find out more about Elinor and the recordings on the Craigdarroch Castle site.

March: Urseline Nuns

Some of the earliest known music written by women in Canada, comes from the Ursuline and Augustinian nuns of Quebec, between the years 1639 and 1760.  Singing was an integral part of their worship, as well as their instruction of young women, and the music, while anonymous, is believed to have been written by the nuns themselves.  One, a mother superior, Marie-André Regnard Duplessis de Saint-Hélène, wrote a treatise on music performance and theory.  Marie-Andre was born in Paris in 1687 and died in Quebec in 1760.  Her parents emigrated to New France when she was young, though she remained in France until she was 15.  She joined the Nuns Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec when she was 20 and rose to become mother superior, seeing the convent through many difficulties such as fires, and even the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

February: Hattie Rhue Hatchett

Do you know about Mrs. Hattie Rhue Hatchett (1863-1958) of North, Buxton, Ontario? Her parents were escaped slaves from the Miles plantation in Virginia.
As a child, Hattie attended piano lessons at the Elgin Settlement School. She became a school teacher and a talented pianist and composer, being one of the first in Kent County to receive a certificate in music. However, she would not be hired by the schools, and instead used her talents as an organist, choir leader, Sunday School teacher and president of the Missionary Society in North Buxton.

Hattie wrote religious song and hymns. In 1937, she copyrighted a composition she had written in 1915 entitled “That Sacred Spot”, a hymn with a ‘marching type beat’ that was chosen by the Canadian Military to be their marching song during World War 1.  The song was sung by school children for a number of years on Remembrance Day.

(Thank you to Elma Miller for telling my about Hattie and the virtual museum for their biographical information.)

Building Up Virtual Concert!

“Building Up” virtual concert in partnership with the CMC

As part of our 40th anniversary events, the ACWC/ACC in partnership with the Canadian Music Centre Ontario division presents “Building Up”—a virtual concert celebrating women and gender non-conforming composers and performers supporting each other through their creative practices.

The program features composers based across the country, including works by our members Catherine Bevan, Rebekah Cummings, Sophie Dupuis, Heather Hindman, and Cleo Palacio-Quintin, as well as composers Monique Jean,  Naomi McCarroll-Butler, Roxanne Nesbitt.

Performed by a quartet of Amanda Lowry (flute), Naomi McCarroll-Butler (bass clarinet/alto saxophone), Yang Chen (percussion), and Cecilia Lee + Stephanie Orlando (piano).

October 7, 2021 at 7pm



Digital Program for the event can be found here!

YouTube Streaming Link here!

Soundscapes and More Panel

Soundscapes and More Panel: Saturday, May 15

Join ACWC/ACC member Emily Hiemstra on Saturday, May 15 at 7pm Eastern time, as she talks to soundscape/electronic composers, Hildegard Westerkamp, Tina Pearson and Carol Ann Weaver.  Emily will discuss their personal stories, what drew them to the field of electronic music, their challenges, their creative process and how they view the future of electronic music.  All three are respected composers in this innovative and ever-changing field of music.  Hildegard Westerkamp is well known for her works that bring in the acoustic environment, while Tina Pearson is an innovative composer whose work often focuses on breath, attention states and altered performance practice. Carol Ann Weaver is a board member with CASE (Canadian Association for Sound Ecology) and has written numerous works using environmental sounds and field recordings This panel is a part of the ACWC/ACC’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

REGISTER for the panel on Eventbrite here!

Stories from ACWC Members- Interview with Brenda Muller by Pat Morehead

This article explores the history of the Ardeleana Chamber Trio under the
guidance of Brenda Muller. This article answers the questions submitted by
Patricia Morehead.

From her roots as a classically trained cellist, Brenda Margaret Muller has
gone on to create conceptual art events that weave together poetry, music
and song. Working as a Musician, Poet, and Composer, as well as Artistic
Director for the past 33 years, Brenda has created inter-arts events across
the province, founded and directed the Ardeleana Chamber Music Society,
and released 6 recordings with her trio, Ardeleana, including a CD of her
original cabaret songs, Wolf At My Door, and the first CD to feature only
music by Canadian women – Spinners of Starlight (1997).

Pat Morehead questions; answers, Brenda Margaret Muller, March 29, 2021

Why did you choose the cello as your primary musical instrument?

My Grandfather was one of the first Champion Fiddlers of Grey County – although
he considered himself a violinist, as in those days the term “fiddle” was
derogatory, and in truth he was the concert master of the very first Orchestra in the
Saskatoon area. He had arrived there, incidentally, by covered wagon during the
thirties when the prairies were nothing but dust and wind. My earliest memories
are sitting beside him in my deceased Grandmother’s rocking chair at his last farm
in Dundalk, Ontario, rocking and tapping my toes as his large, arthritic hands
somehow caught the spirit of the tunes. I was not allowed to dance in the house as
my grandparents were staunch Methodists, and my Grandmother’s spirit was
always present it seemed, but I would rock so hard that he would say “must be time
to milk the cows”, and with this anytime-of-day signal we would head up to the
barn and play and dance for his 100 head of cattle. It did seem to help the cows let
down their milk, and yes, I believe I can still milk a cow by hand.
In Ontario at the end of grade 6, prior to attending Junior High, we were all given
an ear test, and those with the “best” ears were put into strings. My father, who
loved cello, mercilessly played me Jaqueline du Pres in a performance of the Elgar
Cello concerto, until the opening theme was an ear worm for me! When fall rolled
around, I walked into class with a plan to be assigned cello. Fortunately, I was too
tall to play violin but not tall enough for bass – so I didn’t have to use my plan.
Cello it was – I was so excited I could think of nothing else for weeks. Of course I
immediately learned thumb position so I could play fiddle tunes – or tried to
anyway. I carried the cello on the long walk home from school EVERY night, in
love with all its possibilities – happily reducing my already meagre practice time at
the piano!

Give a short history of the Ardeleana Trio. For how many years did the trio
perform and an approximate number of public concerts and where?

The Ardeleana Trio was formed in 1985 – and became incorporated as the
Ardeleana Chamber Music Society in 1987. Laurie Glencross, a consummate
flutist, and I, a recovering writer and cellist (recovering from the un-creative
confines of university performance training and formal essay writing), believed
that chamber music was the best way to advance our cause as musicians. In our mid
–twenties at the time, we made a pact with each other to promote new music and
become the best musicians we could by practicing together daily for three hours.

Our process was extremely important to us – an hour a day of unisons and rhythm
drill, then a stint of playing “easy music” but making sure it was perfectly in tune
as a warm-up, and then slow-motion tuning and complex rhythm practice, coupled
with learning to hear the subtleties of chord tuning together so that melodies grew
organically from within harmonies or counterpoint and so sound colour was an
integral part of each piece. We practiced for hours in “neutral” or with what Janos
Starker called “negative sound” until we could feel the sounds moving inside us in
a way that informed our overall interpretation of the piece. It was a
phenomenological approach, very much under the influence of Method Acting, but
for a nervous performer, which I was at that time, it worked.

Most importantly, Laurie taught me to laugh at my mistakes instead of irately
beating myself up every time we fell out of tune or struggled with impossible
rhythms by fiendish young composers. Although we no longer play together (after
17 years of intensive rehearsing and performing) I will always be grateful to her
for the gift of laughter. Together we developed a way of working that incorporated
a great ability to move forward and not get stuck on who was right and wrong in
rehearsal. Thank you Laurie – that philosophy is still around in the Ardeleana
Chamber Music Society to this day. It is indeed our saving grace.

Somewhere along the way I realised I was a frustrated composer and poet more
than a performer, and so began to try to find ways to combine poetry, new music,
dance and art to create conceptual art events or “happenings,” as the 60’s would
have dubbed them. The process was indeed more important to me than the product.
I loved the relationships we had with our network of composers, artists, musicians
and dancers, and never got tired of experimenting and developing new possibilities
with them.

Exploring the interfaces between music, art, poetry and dance is still endlessly
fascinating to me – I am currently working on a “Creative Community Happens
Here” project we initiated with a group of sixth graders in Humphrey, Ontario –
and we are moving between cave paintings and whale songs to discover archetypes
to sustain us in the pandemic – all from material I have been working on since the
inception of Ardeleana in 1987.

Laurie and I teamed up with different pianists over the years – often for 5 or 6
years at a time, and polished the repertoire for our instrumentation to the fullest
extent possible. We commissioned and premiered 120 – 150 works of music by
young Canadian composers over the course of the next 17 years. The Ardeleana
Trio averaged close to 30 concerts a year – most of them with small audiences, but
because of their various interdisciplinary initiatives and premiers, the programs
were a vital part of the new music scene at that time. Many young women
composers wrote for us, knowing we would workshop or perform their music when
no one else would take them seriously.

We improvised with poets and painters regularly – and that became an important
part of our interdisciplinary language. The results of our inter-arts work was
showcased in our “A New Kind of Concert” series – held 4 times a year in Toronto
on Fridays and Saturdays, and then in Sharon, Ontario on Sunday afternoons. Each
performance featured at least one work of new music and one artist of a different
discipline, to varying degrees of success.

Ardeleana also produced 6 recordings and CD’s, including Spinners of Starlight,
the first CD to feature only music by Canadian Women. Bonnie Shewan Burroughs
(Jeffries at the time) joined us in the early 1990’s and became our landmark pianist. She brought discipline, skill and incredible musicality to our trio. Other CD’s included Carol Ann Weaver: Daughter of Olapa, which I co-produced with Carol Ann with Ann Lindsey, now an award winning folk, jazz and rock violinist, and Wolf at My Door – my own CD of original “Cabaret” songs. It was quite a network – Terril MaGuire from Toronto Dance Theater, Alexandra Caverly-Lowery, then a professor at York University in Dance, M. Travis Lane, still one of Canada’s leading poets from Fredericton (no zoom – she flew into see us occasionally) actor/chanteuse and painter extraordinaire, Randi Helmers, and strong women composers like Ann Southam, Mary Gardiner, Carol Ann Weaver, Jana Skareky, Jean Anderson Weunsch, Kye Marshall, Nancy Telfer, amongst others, were writing and working with us. Conversations and rehearsals were
stimulating and lively and flowed with big ideas. Mary and Ann were my main
thinking buddies, with Mary often letting us rehearse at her house on her
Bösendorfer piano.

As time progressed, and I became increasingly experimental, we rehearsed more
and more at a little hall in the Theater District of Toronto known as Artword
Theater, and became their “musicians in residence.” Working in the world of
actors, I began to through-write works with poetry and music and create
interdisciplinary theater events. Gradually the two founders, Laurie and I, grew
apart, with Laurie wanting to focus on just playing, and me wanting out of the
performance/product-driven mentality. After 17 years Laurie went back to get her
doctorate in the United States where she became a flute professor, and I went broke
on a long and winding production called the Artemis Café! I went back to teacher’s
college at 45 and worked my way out of debt, teaching high school part-time for
14 years and finally retiring in 2014. Somehow I have ended up running an
orchestra and community arts hub in Parry Sound, and find myself busier than ever
as I try to integrate new music into the local arts scene here.

I know you performed in Alaska. How did this happen and an anecdote about the
trio’s participation would be interesting? (The event in Alaska organized by
Suzanne Summerville brought together three American Women composer formed
organizations in the USA (International League of Women Composers, Women in
Music and American Women Composers) that met in Fairbanks, Alaska, and went
on to become the International Alliance of Women in music.)

Our trip to Alaska was the trip that really made us take our role as promoters of
Music by Canadian Women seriously. We realised we had to when we could not
find ANY grant money to support us from either the Ontario Arts Council or the
Canada Council. Nobody considered an International Festival of Music by Women
in any way artistically significant.

Women’s music was seen as inconsequential by many at the time. An influential
reviewer in the Star all but made fun of us for being women, and made patronizing
comments about the feminine nature of the group. Funders looked at us askance
for being middle-aged women, and ‘mouthy’ women at that.
We had been rejected by the Toronto Arts Council for another project the year
before, and had come to expect failure in grant applications. We appealed the TAC
decision regardless. The appeal committee was chaired by composer Harry

“Why did this group not get money?  Isn’t this exactly what we are supposed
to be funding?” he asked.  A committee member, who happened to be the principle French Horn of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, replied that he had “wondered why we didn’t have any men in the group.”  I quipped that “It was odd, but all the men just seemed to leave”, which for some reason they all found hilarious, and they granted us our first grant of $1000.  It was an enormous amount at the time! They were the only funders behind us for years – and the trip to Alaska a few seasons later was way beyond the scope of their grants.

Finally, after exhausting all the possibilities, we turned to Ann Southam and Mary
Gardiner and pleaded for assistance. They had set up a fund to help women
musicians a year before that (it may have been intended for the AWC – not sure)
which contributed $2000, enough to pay our air fare to Alaska. The Governor of
Alaska at that time provided us with accommodation and food at the request of the
organisers of the festival.

Within 20 minutes of our arrival in Alaska we were to be on stage in front of an
audience of over 1000 people, performing Spirit Essence by Mary Gardiner and
Jean Anderson’s Trio– both commissioned by us and recorded on our CD. There
was a mad scramble to find our suitcases and concert attire as we got off the plane.
I didn’t own a pair of decent shoes at the time, and didn’t have access to my old
sandals easily, and so without much thought about it, I went onstage barefoot –
simply not done in those days. I still remember hearing the Italian Console
sneering at my lack of shoes after the concert! Most countries had sent dignitaries
to the event – but not Canada. The moment is still clear in mind – it only amplified
for me the total lack of support from either our provincial or federal government,
adding to the subtle embarrassment of having to ask the Governor of Alaska for
financial support we were unable to muster at home. It was very odd to be at such a
prestigious event with no financial support from your own country. Most of the
women composers came however – taking the coastal cruise to Alaska. Seeing
them there was indeed incredibly wonderful.

During the festival I was kept beyond busy. I learned and performed a piece on a
daily basis. We did one noon hour recital of our own music, in which we played
Southam, Telfer, Anderson, Skarecky and repeated Mary Gardiner’s piece. On the
way to the concert I ran into Gerhard Weunsch, who smiled his rapacious smile,
and said “Don’t wear your shoes!” “I’m not going to!” I said, and we shared a laugh. I didn’t, and didn’t for the rest of almost my entire career with the trio. I still don’t if I can avoid it!

Why did the group decide to make its first recording?

Ardeleana needed something to get our name out in the Toronto Music Scene – we
needed to establish that we were more than just a flaky group of women wandering
around doing poetry, music and dance in concerts. We sold the old 6’ grand piano
in our warehouse studio in Newmarket to raise funds, and also pre-sold a few
copies of the CD – maybe 5 or 6 copies.

The pieces on Spinners of Starlight were part of an interdisciplinary show we
developed for our concert series in Toronto: High Aprons – the Journey Songs of
Canadian Women Pregnant with Music. This carefully interwoven conceptual art
piece included selections from a long poem entitled “The Witch of the Inner Wood”
by a wonderfully witty woman poet from New Brunswick, M. Travis Lane, as well as poetry by several Canadian poets, including myself. I had developed an improvisationall -composed setting for Travis’ work, in collaboration with Laurie Glencross, our flutist, and the woman actor working with the group, Randi Helmers. The set, or installation, for the performance was a collection of dead and diseased Sumac trees from a deserted property near my small house in Sutton, Ontario. A simple lighting design of three footlights cast fantastic shadows when placed beneath the sumacs’ gnarled trunks and branches. We were able to rent 3 footlights from Christie Lights for $18 per performance, and they provided the most perfect touring lighting imaginable.

I would get to our venue, usually a church, about two hours in advance of a
performance, with the sumacs piled carefully in a borrowed truck. After unloading
them, I would screw the sumacs into the heavy stands I had prepared for them. I
would set them up on pews or chairs, so that their fungus-covered, twisted
branches would wind up the pipe organs, window frames, pillars and pulpits like
dancing stag-horns at a pagan ritual.

It was before the official release of the CD that we went to Alaska. We set up a
mini-tour for ourselves on the way, and performed the entire
poetry/music/installation show at three or four venues. The shows were generally
well received, but just the title of the poem with the word “witch” in it was nearly
enough to get us evicted at intermission when we did a performance at a Mormon
Church in Vancouver! Witches and sumacs were not welcome.

A few years later in Ottawa, we were relocated from the National Arts Center
concert due to renovations at the Centre, to prestigious St. Andrews Anglican
Cathedral, opposite the parliament buildings. At the doorway to the Cathedral a
minister stood glaring at the trees. He greeted us with determined, folded arms,
saying “You can’t bring those trees in here! This is where the Queen comes when
she visits!”. I argued that the trees were no dirtier or more pagan than a Christmas
tree, and got nowhere. I finally flung my hands over my head and cried out
dramatically “THESE are not trees! These are the bones of the earth! These are
Ezekiel’s bones risen again from the dead! Let them in!” And, to my surprise he

That performance was sponsored by Violet Archer, and she loved the trees.
Needless to say, the poor farm boy who drove our trees to Ottawa on his Dad’s flat
bed truck nearly got a ticket for holding up traffic in front of parliament buildings,
where he anxiously circled and repeatedly stalled, flashed his lights hopefully, and
awaited delivery instructions.

Initially, there were all sorts of discussions as to what to call the CD. To begin
with, CD’s were a new technology at the time. This made everyone slightly
worried – it was all a lot of change. People in our team were squeamish about the
original title as some thought of pregnancy as “dirty.” The final discussion, with all
composers except Nancy Telfer present, was held around the big wooden table at
Mary Gardiner’s home. Exasperated after what seemed liked endless nit-picking
over names, I looked at Ann and said “We should call it Sex Sells” and Ann added
“and Crime Pays!” We had a fit of giggles, and then I suggested they leave it with
me over night, as officially I was the director. I finally decided to take the title
from a poem I wrote for an old woman who lived near me, and with whom I had
enjoyed many an early morning walk through spider-web, dew-laden grasses. We
had used it in the High Aprons event just before playing Nancy Telfer’s piece –
and Mary and Ann agreed on the name. Jana approved whole heartedly, as she was
a poetry fan, as did Jean, and I didn’t dare consult anyone else.
It was only after we released the CD that I got a phone call from David Parsons,
who at that time was working for the Canadian Music Center in Toronto. “Do you
realise this is the first recording to feature only music by Canadian Women?” he
said. I had no idea.

The release of the CD was at the Heliconian Club in Toronto. I did not expect
anyone to be there, but I wanted to thank the composers somehow for their faith in
us and their incredible music. I had no money for bouquets for all the women
involved, and so I bought a dozen roses from one of the street people selling
flowers at the corner of Rosedale Valley Road and Bayview on my way to the
club. I had one rose for each composer, and each person involved – with one extra
for Mary Gardiner – who had done so much to make it all possible.
We set up at the club, still somewhat discouraged by the total lack of reviews and
support for the CD, slow sales and the lengthy time between the tour and
the launch. There was a silence amongst us as we waited, and then one by one,
what seemed like every prestigious woman musician in Toronto, every woman
who had helped move us forward, walked up the centre aisle on the old blue-tiled
linoleum floor, and sat down. The club was packed but still oddly hushed. It was a
small hall, seating only about 120, so some had to listen in the vestibule and a few
more were in the courtyard and on the street. I vividly remember how surprised we
were at the palpable respect – we were just not used to it. We were fighters –
always struggling desperately to be heard as women and artists. This listening, this
quiet, was entirely new for us. It was born of a generous solidarity – a respectful,
caring solidarity I had never felt before in my life.

I still remember my eyes filling with tears when Pearl Palmerston, the first woman
violinist to be co-concert master of the Toronto Symphony, walked in. Mary
introduced the trio somewhat tersely – I think herself emotional, and when we
started to play the room was still completely hushed. We played Mary’s piece, and
Ann’s, and a few selections from everyone else’s. When we finished playing
everyone stood up, and greeted us not so much with thunderous applause, as with
thunderous respect. We had finally done it – with the release of the CD, women’s
musical voices were being heard in a way that represented genuinely the ethos of
the women’s movement at that time. It was a moment when the world shifted a
little – and made a little more space for women, for our way of working as artists,
and for who we all were together.

Tell us of any major roadblocks along the way that might be interesting to know.

A complete lack of funding due to the fact we were unconventional, early thirty’s
women ( and not wearing a ton of make-up) and playing new music was the
biggest obstacle. The times were just shifting from hierarchical power dominated
structures to the possibilities of collaborative, innovative business models based on
more traditionally feminine values. It was decidedly NOT politically correct at
that time to do what we were doing – everyone was intent on making music fit a
business model based on a hierarchical male norm. Although I was director in
name, we operated largely by consensus, and worked through artistic ideas in a
very collaborative way. That meant nothing was cut and dried – and this was
definitely not acceptable to the arts councils. That being said, David Parsons and
the CMC and the ACWC were great friends to us – Carol Ann found us concerts at
Conrad Grebel College, Jana was unflagging in her support and composing of
pieces for us (and in insisting after she heard some of my songs that I join the
ACWC), and Laurie and I created events and played concerts all over Ontario.
Mary and Ann were indispensable – our last performance as a trio was at Mary’s
funeral, with Ann present. Ann Edwards was the pianist at that time.

The CD was recorded in three days – as I stated earlier, we had to sell our studio
grand piano to raise funds. We played for our Thanksgiving dinner that weekend
by playing at a hotel restaurant north of Toronto where an adventurous young chef
agreed to turkey dinner as payment – after being in the studio for 8 hours. We used
to think that if anyone else had to record under the circumstance we did they just
wouldn’t do it – but we loved it in the end. Living close to the edge has its merits –
there is a freedom and synchronicity in all that happened, and it kept us alive

How to acquire the recording would be interesting for the membership of ACWC.
I believe the CMC has a few recordings left. I have 5 and some copies of the first
printing that didn’t have the songs separated properly. The CD had to be re-printed
by Sony. It is really time to re-release the CD – and give it a second life – even if
we do a small run. 2023 will mark 30 years since the release.

Brenda Muller

Stories from ACWC Members — Interview of Sylvia Rickard by Patricia Morehead

To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we are sharing stories from some of our members throughout the year! In the following interview of Sylvia Rickard, conducted by Patricia Morehead, Sylvia reflects on her life as a composer and her relationship with her composition teacher, Jean Coulthard.

Patricia: “I gave Sylvia several questions to think about. Her responses were so delightful and heart-warming to read. For me the music that composers create is about a life led. I also had the pleasure of meeting Sylvia’s teacher, Jean Coulthard, in Vancouver many years ago at her home and have always wanted to know what it was like to study composition with her.”

Sylvia: “I was born in Toronto, May 19, 1937, and stayed there until 1948, when my adoptive mother and I came to Vancouver. My adoptive parents separated and this was very traumatic for me, because I saw my adoptive father, whom I adored, very infrequently.

I always loved sports; skiing, skating, bike riding, tennis; and later ping pong, which I still play except for now because of Covid.

I began piano lessons at six years, got my Grade X Toronto Royal Conservatory, but not a great mark. At UBC I majored in Russian, French and minored in German; took a “catch-all” rudiments and theory course from Jean Coulthard. I continued the next year, and started to write music phrases.

I have been so fortunate to live in many different places: in France for a year, then California, then Punjab and Delhi, India for 14 months, and Todtmoos, Black Forest, West Germany, at the Graf von Dürckheim Jungian Institute, for 9 months. I came home to Vancouver, met an old UBC colleague who told me that Jean Coulthard had retired from UBC as Professor Emerita and was “now” teaching private lessons at her home. I decided to take composition lessons from her and never looked back.

Jean Coulthard had her own teaching rituals. The first was tea and cookies or some baked goods for about 10 minutes of general chat, to put both of us at ease, I believe. Then she would look at what we had written that week; she advised us to create works that had their own logic and structure. I’d say she championed the sonata form, especially for beginners. She was not much interested in free-form composition, or organically grown composition. She did not really like it when we added elements of jazz or any other discipline of music into our own works. But as time rolled on, she herself explored poetry to set of India’s Tagore, Persian and Japanese Haiku poetry and other cultures. She was very anxious that students of other cultures would pay heed to their own cultural roots in their music. One of the first students to benefit from this was Chan Ka Nin, who then went by the name of Francis Chan.

Jean told all her students to enter the newly formed Okanagan Composers’ Festival. I did, and shared First prize with Joan Hansen. Then we all went to Shawnigan Lake Summer School, where we had composition with Jean Coulthard and had access to great performers who played and sang our fledgling works! Then Banff Centre was on offer. Jean managed to convince the Board of Directors, with help from Tom Rolston, that composition should be included in the summer programme. Eight of us were the pilot group of composer-students in 1978, I think. That’s when we were all exposed to other composer teachers as well as Coulthard — Oscar Morawetz, Violet Archer, Gilles Tremblay, and others.

I continued to work with Jean for four years at her home in Vancouver; I rode my bike to her house, since I lived pretty close to her and husband Don Adams. Jean’s students were all very lucky; some of us got airtime on CBC, thanks to Jean’s knowing producer Don Mowatt. We had a jump-start to our careers. It was unbelievable. If anyone had told me when I was a teenager that I would become a composer, I would have laughed in their faces! Jean never doubted us, and we never looked back or gave up.

My first piece was a three-movement one in sonata form, which she labelled “Ballet Sonatina”. The second movement was in ABACA form. The C variant she made me go back three different times to make this one fit into what I had already written. I was vexed but then very pleased when she approved the third try! She complimented me on taking criticism so well, saying that some students did not. After all, she was trying to help us make better music than what we had started with! She got me fascinated with poetry of First Nations, in translation from the native languages into English. Not many composers who were non-native were much interested in First Nations literature or music at that time.

And Jean was quietly hilarious! Even in dark, broody tales she could see a funny side and make a funny comment. She laughed away remarks made by mean persons, which annoyed them intensely because she did not feel crushed but amused by their nastiness! She was shy but very centred emotionally, and very determined!

One of the best performances for me was in 2017, in Stratford, Ontario, when operatic tenor Roger Honeywell, cellist Ben Bolt-Martin and pianist Emily Hamper performed my Love, Death and Rebirth songs, settings of three Rilke poems, on the Inner Chamber Series at the Anglican Church. (These are all on my website:

Because of my love of foreign languages, I have written choral pieces in Russian and Latin and art songs in German, French and Brazilian Portuguese. I am now writing a love song in Spanish, poem by my Colombian friend José Quintero. I am fortunate to have good performers. I feel so lucky to have had many good performances of my compositions.

My hope for future composers is that they will not be deterred by nasty criticism and that they will keep their minds open to new sources of inspiration as they grow and mature.

My favourite moment in my life was the birth of my daughter Janine Rickard, in Rohtak, India, Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1964. Another great event was my 80th birthday celebratory concert at the Murray Adaskin Salon, CMC Vancouver, thanks to director Sean Bickerton and many fine performers.

All-time favourite music is by Gustav Mahler; other favourites are Rodrigo, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Ravi Shankar, Jean Coulthard, Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, Shostakovich, Puccini, Verdi, Villa Lobos, Ginastera, Piazzolla, and Stravinsky and Richard Strauss.

I would like to promote more women’s large ensemble works, such as choral and symphonic works and operas in the general domain, and works by all races of people.

I think there will be an upcoming concert in Vermillion, South Dakota, this March 2021 or 2022, on the Great Plains New Music Festival, since last year’s September concert was delayed due to Covid 19. My piece will be Good-Bye, My Fancy, a poem by Walt Whitman, to be performed by Andrew R. White, baritone, and Graeme Wilkinson, piano.

More memories of Jean Coulthard which I will savour to the end of my days are these: when, at age 39, I discovered my birth mother, Helen Rickard Buxton, Jean and Don were wintering in their Honolulu house. When I wrote to Jean of this great discovery, she immediately sent me a telegram of congratulations! She was always supportive of our lives, not just our music.

And how can I forget her quips such as when, in England as a student, Jean said to an adult” Chalmondelly” in reading a road sign. He sternly retorted, “Chumley!”. “Oh” said Jean, inventing on-the-spot “That’s Like our Niffels”. Eyebrows raised in disbelief, he “ Niffels?” She calmly said and slightly haughtily, “O yes, Niagara Falls”.

Finally, one boo-boo has stayed with all of us Coulthard students. It was the last day of our summer school at Shawingan lake School Johannesen International Festival of Music), about 1977: We were all sitting crosslegged on the floor, around a huge punch bowl, feasting on delicacies and trading stories. By way of a “toast”, Jean bade us all “Clink Thearly, my dears”. She meant “Think Clearly, my dears!” We never let her forget that!”

Sylvia Rickard

Jean Coulthard