Canadian composer John Beckwith recounts his early days in Victoria, his studies in Toronto with Alberto Guerrero, his first compositions, and his later studies in Paris with the renowned Nadia Boulanger, of whom he offers a comprehensive personal view. In the memoir's central chapters Beckwith describes his activities as a writer, university teacher, scholar, and administrator. Then, turning to his creative output, he considers his compositions for instrumental music, his four operas, choral music, and music for voice. A final chapter touches on his personal and family life and his travel adventures. For over sixty years John Beckwith has participated in national musical initiatives in music education, promotion, and publishing. He has worked closely with performing groups such as the Orford Quartet and the Canadian Brass and conductors such as Elmer Iseler and Georg Tintner. A former reviewer for the Toronto Star and a CBC script writer and programmer in the 1950s and '60s, he later produced many articles and books on musical topics. Acting under Robert Gill and Dora Mavor Moore in student days and married for twenty years to actor/director Pamela Terry, he witnessed first-hand the growth of Toronto theatre. He has collaborated with the writers Jay Macpherson, Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee, and bpNichol, and teamed repeatedly with James Reaney, a close friend. His life story is a slice of Canadian cultural history.
In his sixty-year career, John Beckwith has drawn attention with performances, broadcasts, and recordings of his more than 150 compositions and with his critical and research writings on personalities and issues of Canadian music past and present. Associated from 1952 to 1990 with the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, he was a witness of, and often a participant in, athe excitement of new creative directions in theatre, painting, and musica (as he once put it) of late-twentieth-century Canada. John Beckwith is a member of the Order of Canada and holds honorary doctorates from five universities.