Thursday, April 3, 2014


Dear Music Lover,
The quilt is finished, and now hanging in the office of the Elora Festival. We had a wonderful turnout last Friday for the launch and people were just buzzing around the quilt! In fact, we picked up four more sponsorships that evening.

Kathy has done a sterling job of sewing on all the labels on the back, and the quilting has turned out beautifully. So - there's still a chance to become part of this project! Call (519) 846 0331 if you'd like to sponsor a square. Just $50, you'll get a tax receipt, and your name will be on the back in perpetuity!

Thanks to Bill Longshaw for this photo of me with the whole quilt, and to Quentin Johnson for the photo of Kathy and me!

Thanks for all the help, Kathy!

Take care all, and enjoy your music,

Monday, January 6, 2014


Dear Music Lover,
It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of Thelma May last week. Thelma sponsored a square in the quilt in memory of our dear friend Robert Evans, and the one Kathy and I made for her was posted on May 30, last year. Her chosen song was Fare Thee Well, Love, by the Rankin family. Farewell, friend, RIP. If I had only known how appropriate this would be, so soon.

Here's a look at her square again.
Live every day as if it may be your last, friends, and listen to your favourite music.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Hello, Music Lover,
Well, it's all put together, and I'm thrilled. This is what it looks like! I don't have a wall quite big enough to really show it off and photograph it, but I'll do that after it is quilted. After Christmas it is going to be quilted by Joan Hug-Valeriote, another artist contributor.

You know, sometimes when you are putting something together a part pops up and says "I'm not quite finished." So, with the permission of Kathy, I added some paint to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", just to emphasize that Dorothy really is singing a lullaby to herself. Here's the revised square:

Well, that's it for the moment. More news in the new year. In the meantime, all the very best of the Season, and happy listening!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Hello, Music Lover!
I am sad to announce that we now have a sufficient number of squares to make a quilt, so we have come to the end of our project.

Our last square, Psalm 47, wonderfully celebrates the great victory of a great King. “O clap your hands, all you people” (whatever your language) and “sing your praises in a loud voice.” Lisa Staten has created this design, which suggests both a Star of David, and also a crown. All that is royal and divine (the gold thread) rises up into a heavenly space signifying the prophesy of the ascension of the Messiah to His throne, and celebrating His reign over the whole earth. The mountains representing the earth have morphed into a harp shape, signifying that this is a psalm to be sung, the strings vibrating with the voices as the sound rises into the heavens.

Lisa chose this psalm sung to a William Crotch chant, by the Choir of St. John’s, Elora. Appropriately for our last square, this choir usually forms the core group of the Elora Festival Singers, and the music was recorded in St. John’s Church, a frequent concert venue.

We now have 81 finished squares that fit well together into a 6’ x 6’ square, and we have begun assembly of the final quilt. There are five extra squares that will be put together into a second piece, to use as a separate fund-raiser. As soon as the quilts are finished, we will post them to this blog.

In the meantime, thank you all for your support of this project. Today I got one of those e-mails full of truisms and the first one said: “Music is what feelings sound like.” Well, we’ve just completed 86 examples of what it looks like as well as "sounds like"! Have a very happy Christmas season, and see you next year at our 35th summer choral music festival in Elora, Ontario.

Happy Listening!

Monday, December 2, 2013


Hello, Music Lover!

Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms was so called because it was written as a commission for Chichester Cathedral, and it has been requested by Roy and Margaret. It is a choral work for solo quartet, choir and orchestra and a treble soloist. Bernstein stated explicitly in his writing that the solos could be sung by either a countertenor or a boy soprano, but never by a woman. This was to reinforce the liturgical meaning of the passage sung, perhaps to suggest that the 23rd Psalm, a "Psalm of David" from the Hebrew Bible, was to be heard as if sung by the boy David himself. The text was arranged by Bernstein from the psalms in the original Hebrew. Part 1 uses Psalms 100 and 108, Part 2 uses 2 and 23 and Part 3 uses 131 and 133.

Critics say that this is about the most tonally optimistic work Bernstein composed, and in the simplicity and sentimentality of the Hebrew psalm settings, one of his most approachable yet still exhilarating scores. The “Adonai” solos are just gorgeous. When it comes to an end in the first movement the mood suddenly changes to a jazzy, triumphant, off the beat “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving”, and suddenly I am reminded that this was indeed written by the same composer who wrote West Side Story.

The second movement, particularly the setting of Psalm 23 which is illustrated in this square, begins again with the “Adonai” melody, and then once again, at the “Why do the nations rage” mood change, I’m reminded of West Side Story and the Jets song, for example. We are made aware of the dangers of disobeying the Lord. Then we have a face-off between the Adonai tune and the sabre-rattling of the enemies, and then the sudden return to tranquility. Just lovely. Here's my take on how David the Psalmist might have passed the time beside still waters, inspired by a 20th century photograph of an Israeli shepherd.

Dear Lord and Father, to the tune Repton, is one of my favourite hymns. It ends with a request for the Lord to “speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, o still, small voice of calm”. We were taught as young choristers to sing as loudly as possible during the earthquake part, and then to drop to sotto voce for the “still, small voice.” I used to love that drama, and I still listen for it whenever I hear another choir sing this hymn.

The stained glass window frame refers back to the Pie Jesu shown in the post of March 20, because again, God is always present, even in the ruins. I used the rose window from the Church of Our Lady in Guelph as the model, since that church it is a frequent concert location for the Elora Festival Singers.

Beethoven’s Fifth
Beethoven’s fifth Symphony in C minor, by many considered one of the most important works of all time, is next. I have decided to add this square, even though no-one has requested it, because how could you have a music quilt with no Beethoven? The Fifth always reminds me of a horse race, a meeting of two champions. (And how could I work on a quilt that has birds, sheep, goats, cats, fish, an octopus, a deer, a wolf, but no horses?)

So here you are. The symphony opens in 2/4, (hence only two horses). The iconic opening four bars are the call to attention before the “off” is sounded. The horses burst forth from the stalls in the first movement, and then settle down to a rhythmic gallop. In the second movement, the real strategy between the two jockeys begins, a lyrical double variation, as each horse in turn takes over the lead. In the third, each horse sprints to take up the lead for a little (the scherzo) and then can’t keep up that speed and falls back. And then we have the final sprint for the finish, the beaten horse knowing he probably can’t catch up but nevertheless content that he has done his very best and gallantly galloping on (reprise of the horn theme), while the winner bursts across the line in the triumphant and exhilarating finale! Aaah – both horses and jockeys belong in the winner’s circle because it has been a heroic race.

Well, that's it for now. We are coming into the final stretch!


Saturday, November 16, 2013


Hello, Music Lovers!

I have it on good authority that today is the birthday of the founding artistic director of the Elora Festival, Noel Edison. Congratulations, Noel, and Happy Birthday. It is also on good authority that I stick out my neck and say that the music on which this next square is based is a favourite of Noel's, Like as the Hart, by Herbert Howells. Noel, I hope you enjoy this flowery quote from a BBC music reviewer, who will remain nameless because I'm afraid I have lost the reference.
“Herbert Howells has probably touched more lives more deeply than any composer with twice his standing in the hierarchies of modern music. Howells was central to the Oxbridge Anglican aesthetic: a supreme manipulator of the theatre of transcendent ceremonial and dignified nostalgia that the Church of England does like no one else.
 But what makes him interesting is that he gave that market more than it bargained for. Scratch the surface of a typical Howells choral work and you find decidedly un-Anglican qualities. One is smouldering sensuality (the rhythm of Like as the Hart, the most sublime of all Howells anthems, comes close to a slow tango, its harmony is thick with 'blue' notes), another is a lacerating, masochistic pain even in ostensibly joyful music. To understand why they are there you need to look beyond the music to the man... etc.

And now to another reminder of Christmas, the famously Canadian Huron Carol, originally written in native Huron/Wendat, probably in 1642 by Père Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada. The words were set to a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid"). In 1926 Jesse Edgar Middleton set the well-known English lyrics "Twas in the Moon of winter-time" to the same tune.

The English version of the hymn uses imagery familiar in the early 20th century, in place of the traditional Nativity story, but Kathy (who made this lovely square) and I were not sure how to portray the "lodge of broken bark", when Algonquin long houses were quite large, and the bark was carefully cut in very long strips. So Kathy decided to tell part of the story on a winter teepee, having researched suitable petroglyph images from Peterborough sites. The rest of the story is on the other side, but now you know what Gitchi Manitou looks like!

Starting to think about Christmas, and it won't be long before carols are heard everywhere.