Well-known composer makes visit


A “Big Top” circus ballet; a concerto for car horns and orchestra; an oratorio based on the New Testament book of Revelations – this is just a small, but typically eclectic, sample of the music of Victor Davies, one of Canada's best-known composers.

On April 3, Davies visited the School of Art, Drama &d Music in the company of Michael Reason, artistic manager of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. Reason says “it's essential for the orchestra to interface with educational establishments and the community at large, to emphasize the role music has to play in all our lives.”

He is keen to bring more of the Philharmonic's guest artists and composers to McMaster.

During this visit, Davies introduced students to his oratorio, Revelation, which Reason will conduct at Hamilton Place on May 27. This will be the oratorio's third performance. Its first, in 1996, prompted Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to describe it as, “the most stunning musical event in recent memory.”

Davies wanted Revelation to follow the tradition of the grand oratorios, such as Handel's Messiah or Mendelssohn's Elijah, where the music helps listeners understand the words without interpreting them.

Despite the book of Revelation's common association with rivers of blood, death and destruction, Davies told students that he feels a simple message lies beneath its complicated text.

“For me it's about crisis and the reaffirmation of faith, and I wanted the oratorio to be a positive statement,” he said.

It was a view that met with approval in Winnipeg's Mennonite Community, where the work was commissioned by the Fast family, who also commissioned Davies' celebrated Mennonite Piano Concerto.

The book of Revelation seemed a natural choice for an oratorio, says Davies.”All the people are singing already, it just needed to be set to music,” he said.

Rowena Muhic-Day is a liaison officer for the Faculty of Humanities.