When I think of County Durham, in Northern England, two things usually come to mind. First are my ancestors, who hail from that part of the world. At the time I wrote Durham Twilight, the generation of Fenwicks and Bousteads that were born early in the second decade of the 20th Century, including my Dad, had recently passed away. The second is the magnificent, mysterious and ancient Durham Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Europe.
Durham Twilight was premiered by the Calgary Chamber Players, under the direction of Chris Sandvoss, in November 1999. It was also performed at the Jack Singer Concert Hall by Rolf Bertsch and the Calgary Civic Symphony in November, 2010.
In 2009, the Dalai Lama visited Calgary, and I was fortunate to hear him speak. I was struck by his conviction that all conflicts, large and small, can be resolved peacefully when individuals approach one another from a position of compassionate understanding.
Compassion is a musical representation of that idea.
for string quartet (6:30) or string orchestra (6:30)
This piece is dedicated to the memory of Jack (1980? – 1996), a snaggle-toothed feline who came to stay with the Fenwick family for a night and lingered for many years.
Much of Black Jacques’ thematic material was plundered from two well-known songs: “Frere Jacques” and “Hit the Road, Jack”, which (by coincidence) shares a bass line with “The Cat Came Back” and “Stray Cat Strut”.
The version for string quartet was premiered by the Sunrise String Quartet in 1999. It has since been performed in Cranbrook, BC, Saskatoon, SK, and by Land’s End Chamber Ensemble during their three Noche de Brujas cabaret performances at the Beat Niq Jazz and Social Club in Calgary in October, 2007.
The version for string orchestra was premiered by the Calgary Chamber Players under the skillful direction of Chris Sandvoss late in 1999, or maybe early in 2000 (I was there, but now I forget which). It has also been performed in Regina, SK.
I know, you’re thinking that Jack gets around, but there’s more…
The third version of Black Jacques, for full orchestra, was commissioned by Edmond Agopian, and was completed with the generous support of the Rozsa Foundation. Mr. Agopian led the Calgary Youth Orchestra in the premiere of the full orchestral version on April 22, 2012, at Calgary’s Leacock Theatre.
The Calgary Youth Orchestra will perform the piece four times during its August, 2012 tour of France: at La Madeline, in Paris; the Cryptoportique Gardens in Reims; Isigny-sur-mer; and during the Semaine Acadienne festival in St-Aubin-sur-mer.