James (Vernon) MacDonald. French hornist, b Portage la Prairie, Man, 31 Jan 1945; BA (Queen's) 1969, M MUS (Western) 1972. He learned the french horn in high school in Ottawa, then studied 1960-2 with Leslie Huggett and played in 1961 in the NYO. He studied 1963-9 at Queen's University, and 1969-72 at the University of Western Ontario where he completed his master's thesis: 'Virtuosi and the horn repertoire.' His teachers included Eugene Rittich in Toronto (1970-1), Frantisek Solc at the Janáček Academy of Music, Brno, Czechoslovakia, and Barry Tuckwell in London. He also studied in 1978 with Wilhelm Lansky-Otto in Stockholm, Sweden.
In 1972 MacDonald began teaching part-time at York University, where he was a member 1972-8 of the York Winds. He joined the Boss Brass in 1972. He has been a member of the CJRT Orchestra, the Kingston Symphony, the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonia, the National Ballet of Canada orchestra, the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. He also has played in the Hannaford Street Silver Band and the Brigham Phillips Big Band. He performed in 1978 in Belgium and on the BBC, has been featured with the TS, the NACO and on CBC radio. He co-founded the Toronto Septet (active 1979-81), whose other members included James Campbell, John MacKay, and Joel Quarrington. MacDonald has performed much new Canadian music. He commissioned and premiered Barry Truax'Aerial for horn and computer-synthesized soundtrack in 1979, Norma Beecroft'sQuaprice for horn, percussion, and electronic tape in 1980, and has also premiered pieces by Ka Nin Chan, Larry Lake, and Hildegard Westerkamp, among others. His solo European tour in 1979, with performances in London, Paris, Finland, and Germany, included electroacoustic works, with tape accompaniment, by Truax and David Keane.
MacDonald's recordings include Pieces for Solo Horn (1979, Music Gallery Editions MGE-21), with works by James Montgomery, Harry Freedman, and others; Truax' Aerial on the Androgyne (1981, 2-Melbourne SMLP-4042-3); and Westerkamp's Fantasie for Horns I and II on the composer's 1986 five-cassette series Inside the Soundscape (Inside the Soundscape unnumbered; Fantasie is also available on an Éditions Albani cassette, unnumbered). MacDonald is a member of the ensemble performing Lubomyr Melnyk'sPoslaniye (Bandura BAN-19A-83), and, with percussionist Russell Hartenberger, he recorded Beecroft's Quaprice (4-ACM 13). His brother is John MacDonald.