Michael Conway Baker

Michael Conway Baker. Composer, teacher, b West Palm Beach, Fla, 13 Mar 1937, naturalized Canadian 1970; Associate (LCM) 1961, B MUS (British Columbia) 1966, MA (Western Washington State) 1972.

Baker, Michael Conway
Composer and teacher Michael Conway Baker (courtesy Michael Baker).

Michael Conway Baker. Composer, teacher, b West Palm Beach, Fla, 13 Mar 1937, naturalized Canadian 1970; Associate (LCM) 1961, B MUS (British Columbia) 1966, MA (Western Washington State) 1972. Moving to Canada in 1958, he studied with Jean Coulthard and Elliot Weisgarber at the University of British Columbia, with Malcolm Arnold at the Shawnigan Summer School of the Arts (Johannesen International School of the Arts) in 1971 and 1972, and with Lennox Berkeley in England in 1975.

Though approaching composition from a contemporary perspective, Baker resisted both the avant-garde and the academic mainstream, choosing to sound his distinctive lyrical and highly expressive voice in the neoclassical and neoromantic idioms he found more congenial. In 1975 Baker wrote, 'I had, and still have, definite leanings towards composers whose music seems to be an outgrowth of past musical practices ... I like music which has a certain quality of bridging the old with the new' (PRO Canada, pamphlet, 1984); and he later stated, 'I tried the twelve-tone approach in some of my music and, for me, it just didn't work. I think you have to believe in the music you write' (UBC Alumni Chronicle, Fall 1990). Form and structure in his music derived from the development of motifs and melodic lines. Baker's large output included music for the concert hall (125 works by 2003), stage, film, and TV (over 200 works). His film scores for The Grey Fox, John and the Missus, and the Walt Disney production One Magic Christmas won Genie awards. For his music for the CBC TV series A Planet for the Taking he received an ACTRA award. His later work for television ranged widely from music for competitive ballroom dancing (also known as dancesport), to scores for The Road to Avonlea. He also contributed music to numerous NFB films.

He received commissions from Robert Aitken, the Canadian Arts Trio, Expo 86, the Imperial Oil McPeek Pops Library, the National Ballet of Canada, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Robert Silverman, the Toronto Dance Theatre, the TS, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra among others, and many of his compositions were performed in the USA, Europe, the Orient, and the South Pacific. Baker's music was frequently broadcast. In 1991 the CBC released a compact disc devoted to his music (1988, CBC SMCD-5107), for which the composer received a Juno award. His music for the figure-skating ballet Cinderella: Frozen in Time is thought to have been the first original score for an ice show.

While establishing himself as a composer Baker taught (1972-ca 1989) in Vancouver elementary schools. Because of his interest in music education, he participated in various projects and wrote several works for the educational system including A New Way to Learn (1990), with lyrics by his wife, Penny-Anne Baker. It was used as the theme of a British Columbia government-sponsored video series introducing a new approach to music education. He was the Vancouver School Board's composer-in-residence, and held part-time teaching appointments in film composition at the University of British Columbia, Capilano College, and Simon Fraser University. He also served as adviser to the education committee of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, represented the Guild of Canadian Film Composers (1988-2000), and was on the SOCAN board of directors (1998). He was a member of the CLComp and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. Baker was a recipient of the Order of BC (1997), and of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal (2002).

Selected Compositions

Stage, TV, and Film
The Letter, Opus 28, ballet. 1974. Fl (piccolo), clarinet, string trio, celesta, percussion. Ms

Washington Square, Opus 42, ballet. 1978. Ms. 1982. Centrediscs CMC-0682 (London SO, Arbour piano, Crumb conductor)

Deserters, Opus 61, film. 1982. Ms

The Grey Fox, Opus 59, film. 1982. Ms. (1983). DRG SL-9515 (orch, Baker conductor)

Nails, film. 1982

Encounters, Opus 50, ballet. 1983. Pf, harp, string. Ms

A Planet for the Taking, TV series. 1983. Chamb orch. Ms. (Suite) CBC SMCD-5107 (CBC Vancouver Orchestra)

One Magic Christmas, Opus 71, film. 1985. Ms

John and the Missus, film. 1986. Ms

Starwarriors, Opus 89 and Technophrenia, Opus 88, ballet. 1989. Ms

Over 200 scores for film, TV, and video, including music for Expo 86 pavilions, the theme for CBC TV's The Nature of Things; incidental music including A Midsummer Night's Dream (Opus 86) for the 1989 Stratford Festival. One Magic Christmas (Disney), and The Grey Fox (Media) are available on video.

Writings

'Bearding the lion,' MSc, 286, Nov-Dec 1975

'Integration in instruction and implications for the arts (Music),' CME, 32, Oct 1990

'A composer's experience with Phillip Borsos,' Take One, July 2002

Orchestra

Dialogues, Opus 15. (Bible). 19702. Bar, SATB, orch. Ms

Okanagan Landscapes, Opus 26. 1970. Pf, orch. Ms

Counterplay, Opus 19. 1971. Va, string orch. Ms. CBC SMCD-5107 (CBC Vancouver O, Dann viola)

Contours, Opus 20. 1972. Db, harpsichord, string. Ms

Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra, Opus 27. 1974. Ms. CBC SMCD-5107 (CBC Vancouver O, Piccinini fl)

A Struggle for Dominion, Opus 32. 1975. Pf, orch. Ms

Concerto, Opus 38. 1976. Pf, chamber orch. FH 1979. CBC SMCD-5107/private recording (Silverman)

Duo Concertante, Opus 39. 1976. Va, violin, string. Ms

Symphony No.1 'Highland,' Opus 41. 1977. Ms. Private recording (Vancouver SO)

Vortex, Opus 49 (from the film score Nails). Orch. Ms

Fanfare to Expo 86, Opus 62. 1983. Ms. CBC SMCD-5107 (CBC Vancouver O)

Rita Joe: A Tone Poem, Opus 63, on themes by Mortifee. 1983. V, orch. Ms

Four Songs For Ann, Opus 70. 1985. V, chamber orch. Ms. CBC SMCD-5107 (CBC Vancouver O, Mortifee voice)

Pacific Suite, Opus 85. 1989. Ms

Reflections on a Lost Dream, Opus 84. 1989. Vn, string orch. Ms

Through the Lion's Gate: Three Perspectives of Vancouver, Opus 83. 1989. Ms

Timedancers, Opus 90. 1990. Vn, clarinet, orch. Ms

Cinderella: Frozen in Time (Suites No. 1 and No. 2). 1993. Orch

Summit Concerto. 1994. Trumpet, orch

Vancouver Variations for oboe and chamber orch. 1996

Concerto for harp and orch. 2000

Concerto for clarinet and strings. 2001

Also other works for orch and for orchestra and soloists

Chamber

Sonata, Opus 2. 1963. Fl, piano. Southern 1973

Scherzo, Opus 10. 1967. Tpt, organ. Ms. (1990). Interdisc S-100527 (CD) (L. Larouche trumpet, S. Doyon organ)

String Quartet No. 1, Opus 14. 19698. Ms

Concert Piece for Organ, Piano and Timpani, Opus 13. 196970. Ms

Elegy, Opus 21. 1972. Fl, organ. FH 1975. 1987. Earsdon 87-328588 (Wilkinson fl, Bloss organ)

Piano Trio, Opus 18. 1972. Pf, violin, violoncello. Ms

Music for Six Players, Opus 24. 1973. Fl, oboe, string trio, harpsichord. Ms

En rapport, Opus 30. 1974. 2 guitar. Ms

Four Views from a Nursery Tune, Opus 35. 1975. Vn, horn, piano. Ms

Fanfare for Brass, Opus 37. 1976. 4 trumpet, 4 horn, 2 trombone, bass trombone, tuba. Ms

Three Plus One, Opus 44. 1979. Fl, violin, viola, violoncello. Ms. 1981. RCI 536 (Galliard Ens)

Intermezzo for Flute and Harp, Opus 80. 1988. Ms

Forms for Five. Flute, string trio, piano. 2002

Also other works for various instr ensemble

Piano

Capriccio for Two Pianos, Opus 3. 1964. FH 1975. CBC SM-278 (Taussig)

Four Piano Pieces, Opus 22. 1973. FH 1979

Sonata, Opus 31. 1975. FH 1977

Rainforest Suite, Opus 77. 1987. Ms

Voice and Choir

Three Lyric Songs, Opus 5 (Baker). 1964. High voice, fl, piano. (No. 1, 2) Ms. (No 3) Leslie 1979

Five Canadian Folk Songs, Opus 25. 1973. V, piano. Ms

Two Lyric Songs (Webb, A.C. Bourne). 1973. High voice, piano. Ms

Six Songs, Opus 34 (Sappho). 1975. Mezzo, piano. Ms

The Unattainable, Opus 43 (A.C. Bourne). 1978. Mezzo, piano. Ms

Seven Wonders: A Song Cycle, Opus 65 (A.C. Bourne). 1983. Alto, piano. Ms. Centredisques CMC-14-1584/RCI 585 (Forrester)

Street Scenes, Opus 74. 1985. Men's chorus, piano. Ms

We Are the ABC's of Life (Manning). 1988. Unison children's chorus. Ms

Come and Make the Music, Opus 81. 1988. Chor, organ, piano, bells. Ms

'On the First Day of Christmas,' Opus 87. 1989. Chor, orch. Ms

Also other works for voice and choir

Also works for organ


Further Reading

  • LaMarche, Phillip G. 'Michael Baker off to England to study,' MSc, 279, Sep-Oct 1974

    Hossie, Linda. 'The musical equivalent of a very good read,' Maclean's, 5 Feb 1979

    Mertens, Susan. 'Michael Baker's music is made-to-measure for a full-length Washington Square,' PfAC, Spring 1979

    PRO Canada Ltd. 'Michael Conway Baker,' pamphlets, 1979, 1984

    Godfrey, Stephen. 'Canadian composer shares the secrets of his success,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 26 Apr 1988

    Baragon, Ellen. 'Vancouver film composer says his art is "bloody hard work",' CanComp, 239, Mar 1989

    Petty, Chris. 'Michael Conway Baker, BMus '66,' UBC Alumni Chronicle, Fall 1990

    Stybr, David. 'Michael Conway Baker: Canada's Radical Romantic,' Classical Music Magazine, Sept 1997

    'Baker scores Expo '93 film,' CanComp, summer 1993

    Stybr, David. 'Michael Conway Baker, Canada's radical romantic,' Classical Music Magazine, vol 20, Sep 1997

    'Baker scores Expo `93 film,' The Canadian Composer, vol 4, Summer 1993