Christopher Donison

Christopher Donison. Composer, pianist, conductor, inventor, b Halifax, NS, 26 Dec 1952; B MUS (Victoria) 1976, M MUS (State University of New York) 1992. Christopher Donison studied piano with Winifred Scott Wood at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and later at the University of Victoria.

Donison, Christopher

Christopher Donison. Composer, pianist, conductor, inventor, b Halifax, NS, 26 Dec 1952; B MUS (Victoria) 1976, M MUS (State University of New York) 1992. Christopher Donison studied piano with Winifred Scott Wood at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and later at the University of Victoria. In 1992 he received a Master of Music in composition, studying under Davis Felder at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

From 1977-86 Christopher Donison accompanied, conducted, arranged and was musical director for several musical theatre productions in Toronto. His credits include Jesus Christ Superstar as conductor in 1978, Puttin' on the Ritz as accompanist in 1980, Tom Jones as accompanist in 1983, Roberta as an arranger and accompanist in 1984, and Sweeney Todd as musical director in 1985.

In 1986, Christopher Donison and Roger Perkins won a Dora Mavor Moore award for the operetta The Desert Song in Toronto. From 1988-98 he served as musical director of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. During this period, Donison conducted and composed for many of the festival's productions. Additionally, he established the Shaw Festival's string quartet residency program and their small orchestra.

In 2006 Donison founded the Music-by-the-Sea International Music Festival in Bamfield, BC. The festival is held at the Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. In June 2006 Christopher Donison was appointed to the National Arts Centre board of trustees.

Composition

Christopher Donison has composed for a variety of instrumental and vocal combinations; his works include operas, choral works, and chamber and orchestral works. In 1995 Donison's work Choral Prophecy won the second-place prize in the Pro Coro Choral Composition Contest, as part of the Edmonton New Music Festival. Donison's music has been performed in Canada and abroad; in 1996 the Choir of Clare College at Cambridge, England, performed his Choral Prophecy, and the Amati String Quartet recorded Rashoman Quartet in 1997 for the Shaw Festival.

In 1998 Donison completed A Foggy Day, a musical that had been left unfinished by George Gershwin. The work was written for the estate of George and Ira Gershwin in honour of the centenary of George's birth. A Foggy Day was premiered at the Shaw Festival 23 May 1998 and ran to the end of the 1999 season.

On 15 Jan 1999 Christopher Donison conducted the premiere of Symphony Erotica, his first symphony, with the Kingston Symphony Orchestra; the work was commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council.

In 2003-4 Donison was composer-in-residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts. During his stay, he composed the music and libretto for the opening scenes of Island, an opera based on a short story by Alistair MacLeod. The first five scenes of Island, commissioned by the Kingston Symphony Orchestra, were performed 21 Mar 2004 at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Donison-Steinbuhler Standard Piano

In the 1970s Donison developed a plan to invent a modified concert piano to accommodate pianists with smaller hands. With hopes to "emancipate the disenfranchised" (Piano & Keyboard, Jul/Aug 1998), he collaborated with David Steinbuhler, a textile manufacturer from Pennsylvania, to produce a prototype for the "Donison-Steinbuhler Standard." The keyboard is reduced to seven-eighths the size of the conventional concert piano.

Selected Compositions

Stage
The Little Match Girl. 1996. Orchestra, narrator, young dancer

Opera
Eyes on the Mountain. 2001

Island. 2006

Orchestral
Theme and Conversations for Orchestra. 1993

Symphony Erotica. 1999

Choral
Choral Prophecy. 1996. 16 voices

Symphonic Choral Prophecy. 1995. Orchestra and chorus

Chamber Music
Rashomon Quartet. 1996. String quartet

The Seagull. 1997. String quartet and oboe at a distance

7 Encounters. 1992. Flute and soprano

Three Piano Pieces. 2000


Further Reading

  • Donison, Christopher. "Small hands? Try this keyboard, you'll like it," Piano & Keyboard, No. 193, Jul/Aug 1998

    "A new beat," Orchestra Canada, vol. 25 no. 3, Jul/Aug 1998