John Burke

John (Joseph) Burke. Composer, teacher, b Toronto 10 May 1951; B MUS (McGill) 1974, M MUS (Michigan) 1976, DMA (Michigan) 1983.

Burke, John

John (Joseph) Burke. Composer, teacher, b Toronto 10 May 1951; B MUS (McGill) 1974, M MUS (Michigan) 1976, DMA (Michigan) 1983. He studied with Bruce Mather and Alcides Lanza at McGill University and with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and George Wilson at the University of Michigan. Burke won his first major awards for composition in 1978 when two of his works - Spectre for tenor instruments (1976) and Six Regions for piano (1975) - received prizes in the CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers. With the assistance of the Canada Council, Burke studied 1978-9 in France with Eugene Kurtz. In 1980 he again received two awards in the CBC composers competition, for Firewind for two pianos (1978), and Diffusa est gratia for a cappella choir (1979). Returning to Canada in 1980, Burke served as a visiting lecturer at McGill University in music theory and electronic music. He taught 1983-5 at McMaster University and 1985-90 privately in Toronto, and in 1990 he joined the faculty at the University of Victoria. His principal compositions in the 1980s included À la source d'Hypocrêne (1980) and Far calls. Coming far! (1988), premiered by the SMCQ; Alchemies for chamber orchestra (1983), premiered by the Esprit Orchestra; Near Rhymes (1984), premiered by the Gerald Danovitch Saxophone Quartet; Dreampaths (1986) and Jacaranda (1987), premiered by NMC; Escher/Bach (1985) written for the Bach 300 festival in Toronto; and Lament (1989), presented by Les Événements du neuf. Several of his works have been recorded, including Firewind performed by pianists Bruce Mather and Pierrette LePage (Centrediscs CMC-1884); ...ascends at full moon (1981) played by guitarist Michael Laucke (RCI 583) and À la source d'Hypocrène performed by the SMCQ ensemble(RCI 546). Burke's compositions - the majority of which are for chamber ensembles - often reveal a sensitivity to timbre and a careful delicacy in instrumental balance.

Further Reading

  • MacMillan, Richard. 'European art an influence on John Burke's musical works,' MSc, 315, Sep-Oct 1980