Nichols, Kenneth (Hugh). Composer, pianist, teacher, b Pincher Creek, Alta, 7 Jun 1936; ARCT 1958, Associate in music (Alberta) 1960, Licentiate Diploma (Toronto) 1961, M MUS (Indiana) 1967, PH D (Minnesota) 1981. He studied piano with his mother, Edna Nichols, and with Buela Doney; he also was a choir boy and soloist at All Saints Cathedral under Vernon Barford in Edmonton. He studied piano with Pierre Souverain at the RCMT (1956-61), Boris Roubakine at the Banff SFA (1960), and Frederick Baldwin at Indiana U, and theory and composition with Paul Fetler and Dominic Argento at the University of Minnesota. He began teaching at Brandon University in 1962. He won several performance and commissioning grants from the MAC in the 1980s. His PH D thesis was titled 'The orchestral compositions of Harry Freedman: a parametric analysis of major works written between 1952 and 1967.' He has adjudicated in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, examined for the WBM, and judged composition competitions for the MRMTA 1983-5 and the BCRMTA in 1991.
Chamber Piece for Flute, High Voice and Piano (1979), premiered by Music Inter Alia, resulted in a commission for the Sextet for Piano and Woodwind Quintet (1980) which was selected for performance at the International Woodwind Symposium in Athens, Ga (1990). Symphonic Celebration (1988) was commissioned and performed in honour of the 40th anniversary of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Nichols' most extended instrumental work, the elegiac Trio Classico (1990), was commissioned by the Brandon University Trio. Nichols' interest in theatre has resulted in three ballets: Thumbelina (Brandon Dance Ensemble, 1979) and Spectrum (Brandon Dance Ensemble, 1991), both for theatre orchestra, extend the repertoire of children's ballets; Reminiscences (tenor saxophone, flute, and vibraphone, 1982) for solo dancer was choreographed, like the others, by Barbara Withey Ehnes. His one-act operas The Prairie Girl and the Chinaman (1987) and Boy in a Cage (1987) were written for the Music Theatre Studio Ensemble in Banff. The ballets and operas have as their subject the dreams and disappointments of childhood and youth.
Nichols admires the qualities often associated with French music, and his works reflect a preference for conciseness, classic forms, clarity of texture and colour, and humour. These qualities mingle with his other interests: love of nature, the music of rural traditions; and jazz. The sophisticated skills of an analyst and teacher of theory coexist with homelier elements: his Foothills Sketches evoke earlier times through the use of horse bells and a washboard; and the classical structure of his Sonata for Double Bass and Piano still allows room for pictorial incidents, such as the cries of loons, recreated as bass harmonics.