Lyric Arts Trio

Lyric Arts Trio. Formed in 1964 by the soprano Mary Morrison, the flutist Robert Aitken, and Aitken's wife, the pianist Marion Ross.

Lyric Arts Trio

Lyric Arts Trio. Formed in 1964 by the soprano Mary Morrison, the flutist Robert Aitken, and Aitken's wife, the pianist Marion Ross. Though begun for recreation, the trio soon was in public demand, partly because of the established individual reputations of its members and partly because of the freshness of the repertoire for such a combination - a surprising variety of duos and trios, mostly baroque, rococo, and fin-de-siècle French - and a few 20th-century pieces, eg, Frank Martin's Trois Chansons de Noël and Albert Roussel's Deux Poèmes de Ronsard, with which the trio made its debut 14 Oct 1965 before the Brantford (Ont) Music Club.

In the mid-1960s Canadian composers, perhaps disillusioned by the public neglect into which the Schoenberg revolution had led them, were reaching out again for audiences. While retaining faith in a kind of music to which the public had remained largely indifferent, they saw hope for it in the manipulation of other elements of the concert experience. They were tempted to incorporate theatrics and sonic novelties to shake apathy, disarm hostility, amuse, and even to help explain. This was not new strategy, even in Canada, let alone the larger musical world; but the emergence of a group such as the Lyric Arts Trio - combining, as it did, virtuosity, charisma, and a good-humoured sense of adventure - provided a focus for the trend. Quick to recognize advantage, the composers rallied and by 1974 had produced enough new works, tailored for the trio, to make up four different programs. The list (see below) continued to grow with the trio's reputation.

Besides performing frequently in Toronto, the Lyric Arts Trio appeared throughout Canada for music clubs, music schools, and new-music societies and at Ontario's major seasonal events, notably the Shaw Festival (1970, 1971, 1972), Festival Ottawa (1973, four appearances), and the Stratford Festival. It also performed in Montreal at the 1976 Olympics. It was the only Canadian chamber ensemble invited to appear at Expo 70 in Osaka, where it worked in consort with Lukas Foss and with Stockhausen's group; it also gave the premiere of Sydney Hodkinson's Arc, written to exploit both the performers and Osaka's uniquely equipped 1000-speaker theatre.

Aitken, Morrison, and Ross, with support from the Koerner Foundation and the Canada Council, were artists-in-residence 1971-2 at Simon Fraser University. While there, they gave concerts and seminars and performed in schools in and near Vancouver. The trio also performed to great acclaim in US cities and in Europe, appearing at the 1973 ISCM festival at Reykjavik and completing tours that year, and in 1975, which took it to London, Paris, Brussels, Stockholm, Frankfurt, and other major centres. In 1976 it returned to Scandinavia and Great Britain with NMC; in 1977 it gave three concerts in Tokyo at the invitation of the composer Toru Takemitsu; and in 1978 it performed Canadian works at the Warsaw Autumn International Festival.

The addition to the trio's repertoire of works by many US, European, and Asian composers (eg, Bedford, Boone, Crumb, Davidovsky, Eakin, Ezaki, Goyevaerts, Hayashi, Luciuk, Sveinsson, Takemitsu, and Wolff) reflected the expansion of its activity. The trio has captivated listeners on both sides of the Atlantic. In its home city, the critic for the Telegram wrote (8 Apr 1968): 'These three by now are more than just a first-rate singer and two first-rate players. They are musicians whose tender and vital concern with the stuff of their art gives their choice of program significance, so that composers can be glad of their favour and the rest of us can be grateful for their selectivity'. The trio was among Canada's outstanding advocates of 20th-century music, in regular appearances with NMC in Toronto, the SMCQ in Montreal, and other such groups at home and abroad. In its last appearance 6 Mar 1983 the trio performed Weinzweig's Trialogue at an NMC concert in Roy Thomson Hall in honour of the composer's 70th birthday.

Premieres of Canadian Works

Barnes Two Poems, 1966

Beckwith 'Daisy's Aria' from The Shivaree, 1967

Beecroft Elegy and Two Went to Sleep, 1967

Buczynski Two French Love Poems, 1967; Milosc, 1971; Zeroing In No. 4, 1973

Charpentier A Tea Symphony, 1972; Clarabelle-Clarimage, 1979

Cherney Eclipse, 1972

Ciamaga Solepsism while Dying, 1973

Douglas Three Dances, 1978

Freedman Pan, 1972

Hambraeus Récit de deux pour trois exécutants, 1973

Hartwell Resta di darma noia, 1974

Hodkinson Arc, 1970

Kolinski Six French Folk Songs, 1967

Koprowski Lullabies for an Angel 1979

Mather Madrigal IV, 1973

Pedersen, Paul An Old Song of the Sun and the Moon and the Fear of Loneliness, 1973

Pedersen, Stephen Three Haiku, 1968

Somers Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, 1975

Symonds ... deep ground, long waters, 1972

Weinzweig Trialogue, 1971

Premieres of Works by Foreign Composers

Sveinsson Bizarreries, 1971

Tiensuu Trio, 1975


Further Reading

  • Schulman, Michael. 'The Lyric Arts Trio - musical missionaries,' MSc, 275, Jan-Feb 1974