Milton Barnes | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Milton Barnes

Milton Barnes. Conductor, composer, jazz drummer, b Toronto 16 Dec 1931, d there 27 Feb 2001. He studied composition with John Weinzweig and Ernst Krenek, conducting with Victor Feldbrill, Boyd Neel, and Walter Susskind, and piano with Samuel Dolin at the RCMT 1952-5.

Barnes, Milton

Milton Barnes. Conductor, composer, jazz drummer, b Toronto 16 Dec 1931, d there 27 Feb 2001. He studied composition with John Weinzweig and Ernst Krenek, conducting with Victor Feldbrill, Boyd Neel, and Walter Susskind, and piano with Samuel Dolin at the RCMT 1952-5. He took summer conducting courses at the Chigiana School in Siena, Italy, and at Tanglewood, Mass, and graduated from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1961. In 1964 he founded and until 1973 he conducted the Toronto Repertory Ensemble which commissioned and performed contemporary Canadian music at subscription concerts, many of them broadcast by the CBC, including the first stereo concert on CBC radio, and the first CBC television in-house concert production. He conducted the St Catharines Symphony Orchestra (Niagara Symphony Orchestra) and Chorus 1964-72, the Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus of Niagara Falls, NY, 1965-73 and appeared as guest conductor with many Canadian orchestras. Long asociated with the theatre, Barnes has composed and conducted for the Crest Theatre (Toronto) 1961-3, the Toronto Dance Theatre (for which he composed many scores including Amber Garden, Masque of the Red Death, and The Three-Sided Room) 1968-73, and for productions at the St Lawrence Centre, Toronto. He composed and conducted the music for the film Blood and Guts, and orchestrated and conducted the music for The Carebears Movies (I, II, and III), and for CBC television dramas. In 1973, he decided to concentrate full-time on composition, conducting only concerts of his own compositions, three of which were broadcast on CBC radio's 'Morningside.'

Barnes' compositional style has been called 'eclectic fusion.' Though jazz and pop influences are prominent in his work, he viewed himself as continuing the main stream of classical composition, noting that all great composers have drawn their inspiration from the cultural cross-currents of their own time and place. Barnes sought his inspiration in the cultural environment of contemporary Canada and was influenced by the music of his Jewish heritage. Versatile in his use of contemporary techniques, Barnes, nevertheless rejected the academic avant garde in favour of a tonally based romantic idiom: in his own words, 'I was taught the 12-tone system and then dropped it, because I found it extremely limiting and inhibiting as a way to express yourself' (Canadian Composer, 161, May 1981). He received commissions from Robert Aitken, Liona Boyd, Paul Brodie, the CBC, the Canadian Music Centre in collaboration with OFSO, Erica Goodman, the Imperial Oil McPeek Pops Library, Joseph Macerollo and John Perrone, the New Chamber Orchestra of Canada, the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Dance Theatre, and the Trio Lyra, among others. In 1993, Erica Goodman's recording of Barnes' Divertimento for Harp and Strings was nominated for a Juno award for Best Classical Composition. Barnes continued active as a composer through the 1990s until his sudden death from a heart attack, accepting commissions and creating a variety of new works, many of which reflected Jewish themes. He conducted the premiere of his 1975 cantata Shir Hashirim in Toronto in July 1999. Songs of Arrival, his last work, was commissioned by the Ginger Group and premiered at the Historic Old Toronto Sumer Music Festival 2000. He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Barnes' sons Micah and Daniel also had careers in music. Micah (singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, b Vienna 30 May 1960) studied voice with José Hernandez and Bill Vincent. He led his own groups from the piano in Toronto cabarets and nightclubs during the 1980s and also appeared in theatre, film, TV, and radio productions. In 1990 he joined the Nylons. Daniel (drummer, b Toronto 24 May 1965) studied with Jim Blackley and attended the Banff CA Jazz Workshop in 1987 and 1988. He has played in several Toronto pop and jazz bands, including those of his brother, and in 1990 introduced a contemporary jazz quintet co-led by the pianist Dave Restivo.

Selected Compositions

Stage And Film
Byron the Wonderful Bandit, musical (Jack Oldfield, Helen Conway-Marmo). 1965. Ms

Blood and Guts, film. 1977. Ms

Several ballet scores, including Masque of the Red Death (1970), Rhapsody on a Late Afternoon (1971), Amber Garden and Three-Sided Room (1972), The Spiral Stairs (1973), and The Dybbuk: A Masque for Dancing (1977)


Symphony No. 1. 1964 Ms

Children's Suite. 1966. Ms

Pinocchio. 1966. Ms

Sonata for flute and string orchestra. 1970. Ms

The Classical Concerto. 1973. Pf, orch.Ms

Concert Overture. 1973. Ms

Psalms of David. 1973. Sop, bar, SATB, orch. Ms

Shebetim. 1974. Str orch. Ms

Concerto for saxophone and strings. 1975. Ms

Concerto for violin and strings. 1975. Ms

Chamber Concerto. 1976. Ww quintet, string orch. Ms

Symphony No. 2. 1976. Str orch. Ms

Hannukah Suite No. 1. 1977. Orch (chamber orch). Ms

Concerto for viola and orchestra. 1977. Ms

Maid of the Mist. 1977. Ms

Concerto No. 1 for flute and string orchestra. 1978. Ms

Serenade for String Quartet and String Orchestra. 1979. Ms

Follies Overture. 1983. Ms

Double Concerto for Two Guitars and String Orchestra. 1986. Ms

Legends for Orchestra. 1986. Ms


Several works including Lamentations of Jeremiah (1959), viola (violoncello) (Rivka Golani, Centrediscs CMC-0883); Concerto Grosso (1973); Serenade (1973), guitar and accordion; Fantasy for Guitar (1975,Wat 1978, Liona Boyd, Col M-35137); Nocturne (1976), solo accordion; Variations for Solo Harp (1976, Erica Goodman, Norstan G-1305); Ladino Suite (1977), brass quintet; Poème juif (1977), violin, viola, violoncello, piano; Annexus (1981), percussion ensemble (Nexus, CBC Musica Viva MV-1037); Octet (1985); and Papageno Variations (1988), double-bass, piano. All manuscript


Thespis, cantata (Michael Sanquillet, French transl Curt Reis). 1956 (rev 1973). Ten, narrator, SATB, 2 piano. Ms

Madrigals (medieval Sephardic texts). 1975. SSAA, 2 trumpet, 2 trombone. Ms

Shir Hashirim, cantata (Song of Solomon). 1975. Mezzo, tenor, unison female chorus, chamber ensemble. Ms

Shema: A Sacred Service. 1977. Ten (cantor), chorus, piano. Ms

Poems from the St Lawrence and the Saguenay (Sangster). 1984. SATB, brass, percussion. Ms

Eishet Chayil: A Woman of Valour. 1986. Ten, female chorus (SS), piano (piano, violin, violoncello). Ms

Also several works for voice, some for piano

Further Reading