58 leslie-huggettimg 2315[b London, England 1929
d Port Perry, Ontario , February 14, 2013]

Canadian music has lost a giant with the passing of Leslie Huggett. Born in London, England in 1929, Leslie, a one-time French hornist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, moved to Ottawa in 1954 with his wife Margaret. Initially he directed a chamber music program there and later played in the Ottawa Philharmonic. As their four children arrived and grew, the family began giving private concerts in 1966. At that time the children were playing only recorders while Leslie and Margaret were teaching the Orff method in Westchester County (New York) schools. With the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, they decided that it was time to move, and in 1967 the family spent a year on the island of Crete.

After their time in Greece and England, the family returned to Canada and began work on what was to become the renowned Huggett Family ensemble. The group made its formal debut in 1969 in a concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

In the 1970s the name “Huggett Family” was synonymous with the revival of early music played on period instruments. Leslie Huggett, his wife, Margaret, and their four children were known across Canada for their tasteful interpretations of music from the medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. From Canada’s National Arts Centre to London’s Wigmore Hall, and on the CBC and BBC, the family played and sang in period costumes to the delight of audiences and critics on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1982, after several successful LP recordings, the group disbanded.

In 1984, having moved to Markham, Ontario, Leslie and Margaret founded the Huggett Family Music Studio which emphasized the development of musical talent in children. Meanwhile, their own children moved on to pursue individual musical careers in Canada and abroad. Subsequently, this studio became the Flute Studio. In more recent years Leslie was joined in teaching duties by Flora Lim.

In recent years Leslie conducted a series of intimate readings titled “Reflections of a Part-Time Optimist” at his Flute Studio in Markham. In these he presented a series of fascinating, humorous accounts of many aspects of his life. In all of these he was accompanied on piano and flute by Flora. Although diagnosed with terminal cancer, Leslie continued writing and presenting these delightful Sunday afternoon reflections until he was no longer physically able to do so. The musical component of these intimate performances was always tasteful and the dialogue always down to earth and rich with Leslie’s own brand of subtle humour.

A memorial service was held at Trinity United Church in Uxbridge on May 11. A number of family members and friends reminisced about their times together, and excerpts of recordings of some of the early performances of the Huggett Family were played. All four children from Canada and abroad were in attendance and performed selections which would have been favourites of their father. The final page on the program listed the four selections Leslie had specified to be played at the service. This included the complete Mahler Symphony No.2 “The Resurrection” — “in its entirety.” His further instructions were to listen to them at home if there was not time at the service. He retained his unique sense of humour to the end. He will be missed. 

58 nic gotham[b near Southampton, England 1959
d Toronto, July 25, 2013]

The title of John Terauds’ July 28, 2013, blog reads, “Composer and jazz musician Nic Gotham left eclectic legacy in Canada and Latvia.” Those stark words all too briefly sum up the career of Nicholas Ivor Gotham, cut painfully short.

The previous night, Gallery 345, on Sorauren Ave. in Toronto, had hosted an unusual, celebratory concert of Gotham’s music. Some 200 friends and fans jammed into the long gallery space, attracted by Nic’s selected compositions which were played by a large ensemble of his Toronto colleagues. Among the works performed were excerpts from Oh, Pilot (2000), a chamber opera for four singers with the libretto and direction by his wife Baņuta Rubess. The heartfelt tribute evening wrapped up with a 2009 video of the cheeky James in Peril “from the soundtrack to an imaginary Bond film” with Gotham rendering a passionate-yet-cool post-bop-inflected sax solo with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra.

The evening’s proceeds were skyped to Nic’s hospice bedside. The audience turned towards the camera and waved to connect. Nic beamed back on his end emanating supernal grace.

Nic Gotham was more than a first order jazz saxophonist and composer of instrumental concert works. His first chamber opera Nigredo Hotel (1992), with a libretto by Ann-Marie MacDonald, has a good claim to being the most frequently performed Canadian opera. According to Gotham’s own website it “has now been produced in three continents and ... performed around 80 times.” Other tallies have it closer to 100 performances.

Over his career Gotham composed some 50 works for various ensembles including chamber, choral and orchestral music and two chamber operas. Commissions came from Toronto’s Arraymusic, 40 Fingers, Evergreen Club Gamelan, Tapestry New Opera and the improvising chamber orchestra Hemispheres of which he served as artistic director. In 1997 Gotham was awarded the Fred Stone Award “for leadership, integrity and innovation in new music.” Moving to Latvia in 1998 he enjoyed a vibrant career there, composing for Altera Veritas, Latvian Radio Choir, Sinfonietta Riga and the Riga Saxophone Quartet, among others, and was active as a music instructor there, among other teaching posts at the Latvian Academy of Music in the newly formed Department of Jazz.

I’d known Nic for years in Toronto’s new music scene before he moved to Latvia with his family (I’d performed with the Evergreen Club Gamelan in the premiere of his Toy Garage). We often met in the 90s at Jim Tenney’s Sunday afternoon relaxed yet exciting composition “seminars” held at Jim and Lauren’s home. Nic considered Tenney and Tenney’s York colleague David Mott his “two most important teachers.”

Last year when the Gothams moved back to Toronto I invited Nic for a Korean hot pot lunch on Bloor St. W. Nic wanted to re-establish his presence on the Toronto scene, and I to reconnect.

While we feasted, we spoke for hours on a sweeping variety of subjects. Music was a theme of course, but also we covered the completion of his Ph.D., his family, my kids and master’s degree research, his cancer, Canada vs. Latvia and the place of composers in those countries — generally re-establishing our friendship after nearly 15 years. In retrospect it felt like exchanging ideas and verbal intimacies with a younger composer brother I never had.

I’ll always remember our few choice hours together that afternoon in late 2012 — and the surprising gusto and care with which Nic ate, thought and spoke, passionately expressing his undiminished appetite for life in the face of acute challenge. 

—Andrew Timar

bhk__3Many years ago, my good friend Stephanie Martin introduced me to her husband. A professorial man with a Lytton Strachey-esque appeal nodded briefly at me. I soon learned of the warm and affectionate soul which lay beneath the bushy beard and patched elbows of Bruce Kirkpatrick Hill. He and Stephanie were married for 22 years, and their kind and patient partnership was an inspiration to all around them.

Known for his work as music director of Christ Church Deer Park for 11 years, Bruce was also a freelance accompanist — working with the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, Pax Christi and many others over the years. He could also be heard singing at Holy Blossom Temple during the High Holy Days and at the Oratory of the Holy Family at special services.

Bruce had many nicknames (Juicy, Bruce Two-Dinners …) and was usually found outdoors. His great love for sailing was nurtured on his boat, the Hemiola. Even throughout his illness, he rode his Vespa each morning to Pain Perdu on St. Clair for his daily croissants, orange juice and café au lait. Bruce’s desire for fresh air was also exhibited by his frequent sporting of a kilt and sporran, the latter of which contained a copy of Robbie Burns’ Ode to a Haggis, read at his and Stephanie’s yearly Hogmanay celebrations.

Toronto grieves with Stephanie for the loss of this loyal and reliable force in choral and church music. Bruce was an aesthete to the end and took risks to attain excellence in everything he sought — be it music, croissants or travelling. He passed away Sunday, March 18, at the Vladimir Ilich Lenin Hospital in Cuba, in the company of his wife. Bruce is survived by Stephanie Martin and the Martin family; his mother Gillian Hill; two brothers, Andrew and Christopher Hill, and their wives and families.

—Gabrielle McLaughlin


But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle
—Robbie Burns

flame_torontoIT IS A PLACE where commerce, government, and the arts meet. An acre of grass just west of Roy Thomson Hall surrounded by high-rises and theatres. All this makes it a fitting tribute to David Pecaut, the civic entrepreneur whose life reached into so many sectors.

On April 12, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to rename Metro Square, David Pecaut Square in recognition of David’s contributions as a civic leader. The Mayor’s office commented that the square would be a permanent reminder to all citizens of our obligation to not only enjoy living in Toronto but to actively engage in giving of our time and energy to make this city great.

Pecaut was born in Sioux City, Iowa, where his family were stockbrokers. He studied philosophy at Harvard and Oxford, before joining the renowned Boston Consulting Group, and being charged with establishing its Toronto offices. Like so many Torontonians, he wasn’t from here. He chose Toronto, and for that we loved him.

If you stand in just the right spot at David Pecaut Square you can hear the lick of flames from the Eternal Flame of Hope blending with the trickle of water from Bernie Miller’s post-modern fountain. Compared to the bustle of Yonge-Dundas Square, this is a space of respite, where you can hear conversations and discussions. It is a place for a stroll after dinner and meeting friends before the show.

David liked nothing more than meeting new people and learning about their passions. It didn’t matter your age, job, or income, but you’d find him in the corner deep in conversation. He would be the first to push people to explore how they could make a difference in their city.

Luminato had begun plans to move its signature outdoor concerts to the square before it was re-named after our co-founder. This serendipitous union is particularly appropriate as the Festival celebrates its 5th anniversary this June.

For the first time in his history Luminato will offer its full ten days of free events at a single hub location. Every day from June 10 to 19, residents and visitors will find David Pecaut Square alive with free concerts, film screenings, art, activations, food and beverages, the Festival box office, and more, helping christen the square as a place where all rhythms converge ... from a quirky family-friendly afternoon with They Might Be Giants, to an evening with two of the world’s best string quartets; from a tribute to 150 years of Italian unification, to electronic Arabic funk born on the streets of Egypt; from the very latest opera by acclaimed contemporary music composer Mikel Rouse, to the ancient rhythms from Central Asia; from Broadway to Bollywood and everything in between that refuses to be categorized!

The City of Toronto is a crossroads of ideas, cultures, and traditions. Luminato wants to embody this idea with diverse artists, sounds, and audiences sharing the same space and inspiring one another. You may not know Malkit Singh yet, but you will find yourself dancing just the same. If you give them a try, we know it’s just a matter of time until Marco Calliari or Hakim or Nitin Sawhney are playing on your iPod. This is what inspired David and continues to inspire Luminato each year. What’s next? Let’s free creativity and see where it takes us.

The tempo we begin will continue all summer long as jazz festivals, film festivals, marathons and tourists bring new energy and life to one of the least-utilized spaces in the downtown core. And between the parties and concerts, you can still come down to David Pecaut Square and find a quiet place for a conversation.

It was in David’s nature to always engage with and improve whatever was around him. Perhaps his presence and leadership was most acutely felt following the SARS crisis of 2004. His blend of private sector credibility and social consciousness was able to bring the right people together around the table to have non-partisan solution-based conversations. I was working in Philadelphia, and so the first time I met David was when I was invited to Toronto in May 2006 to hear about a new Festival he and Tony Gagliano were launching. Like everyone, I was skeptical at first. But over the course of that lunch, I came to see their vision, to feel their passion, and realise that what they were proposing was one part of a larger city-wide renaissance.

I have linked to a couple of articles that came out shortly after his death in December 2009, in case they are of interest in terms of how the city understood and felt his loss. For us at Luminato, it was very immediate and personal – as I think it was for so many who had the chance to work with him, however briefly.



Toronto-born arts administrator Janice Price was CEO of the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia before returning to Toronto in 2006 as the first CEO of the Luminato Festival.

p26_remembering_hsomers002Harry Somers was a man who was always noticed. He had a presence that would fill a room: whatever room he entered, large or small. He had an enormous intellect and potent creativity, and a physical frame and a big, resonant voice to match. And his composer’s voice was and continues to be more than noticeable: it knocks you over with the force and beauty of its sound and its message. He died in 1999, but like all great composers, Harry remains with us, living in his music.

The release of a Centrediscs DVD of the historic CBC Television production of Harry Somers, Mavor Moore and Jean Languirand’s opera Louis Riel, together with another CD volume of Somers’ orchestral works, gives us an occasion to look back and to remember Harry Somers. It more or less completes, at least for now, the Canadian Music Centre’s Window on Somers project. There has never been a project on this scale to document the music of a Canadian composer; it embraces 12 volumes of CDs (several of them multiple-disc sets), and now its first DVD.

Harry was, for me, both a colleague and a friend. He was a respected composer, a creative powerhouse who could astound us with his bold new ideas and the brilliant scores that embodied them. And he was also a fellow musician who would easily and happily lend an ear to whatever topic we might wish to chat about. Harry loved big, ambitious projects and he also liked to have fun. It’s been 12 years since he died, and I still miss him.

His voice was as strong as it was diverse and multi-faceted. Over the span of his more than 100 works there are monumental creations, such as the operas Louis Riel and Mario and the Magician, and there are miniatures and other small-scale pieces like the choral works Gloria and The Wonder Song. There are chamber works such as the four string quartets and five piano sonatas, and there are media compositions such as Images of Canada and Absract for Television. And there are numerous works that defy classification, like Chura-churum for voices, instruments and electronics, and Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson for actors, singers and instruments. His is a compositional voice that has such range that it can at various times express itself via romantic, neo-baroque, indeterminate, interactive, graphic, polyspatial, polytemporal and other advanced means. In all cases, though, it remains distinctly and characteristically Harry’s voice. That unique, noble, glorious, sacred and profane voice that was and is Harry Somers’.

Over the course of the last 12 years Harry’s widow Barbara Chilcott and his friend Robert Cram have, with the help of many supporters, spun out a long series of recordings and other projects known as A Window on Somers. I was lucky enough to have been the person selected to produce the CDs. There are 12 volumes of CDs on the Centrediscs label, plus a few extra discs originally released as CBC Records but now distributed by the Canadian Music Centre. These recordings collect together a majority, although not yet all of Harry’s musical output. The performances are by musicians whom Harry knew and with whom he chose to work while he was alive. The underlying artistic policy embraced by Barbara and Robert throughout the project was, “just work with the best possible talent – the results will speak for themselves.”

The performances and recordings are made with great skill and superb musicianship, coupled with the affection these artists shared with Harry. The artistic achievement of A Window on Somers is one to be proud of. And it gives us all that unique possession: Harry’s music.

Of course, we would have traded all of this just to have Harry back. His passing at 73 years was, needless to say, premature. He still had so much to say. I bloody well do still miss him. But he gave us a pretty great ride, and inestimable musical riches, along the way. This moment in Canadian musical history is something of a milestone. And we all thank Harry for that.

David Jaeger is a broadcaster, composer, senior music producer at CBC Radio 2 and friend of the late Harry Somers.

For a review of the Centrediscs Riel DVD see CD Editor David Olds’ Editor’s Corner.

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