Sam Black Sketches

Stewart Grant

Rental
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Sam Black was born in Scotland and studied in France, Belgium and the U.K. He came to Canada in the 1950s to join the Education Faculty at the University of British Columbia and his many years as a teacher of art educators reflect his dedication not only to his art, but also to the importance of the arts as an essential humanizing element in the education of young people. Sam Black?s works can be found in many private, corporate and public collections throughout the world, including the Glasgow Art Gallery, the Imperial War Museum in London, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Canada Council Art Bank, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Royal Collection of drawings and watercolours at Windsor Castle. He works in watercolours, acrylic and oils and is also widely known for his graphic prints, woodcuts and lithographs. His art largely reflects his interest in the sea and life forms of the coastal fringes, and with such interests it is not surprising that his home and studio are located on Bowen Island beside the changing sea.

The evolution of the "Sam Black Sketches" began a number of years ago when Gerald Borch and Colleen Williamson visited Sam Black at his home on Bowen Island. On the way back to Horse Shoe Bay on the ferry, they discussed their impressions of Sam?s work and together conceived the idea of a piece of music or a ballet based on his sketchbooks. In the summer of 1984, Gerry introduced himself to me after a concert I conducted at the Banff Festival of the Arts and explained his idea. He had heard a performance of my "Dance Rhapsody" by Musaeus on the Calgary Pro Musica series and decided that I was the composer he wanted to have compose the music for the project. Attempts on his part to interest a ballet company came to naught, se we finally decided to go ahead with a concert work for full orchestra - a kind of B.C. coastal ?Pictures at an Exhibition?. In the summer of 1988 he sent me out to meet Sam and I shared his strong impression of Sam?s work - in fact, I was so impressed that I purchased a couple of limited edition prints on the spot.

The musical work that finally grew out of this whole process is in nine interconnected sections, each based on either a single picture or a collection of pictures. The work opens with ?Misty Morn?, based on a lithograph print of a lone fishing dorry viewed dimly through a pinkish haze. It is appropriately soft and mysterious with melodies first in the flute and then in the english horn heard under a tremolo ostinato in the high violins. Out of this emerges ?Bowen Island in Sunlight?, which is based not so much on any of Sam?s paintings as on my strong impressions of the sea, mountains and coastal wildlife I experienced that bright, sunny day I visited him on Bowen Island. The next section is based on a collection of woodcut prints of B.C. coastal working scenes centered on fishing boats, and the music is appropriately angular and busy. This moves directly into ?Farewell to Summer?, based on a print of brilliant yellow sunflowers and featuring the brilliance of the upper winds and vibraphone. ?The Home Guard? is a picture of Canada geese strutting along in military fashion and the music that it inspired is similarly military, in a rather satirical way, with frequent interjections from the geese. Sam?s ?Caribbean Sketches? were done on a trip to the Bahamas and depict the people and boats of the islands in strong lines and gentle colours. My music for these is a calypso that tries to achieve both the colour and the inner strength of Sam?s drawings. ?The Accuser? is a picture of an arctic owl that Sam saw at the Toronto Zoo. The music depicts the arctic chill and the caged owl in its attempted flight, with the owl?s haunting song played by the bassoon in its upper register. ?Storm Over Moresby? was inspired by a trip Sam took to the Queen Charlotte Islands and he described to me the context of the painting - the bleak dark landscape, the Indian totem poles, and the winds howling high above him as clouds sped across the sky. The music is appropriately stormy and turbulent and reaches a great brassy climax - but from it emerges the gentle music of ?Coastal Poem?, based on a warm blue-green lithograph of a coastal tugboat on the calm waters of English Bay. As in the opening seascapes, the melody is shared by the violins and english horn, but the final focus is on the solo flute, who summarizes the whole work and the view of Man and Nature it expresses before the evening calm gently fades into silence

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Additional Information

Composition Date 1989
Duration 00:20:00
Orchestration 3 2 2 2 - 4 2 3 1; 3Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
Premiere May, 1989. Lethbridge Symphony, conducted by Stewart Grant, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Details

1 Misty Morn
2 Bowen Island in Sunlight
3 B.C. Working Boats
4 Farewell to Summer . 5 The Home Guard
6 Caribbean Sketches
7 The Accuser
8 Storm over Moresby
9 Coastal Poem

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