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Composer selected for Convocation music commission

By Bojan Fürst

Memorial University has a new piece of music to commemorate its 100th convocation ceremony.

The call to Canadian composers went out in December asking for an original suite of ceremonial music for the special event. The responses poured in from across the country. The proposal that ultimately impressed the selection committee came from an old friend of Memorial.

“We were delighted with the enthusiastic response we got from composers, and are very pleased that Dr. Michael Parker has been selected as our convocation music composer celebrating our 100th regular convocation,” said Dr. Tom Gordon, director of Memorial’s School of Music.

Ki Adams, Don Buell and Clifford Crawley were the members of the selection committee that reviewed the 12 proposals the university received. In their recommendation, the committee noted that the musical qualities of the proposals were impressive and the final selection was difficult. In selecting Dr. Parker, they wrote, “We feel sure he has the ability, imagination, and experience to carry out this commission in an appropriate and exciting manner.”

Dr. Parker had a long and distinguished career as a professor of classics at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College campus and as a composer whose music has been commissioned, recorded and performed across Canada.

Dr. Parker, who currently resides in Sackville, N.S., was thrilled with the news that his proposal has been selected among all the entries.

“I am really, really pleased,” he said. “I have been at Grenfell for 30 years in education and it is very exciting to compose music for what is the climax of a student’s journey. This is a wonderful opportunity to combine my interest in classics and music.”

Dr. Parker acknowledged that the pieces are quite challenging because they require several arrangements and they need to be variable in length. He is planning to base the pieces on a Newfoundland tune. Most of his time is currently spent in the library researching music that will serve as the basis of his original work. “It is going to be unique to Memorial. I have four months, but it is tricky and I have to get down to work,” he explained excitedly.

Dr. Gordon sees the commission as a lot more than just a piece of ceremonial music.

“I think Canadian universities could do a lot more in terms of encouraging creation of new works of art. A commission like this is a way of validating our own composers and creating something that is useful and commemorative at the same time. This is a great opportunity to do that and I am very excited about it,” he said.

Dr. Parker’s music will be performed for the first time at the 100th regular convocation this May.