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Milton Barnes: Biography

Milton Barnes
1931 - 2001
Region: Ontario

Milton Barnes

Acknowledged as one of Canada's most innovative composers, Milton Barnes' (1931-2001) prodigious output is enjoyed internationally and performed world-wide by soloists, chamber groups, choruses and symphony orchestras.

His music, which draws inspiration from such varied sources as mainstream 'romantic' classical music, jazz, latin and traditional hebraic music, has consistently drawn praise from audiences, musicians and critics. As a composer, Barnes disregards definitions which usually segregate music into clearly defined categories. His eclectic fusion style is evident through a wide range of his repertoire.

Born in Toronto in 1931, Barnes began his musical career as a jazz drummer and guitarist in the 50's, supporting himself while studying composition with John Weinzweig and Ernst Krenek, conducting with Victor Feldbrill and Boyd Neel at the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto).

A meeting and ensuing friendship with Maestro Zubin Mehta at the Berkshire Music School in Tanglewood (USA) led to his attending and graduating from the Orchestra and Opera Conducting School of the Vienna Academy of Music in 1961. He also studied conducting at the Chigianna School in Sienna, Italy in 1959.

Auditioning for Maestro Walter Susskind in 1963 led to an engagement with the Toronto Symphony as part of a Young Conductors Series sponsored by the Toronto Star. This launched his professional conducting career and subsequent decade of guest conducting, recording and broadcasting for CBC Radio and Television.

Barnes served as Music Director/Conductor for both the Niagara Symphony and Chorus (1964-72) and the Niagara Falls Philharmonic and Chorus (USA) (1965-73).

He founded the Toronto Repertory Orchestra in 1964, conducting it for nine years, and set the pace through concerts, CBC recordings, commisions and premiers in Toronto and Canada for a new format in contemporary classical music programming. Special concerts with the TRO included several "openings": St.Lawrence Centre for the Arts and Yorkvile Square (Toronto) as well as a CBC Centennial broadcast concert from Expo 67 in Montreal. The TRO performed the first 'stereo' concert on CBC as well as the first 'in-house' concert production for CBC television.

In 1973 Barnes made a conscious decision to focus on composing full time. He subsequently served as a Composer-in-Residence/Conductor for the Toronto Dance Theatre (1968-73), the Blue Mountain Music School, Collingwood, Ontario (1975-76), the New Chamber Orchestra of Canada (Bill Phillips, conductor) (1975-79), the Vaughy String Quartet Institute in Kingston, Ontario (1979). He has given seven full concerts of his music, a number of them broadcast on CBC Radio, including a Three Concert Series on "Morningside".

His first exposure as a composer for the theatre began with dramatic productions at the University of Toronto in the early fifties and subsequently his tenure at the Crest Theatre in Toronto (1961-63). His association with the St.Lawrence Centre, Toronto (1974-75) led to his invitation to compose the score for the 25th Anniversary production (Galileo, Brecht) of the Pittsburgh Playhouse (USA) in 1981.

His credits include composing, orchestrating, and conducting scores for feature films and television: including "Blood and Guts" (Quadrant Films), "The Care Bear Movies I, II and III" (Nelvana Films), and dramas for CBC Television.

Milton Barnes' profile has appeared in feature press articles including the Globe and Mail (1999), Canadian Jewish News (1999), and the Toronto Star, as well as magazine features in Canadian Composer and International Society of Basses and Strings, USA.

He is represented on disc by many of Canadas leading performing artists and ensembles including; Erica Goodman, Joel Quarrington, Moshe Hammer, Amadeus Ensemble, Trio Lyra, Nexus, Leona Boyd, Guy Few, Rivka Golani, and Robert Verebes.

Barnes has accepted invitations for "Meet the Composer" forums at Universities, Music Clubs, Radio and TV stations, Orchestras, Music Conventions and in-school student groups. He has also given private and group instruction in composing, orchestration and conducting.

The bulk of Mr. Barnes' compositions have been commisioned by the following: The Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Laidlaw Foundation, Film and Dance/Theatre organisations, and Corporate and Private sponsors.

Milton Barnes passed away in Toronto, Canada on February 26, 2001


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