Dear John

Composition Date: 2013
Duration: 00:08:00
Genre: Solo Voice, With Solo Instrument, , Plectral String(s)


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Harp
  • 1 x Soprano
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Programme Note:
Dear John was written to commemorate Canadian composer John Weinzweig’s centenary in 2013. This work is a homage to him and to his music. It is written to celebrate some of the qualities I most admire in John’s compositions - his knack for expressing joy and irony. As I began the work, I went to two of my favorite Weinzweig works: Private Collection for soprano and piano, and to 15 Pieces for Harp, written for Judy Loman. For text, I chose to use the title of the work, Dear John in addition to borrowed parts of John’s own text from Private Collection:

where would you go if you were going?
what would you dream if you were dreaming?
what would you cry if you were crying?
what would you sigh if you were sighing?

I think that he would appreciate the ironic title of Dear John as it is both sincere homage and an ironic play on the “dear john’ form letter. John loved working with all 12 tones (and was famously the first Canadian to use 12 tone technique). I used his name to generate the 12 tones I would need to begin composing. I discovered that John Weinzweig is indeed thirteen letters long, not twelve. I promptly devised a work-around creating an alphabetic cipher matched to a 13 note chromatic scale beginning on A: I then spelled out his name: I then distilled the namesake melody to create the 8-note WeinzScale, which forms the harmonic vocabulary of the piece: Of course things are never perfect. The harp is not a chromatic instrument and is particularly bad at 12 tone music. John himself knew this, as does every harpist (but he nonetheless succeeded in writing his 15 Pieces for Harp, which is indeed 12-tone). My 8-note scale made things a bit easier, but the 7-note-per-octave physical reality of the harp became a decisive force in creating a few 7-note versions of my 8 note scale. But all fun and humour aside, this is a seriously whimsical, seriously sincere homage to our own Dean of Composers. Enjoy!
This work was commissioned by Daniel and Paul Weinzweig.
Thank you to Judy Loman for her invaluable assistance with the harp writing.

Premiere Information:
Walter Hall
8 Mar 2013
Judy Loman, Shannon Mercer


  • Call Number:
  • MV 1102 S784de
  • Genre:
  • Solo Voice, With Solo Instrument, , Plectral String(s)
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • May 13, 2013
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (13 p.) ;
    13 Pages
    Height: 32 cm
    Width: 24 cm
  • Language Information
  • Main language: English
  • Additional Information:

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Click here to listen to Dear John in Centrestreams.

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Dear John : Score
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Dear John by Andrew Staniland (Score)
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Dear John
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Copies of this work are available for loan from: Toronto