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Stephen Chatman: Biography

Stephen Chatman
1950 -
Region: British Columbia

Stephen Chatman

One of Canada’s most frequently performed composers, Stephen Chatman, C.M., D.M.A. is Professor of Composition at the University of British Columbia School of Music. He has received many composition awards, including 2005, 2006 and 2010 Western Canadian Music Awards “Classical Composition of the Year”, 2010 and 2012 SOCAN Jan V. Matejcek New Classical Music Award, three BMI Awards (New York), multiple JUNO nominations, Dorothy Somerset Award, the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and is the only Canadian ever short-listed for the BBC Masterprize (London). Dr. Chatman was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2012.

Chatman is recognized internationally as a composer of choral, orchestral, and piano music. His approximately 100 choral works, widely performed and published by Highgate Press (ECS Publishing, Boston), Boosey & Hawkes (New York), Oxford University Press (New York), earthsongs (Corvallis, Oregon), E.B. Marks (Hal Leonard), Mayfair (Markham, Ontario) and Alfred, have sold more than 500,000 printed copies. Recorded works include three choral collections performed by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, “Due North” (Centrediscs), “Due East” (Centrediscs) and “Due West” (CBC Records-Centrediscs), "A Chatman Christmas" (Centrediscs), mixed ensemble collections, "Vancouver Visions" (Centrediscs), "Magnificat" (Centrediscs), an orchestral collection, “Proud Music of the Storm” (Centrediscs), and instrumental recordings on C.R.I., CBC Records, Naxos, Atma, Globe, Crystal, Skylark, Arsis, Albany, and Frederick Harris Music Celebration Series. His orchestral works, commissioned by the Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Windsor, Calgary, and Madison symphonies and the CBC Radio Orchestra, and published by Highgate Press (ECS Publishing) and Theodore Presser (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania), have been performed and recorded by the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Niagara, Sydney, Seoul, San Francisco, St. Louis, Detroit, Dallas, New World, Montreal, Quebec, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, P.E.I., and New Foundland symphonies.

Chatman has received many commissions through the Canada Council, the C.B.C., the B.C. Arts Council, and the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, including works for Vancouver New Music, Montreal’s S.M.C.Q., Winnipeg’s Music Inter Alia, Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, Michigan State University’s Verdehr Trio; Purcell (Vancouver), Accordes (Toronto) and Pro Arte (University of Wisconsin) string quartets; pianists Marc-Andre Hamelin and Jane Coop, contralto Maureen Forrester, violinists Andrew Dawes and Gwen Thompson, cellist Eric Wilson, clarinettists Gene Ramsbottom, Henri Bok, and Philip Rehfeldt, saxophonists Julia Nolan, David Branter, and Donald Sinta, the S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatte Competition, Vancouver’s Chamber Choir, Bach Choir, Cantata Singers, Phoenix Chamber Choir, and Chor Leoni, Calgary’s Kantorei, Toronto’s Elmer Iseler Singers, Oriana Singers, Maryland State Boychoir, Children's Choir, Mississauga, Children's Choir, Surrey (BC) Children's Choir, and Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus; Association of Canadian Choral Conductors, Nova Scotia Music Educators’ Assoc., Newfoundland's Philharmonic Choir, University of Michigan Chamber Choir, International Choral Festival Kathaumixw, and the Banff Centre School of Fine Arts.

Born in 1950 in Faribault, Minnesota, Chatman studied with Joseph Wood and Walter Aschaffenburg at the Oberlin Conservatory and with Ross Lee Finney, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and Eugene Kurtz at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He completed his D.M.A. degree in 1977.

Stylistically, many of Chatman’s pre-1982 works are complex, virtuosic, and atonal. His early chamber works, in particular, are highly concerned with colour, contrast, and tightly controlled motivic development. By the late 70’s, Chatman’s music suggests a more complete musical expression, encompassing a broad range of musical traditions, eclecticism, and post-modern aesthetics: collage techniques, simplified musical language, tonality, modality, minimalism, traditional forms, popular music influences, counterpoint of styles, veiled references, and theatrical elements. Chatman has remarked, “It’s easy to enjoy all types of music-- I don’t want to be pigeon-holed. A composer must be true to himself”. (Stephen Chatman brochure, PROCAN, Toronto, May, 1989).

In 1982, Chatman began composing choral music influenced by various traditional musical styles. “You Have Ravished My Heart” for SATB (1982), a transitional work and the first of many “accessible” or “popular” choral works, signals Chatman’s gradual departure from modernism and a path toward post-modernism, spirituality, and a wider audience. These post-1982 secular and sacred choral works, in addition to many educational piano pieces, embrace a predominantly pan-diatonic tonal language, lyricism, melody, folk song, and more traditional musical gestures, forms, and compositional techniques.

As Professor of composition, orchestration, co-director of University of British Columbia Contemporary Players new music ensemble, and Head of the UBC School of Music composition division, Chatman has taught a generation of prominent Canadian composers. Among his former composition students are Canadian Music Centre Associate Composers, Mark Armanini, Howard Bashaw, Rolf Boon, Glenn Buhr, John Burge, Paul Cram, Neil Currie, Arne Eigenfeldt, John Estacio, Peter Hatch, Melissa Hui, John Korsrud, Jacqueline Leggatt, Brent Lee, Grace Lee, Ramona Luengen, Michael Maguire, Mark Mitchell, Jocelyn Morlock, Larry Nickel, John Oliver, Bob Pritchard, Laurie Radford, Douglas Schmidt, Paul Steenhuisen, Brian Tate, Peter Togni, Neil Weisensel, and Rui-shi Zhuo. Chatman, who has served on many Canada Council juries and national student composition contest juries, was Jury Chairman of the 2001 CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers.

Stephen Chatman is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, a past President of Vancouver New Music; and a member of the Canadian League of Composers, SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Inc., and the American Music Center.

For additional information, see the Stephen Chatman entry in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition, London, 2000; Stephen Chatman Fonds, Library and Archives Canada, www.collectionscanada.ca ; Canadian Music Centre ; www.musiccentre.ca ; The University of British Columbia School of Music www.music.ubc.ca ; The Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited www.frederickharrismusic.com ; ECS Publishing http://www.ecspub.com ; CBC Records http://cbcrecords.ca ; Centrediscs www.centredisc.ca ; Vancouver Chamber Choir www.vancouverchamberchoir.com ; www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com ; and www.socan.ca .

Tara Wohlberg (revised 2014)


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