Earmark // Daniel McConnachie

February 4, 2019

In this installment of the Earmark series we speak with CMC Associate Composer Daniel McConnachie about Saturday night parties, music in Kingston, and mentors such as Istvan Anhalt.

Canadian Music Centre: What got you excited about music at a young age?

Daniel McConnachie: While I was born in Toronto I came of age north of the city near King City. Our house was filled with music, either on the radio (CBC) or my Dad’s record collection. He had a diverse taste as did my Mum, everything from classical to hot and cool jazz. Family favourite TV shows all had a musical component as well—shows such as Don Messer’s Jubilee or Ed Sullivan were staples.

Weekends were special though. Both of my parents were Scots and on Saturday nights inevitably their friends would drop by and a party would break out. Everyone had a “song” that was theirs and they would all take turns singing about “the land over the water.” At a young age I learned the accordion and would accompany them as best I could. High school was an introduction to other interests and it is where I first started playing the bassoon in band and the bari sax in rock band horn sections. I knew by grade 10 that I wanted to study music seriously at university.

CMC: What was the most important music event you attended?

DM: I have one event that stands out in my memory and that was a Toronto Symphony concert I attended at Massey Hall in the late 60’s organized by my high school music teacher, Carl Mulcahy. Sergio Ozawa was conducting Pictures at an Exhibition. I remember being amazed at the colours of the orchestra (Ravel) and the ability of Mussorgsky to portray the images in musical form.

My introduction to New Music was as a student of Istvan Anhalt’s. I got to hear sections of his major work La Tourangelle that he shared with us in our composition class. It had a purity of sound but a complexity of vision. It is that purity that I try to recreate in my music today.

CMC: What have you been listening to lately?

DM: My music today is an exploration of the intersection of traditional music with classical forms and instrumentation, so the music I have been listening to is also exploring this intersection. Composers like James MacMillan, Ailie Robertson, Lori Watson, Aidan O’Rourke and Simon Thoumire. Mr. McFall’s Chamber Orchestra has recorded much of these composers’ music as they too explore this intersection. Aidan O’Rourke’s Bridge is currently a particular favourite.

CMC: How do you define your musical/artistic community?

DM: Kingston is a vibrant musical community. One can find an outlet for any form of music making. It is amazing how many choirs there are here. Everyone involved in classical music making knows everyone else and are only separated by small degrees. Kingston has a deep sense of its history and much of the music making that goes on here reflects that history.

CMC: Tell me about a project/work of yours that you are particularly proud of.

DM: I recently completed and had performed a work I composed for string orchestra called Post Cards from Prince Edward Island. The work utilized the strings of Orchestra Kingston and the senior Suzuki students of the Canta Arya School here in Kingston. The work combined traditional tunes with freely composed material that featured the students in a leading role. It was an interesting project.