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Robert Frederick Jones

Robert Frederick Jones (b. 1947) grew up only a few miles from the vast deserts of Arizona. Its colours, moods, and austere landscape influenced him spiritually, emotionally, and musically. At the age of six he began to study piano and soon after composed his first piece. He studied composition at New England Conservatory and Brandeis University, where he received a Ph.D. in composition. His teachers included Daniel Pinkham, Robert Cogan, George Perle, and Seymour Shifrin. In 1972 he moved to Canada, teaching at McGill University, Mount Allison University, and, since 1976, at Vanier College. He was appreciated for his outstanding abilities as a pianist, choral conductor, and composer of music with an intensely spiritual quality.

He composed many works for a great variety of performing media, among them a Mass (1987) for children’s voices and organ that have been performed at Westminster Abbey and Salisbury Cathedral, The Glass Ship (2000), a full-evening work for actor and string quartet based on four Canadian short stories produced at the Stratford Festival, and a one-act, one-character opera, Miss Havisham’s Testament (2002), performed at Theatre Lac Brome in Knowlton, Quebec. In the summer of 2001, he was a guest composer at the Ernest Bloch Festival in Newport, Oregon.

Stylistically, Jones evolved from the “East Coast serialism” of his first mature works to an eclectic postmodernism. Each of his works creates a mysterious world with its own flavour and scent – an intensely personal atmosphere evoking landscapes of the exterior and interior world: the ancient myths of Wales in The Sleeping Lord (1983), the austere deserts of Arizona in The Solace of Fierce Landscapes (2000), the slumbering bayous of Louisiana in Atchafalaya (2005).

Jones has said that his style is characterized by freedom, “freedom to combine traditional and novel features in the same piece, freedom to vary the stylistic mixture from piece to piece and movement to movement, freedom to combine the rigidly predetermined with the freely intuitive, and a desire to involve the listener’s whole self, not just the ears or the intellect.”

Pamela Jones 2007

Robert Frederick Jones passed away April 3, 2012.

Visit Robert Frederick Jones' website.

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Canadian Music Centre