All of the works assembled for this recording were written for specific times, places, or events that cover a span of 23 years. They were all written for specific performers who are, in nearly every case, different from the ones who play them on this CD. In making the musical selections for this CD, I made an attempt to include as many instrumentalists from Arcady, the ensemble of which I am founding director, as possible. Arcady has recorded two choral-vocal/ orchestral CDs, A Baroque Messiah and Welcome Yule! – Christmas Music of Ronald Beckett, and has been featured on a third - Peace on Earth with flutist Kim Shippey. The opera Ruth will be released late in 2006.
For The Woodwind Quintet, I was fortunate to have four of the five original Essex Winds, for whom the work was originally written, play for this CD. I was always impressed by the players’ technical skills and sense of style, as well as by the humour that they brought to their live performances. The work is an attempt to capture all of those qualities.
The Fantasia, a completion of an organ fragment by Bach, is a piece that to me always had more the feeling of a trio sonata. It is in that guise that it appears for this CD.
The Trio for Flute, Clarinet, and Horn, Three Short Pieces for Piano, and the Mixolydian Quartet, arranged here as a piano duet, were written for instructional purposes. They are simple, lyric, and a definite contrast to the 11/4 metre Toccata from the Oboe Sonata, which was written for university performance.
The Octatonic Suite was written for this CD. Of the modes of limited transposition, the octatonic scale, which alternates whole and half steps, is probably the most useful in that it is able to suggest a full range of harmonic and melodic sonorities.
In Arcady's history, its most significant achievement has been its performances of the operas written for it. Included on this CD are two of the cycle's instrumental dances: the festive harvest celebration of Ruth and the Wedding at Cana from I Am…. In the medley from John we hear instrumentally the voices of Elizabeth and Zacharias, the chaotic dance that precedes Herod's appearance, and the dance of Salome.
For a more complete description of the CD's contents, please consult its liner notes. I hope that you enjoy the music of this CD. If you have a group of your own and wish to use any of these works, do not hesitate to contact us. These are works to be shared.
“Listening to these charming suites, epilogues, fantasias, dances, toccatas, and trios by Canadian composer Ronald Beckett makes one realize just how far the neo-tonal counter-revolution has come. Written over a 23-year period, these are cheery, player-friendly "works to be shared" (in the composer's words) employing baroque counterpoint, occasional minirealist rhythms, and lots of diatonic tunes. Arcady, a chamber group founded by Beckett himself, plays with bubbly energy.”
-American Record Guide
“If Ron Beckett’s music is half as much fun to write as it is to hear, he must go around smiling all the time”
-Richard Todd, Ottawa Citizen
“He has drive, energy, movement and motion all bundled up in old and new style writing that never leaves you bored.”
-George Sandford, 701.com
“This CD demonstrates his solid craftsmanship and pleasant nature as a composer. Mr. Beckett should be commended for his creativity and obvious mastery at bringing people together to make music: a positive force.”
-Larry Beckwith, WholeNote
“…intellectually stimulating music that is fun and pleasant to listen to.”
-Murray Charters, Brantford Expositor
“Listeners who sometimes despair when listening to new music will delight in the beautifully lyrical music comprising A Beckett Miscellany.”
-Robert Reid, Kitchener-Waterloo Record