Amy Clements-Cortes the production of endorphins. “These are the chemicals causing the pleasurable runner’s high,” she says. Rapid music also ratchets up arousal, ramping up breathing and heart rate. Music also gives us a high akin to the glow of good sex or the lure of gambling. MRI scans have shown that listening to music engages the reward centre of the brain and triggers the discharge of the feel-good chemical, dopamine, says Thaut. Tunes also counteract the immobility of depression. When people listen to music, the part of the brain responsible for movement becomes activated. Even if they continue sitting, their minds are in flight, says Thaut. Anxiety is another common consequence of Alzheimer’s, says Thaut. As the disease progresses, patients no longer recognize their surroundings, their loved ones, or even their own memories. These deficits leave them feeling disoriented and can lead to agitation – yelling, resisting a bath, or even hitting loved ones. Gina Scenna wanders up and down the hallways of Villa Colombo. She appears angry and confused. “She’s trying to look for something but she can’t find it,” says behaviour specialist Anna Abrantes. Abrantes puts on her iPod filled with her favourite Italian songs. Scenna’s expression softens. She grabs Abrantes’ hands and starts dancing, bopping up and down in time to the music. When she tires, she sits down calmly, eyes closed, rapt in reverie. Inspired by the movie Alive Inside, about the benefits of music on dementia, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto supplies free iPods, loaded with individualized music, to clients with dementia. Our bodies are soothed by music, says Clements-Cortes. We produce oxytocin when we hear pleasant songs. This substance, known as the “the cuddle hormone,” is normally released in the presence of our lovers. “It gives us a feeling of contentment.” Listening to familiar tunes is also comforting and dials down our stress hormone, cortisol. Music can be particularly reassuring to agitated Alzheimer’s patients, says Thaut. Its ability to stir memories back to life reduces clients’ disorientation. “If a person feels more anchored to themselves and to their environments, that makes them more secure.” Music benefits the caregivers too, says Vanstone. “It’s tremendously rewarding to see their loved ones spark up a little bit.” As well, significant others don’t need to fear the side effects, including falls, which are an inevitable consequence of antipsychotics used to treat agitation. The choir sings its final song, Shalom Aleichem (Hebrew for “Peace be upon you”). As the last harmonies soar to the ceiling, Clements- Cortes claps her hands. “Great job, excellent,” she says. She is thrilled with the way music has temporarily turned back the clock on the singers’ lives. “Using music someone enjoys and has a connection to helps to revive their personality,” she says. “It’s like their old self is back for a little bit.” The man in the green pants walks up to her at the end of the practice. He probably can’t articulate why he feels so stoked after an hour of singing. But he knows one thing. “I love you a bushel and a peck,” he tells his choir leader, referring to the lyrics of one of the golden oldies. Clements-Cortes is moved. “I’m honoured to work as a music therapist. I love seeing the benefits of music in their lives,” she says. To obtain an iPod for your loved one, see alz.to/get-help/ music-project. Vivien Fellegi is a former family physician now working as a freelance medical journalist. WE ARE ALL MUSIC’S CHILDREN April’s Child John Beckwith MJ BUELL For about 40 years John Beckwith has lived with his life-partner, Kathleen McMorrow – more than 30 of those years in an Annex semi they love. Beyond his musical career his strong interests include cycle-touring and Scottish country dancing. As a contribution to environmental preservation he collects elastic bands which he donates to a local supermarket. April’s child was in fact born in March, in 1927. There is something nearly poetic that his 90th birthday is the same year as Canada’s 150th. “What I would love to see in Canadian music and probably never will, but still hope, is that there would be pieces from the Canadian repertoire that Canadians would feel they possessed, the way they possess the novels of Margaret Laurence or the paintings of AY Jackson.” – John Beckwith, the self-described “optimistic pessimist” in conversation with Eitan Cornfield – Canadian Composers Portrait: John Beckwith. Composer, writer, pianist, teacher, administrator, cyclist and consummate Canadian, John Beckwith was born and grew up in Victoria, BC. His father, whose family settled in Nova Scotia in the 1760s, was a lawyer and his mother was a teacher and a school trustee. Beckwith first came to Toronto at the age of 17 on a piano scholarship, 60 | April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017 thewholenote.com
to study with Alberto Guerrero. An alumnus of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music and an instructor there, he was dean from 1970 to 1977, and founder of the U of T Institute for Canadian Music. At a time when the “serious” music in our relatively young country was largely Eurocentric and classical, Beckwith’s composition students were encouraged to additionally explore all the music of North America – aboriginal music and folksongs, hymns and jazz. Beckwith’s own oeuvre includes opera and lyric theatre, orchestral and chamber music, choral works and many songs for solo voice. These reflect collaborations too numerous to list – but particularly notable among these is his longtime association with the poet and playwright James Reaney. A former reviewer for the Toronto Star and a CBC scriptwriter and programmer in the 1950s and 1960s, Beckwith has written many articles and books on musical topics. In 1987 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012) is Beckwith in his own candid, lively and humourful words: detail-rich reading for anyone interested not only in its writer but also in the Canadian music scene of his lifetime. Eitan Cornfield’s documentary Canadian Composer Portraits: John Beckwith (Centrediscs) features Beckwith himself, but also reflects the colourful fabric of his world, including contributions from family, friends and associates. Suppose a friendly fellow traveller asks what you do for a living? When people asked Violet Archer what she did, she would say she wrote music, and the next question always was, “Yes, but I mean what is your occupation?” When Harry Somers told friendly fellow travellers he wrote music, they always asked “What kind?” to which his reply was “Unpopular music.” Would I reply with one of those composer sarcasms? Yes, probably. Tell us about that childhood photo. I think it depicts my first bike, but that seems unlikely: the first real bike, maybe. The background is a new home my family moved into in the spring of 1936, which means I had just turned nine. Your absolute earliest memory of music? Absolute? I wish I could make an interesting answer, but I can’t. I’ve read about “earliest specific memories of music” and once composed a work for children’s CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS! “At the Toronto performance of Wendake/Huronia in early February I was presented with this bolo by our two First Nations drummers, Shirley Hay and Marilyn George. It was a pleasure working with them and I was very touched to receive this gift.” voices trying to depict the evolution of musical awareness – it’s called Basic Music. My very early memories (from age five or so): playing in a rhythm band in our living room, organized as a neighbourhood project by my mother; singing and dancing with my young sister to the accompaniment of a wind-up Edison phonograph. The half-inch-thick discs included things like the Coronation March from Le prophète (Meyerbeer) and The Whistler and His Dog. Musicians in your family? Both my parents sang, played the piano and were active in musical organizations; all my children are musical, two of them professionally. Two of my granddaughters are outstandingly musical but it’s early to say whether they will pursue musical careers. Where did hearing music fit into your life as a child? I listened to radio constantly and uncritically but came to enjoy specially the orchestral concerts of Toscanini and others, and the Saturday broadcasts from the Met Opera. Thanks to my parents, I attended many live concerts and as a child heard many renowned performers – Rubinstein, Elman, Marian Anderson; astonishing to think that Victoria hosted so many in those rich touring years. I took piano lessons from age six, and sang in a church choir from ages 8 to 13; there was not much of a regular music program at school. What experiences helped to form your appetite for staged works? I was active in theatre and as a teenager won a scholarship to a summer acting course at the Banff School of Fine Arts. One of the teachers said I was talented and could have a career in professional theatre. I also acted in Toronto during student years and came to know a number of theatre personalities of my generation. This background, yes, was influential for the various stage projects I later worked on. When and how did composing become part of the picture? It just seemed more and more important starting when I was about eight and increasing gradually through my teens. Did you ever think you would do something else? You must be kidding.… Please read John Beckwith’s entire interview at thewholenote.com A new Music’s Children contest will appear next month in our May edition. UPCOMING “On April 28 New Music Concerts is presenting a concert at Trinity-St Paul’s, for which I was invited to curate the program, including some of my own music. The list includes works by Stravinsky and Weinzweig (two strong influences on me in early composing days), and three works by me, two of which are quite recent (2015, 2016) and have not been played before.” JB In conjunction with this sesquicentennial year New Music Concerts honours the extraordinary life and work of one of Canada’s most distinguished living composers, a man who has lived through the triumphs and tribulations of fully three-fifths of this nation’s history. On April 28 “Celebrating John Beckwith” will feature tenor Benjamin Butterfield, pianist William Aide, the Accordes Quartet, and the NMC Ensemble, directed by Robert Aitken. A pair of tickets each is waiting for MICHAEL HINGERT and CHRISTINA NGUYEN. Avowals [CMCCD 12907] This recording for solo voices and piano includes Beckwith songs drawing on the poetry of e.e. cummings and Canadian writers Margaret Laurence, bpNichol and Miriam Waddington, also some wonderful arrangements of traditional Canadian songs, performed by sopranos Teri Dunn and Kathryn Domoney, baritone Doug MacNaughton, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, with William Aide (piano, celeste and harpsichord). Butterfield and Aide will reprise Avowals at NMC’s April 28 concert. This recording is awarded to SUSAN BARAK, and to FRANCES GILES. Canadian Composer Portraits: John Beckwith [CMCCD 9103] This recording is part of Centrediscs’ series Canadian Composers Portraits which features full-length documentaries about composers’ lives and music, and a selection of their most important works. CD 1 is a Beckwith documentary by Eitan Cornfield. CD 2 includes Beckwith’s The Trumpets of Summer (text by Margaret Atwood), Taking a Stand, Synthetic Trios and Stacey (text by Margaret Laurence) all performed by an illustrious list of individual Canadian performers and ensembles. This recording is awarded to DEBORAH DAVIS and to JOAN McGORMAN. thewholenote.com April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017 | 61
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