Boyd McDonald | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Boyd McDonald

Boyd McDonald. Pianist, fortepianist, composer, teacher, b Tuberose, Sask, 28 Sep 1932; ARCT 1951, LRSM 1953. In Saskatoon McDonald studied piano with Lyell Gustin and composition with Murray Adaskin.

McDonald, Boyd

Boyd McDonald. Pianist, fortepianist, composer, teacher, b Tuberose, Sask, 28 Sep 1932; ARCT 1951, LRSM 1953. In Saskatoon McDonald studied piano with Lyell Gustin and composition with Murray Adaskin. With Canada Council funding he studied 1957-60 in Paris with Nadia Boulanger (composition) and Jean Casadesus (piano). Other composition teachers (at summer schools) included Darius Milhaud, John Cage, and Stefan Wolpe.

Beckett-McDonald Piano Duo
In 1966 McDonald and fellow pianist Garth Beckett founded the Beckett-McDonald duo in Saskatoon; the following year they joined the faculty at the University of Manitoba, where they were coached by Alma Brock-Smith. In 1976 they moved to Wilfrid Laurier University, where McDonald taught piano and theory and was co-ordinator of a baroque and classical workshop held each July. From 1976 to 1979 McDonald's performing career centred on the duo, which toured Canada, England, and Europe, making its London debut at Wigmore Hall in 1972, and its New York debut at Alice Tully Hall in 1978. The duo's activities were reduced in the 1980s and 1990s. The group premiered commissioned works written for them by Bruce Mather, Robert Turner, Jack Behrens, and Owen Underhill.


In the early 1980s McDonald became interested in 18th- and early 19th-century fortepianos. In 1984 he acquired a copy of a five-octave, mid-1780s Stein instrument; in 1988 he purchased a copy of a six-and-a-half-octave Streicher piano from 1816. As a fortepianist McDonald gave a lecture-recital tour in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 1986, and a Canadian recital tour in 1990. He was a founding member of the Classical Trio (with Jeanne Lamon, baroque violin, and Christina Mahler, baroque cello). In 1989 he toured Nova Scotia with the Mannheim Trio (with soprano Valerie Kinslow and clarinetist Sherman Friedland). He has also performed with baritone David Falk at the Boston Early Music Festival.

As a soloist McDonald has been heard on CBC radio's 'Two New Hours'; his fortepiano repertoire includes works written for him by Behrens and Underhill.


McDonald's Suite for Nine Solo Instruments was written on commission for the 1959 Saskatoon Summer Festival of Music. His Fantasy for Piano (1974) was a jury piece for the semi-finals of the 1978 Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, at which McDonald was a juror. His 'Lament for Pushti' (1984) from Catworks for Young Pianists was published in Waterloo Music 's Canada Music Week Silver Anniversary Collection. His Time Lines for Piano Duet (1982) was written for Diana McIntosh, and his Three for Two (1989) for trombone, piano, and trumpet was written for Guy Few and Alain Trudel.

After 1990, McDonald wrote Dialogue (1992) for harpsichord and fortepiano, premiered by Delores Keahey and Eric Lussier; Concertpiece (1993) for Guy Few (trumpet); Keyboard Quintet (1994) for piano and string quartet; Overture (1994) for accordion and piano; Three Accords (1995), accordion solo premiered by Joseph Petric and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in 2000; Pulsations for Piano (1995), commissioned by the Saskatchewan Registered Music Teacher's Association; An Artist's Neighbourhood (1996) for Christine Vanderkooy (solo piano, arranged for band in 1997); and Bachillennium for Piano Duet (2000), commissioned by the Ontario Registered Music Teacher's Association. McDonald has also written several works for voice, choirs, bands, and orchestras.

McDonald's compositions have been performed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the Waterloo Chamber Players, the Wellington Winds, the Renaissance Singers, Symphony Hamilton, and the Scholars of London, as well as many solo Canadian artists, including Theodore Baerg, Garry Gable, and Reid Spencer.

McDonald is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Recordings and Awards

McDonald has made several recordings of his compositions as well as recordings as an accompanist and ensemble pianist/fortepianist. In addition to the Canada Council grant, McDonald won the Leschetizky Debut Prize in 1963.

Further Reading