John Hawkins

John Hawkins. Composer, pianist, teacher, b Montreal 26 Jul 1944, d Toronto 14 Jan 2007; premier prix (CMM) 1967, B MUS (McGill) 1967, Concert Diploma (McGill) 1968, MMA (McGill) 1970. Hawkins studied piano at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec with Lubka Kolessa and at McGill University.

Hawkins, John

John Hawkins. Composer, pianist, teacher, b Montreal 26 Jul 1944, d Toronto 14 Jan 2007; premier prix (CMM) 1967, B MUS (McGill) 1967, Concert Diploma (McGill) 1968, MMA (McGill) 1970. Hawkins studied piano at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec with Lubka Kolessa and at McGill University. He also studied composition with István Anhalt at McGill University on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and in 1969 attended Boulez' conducting class in Basel. He joined the University of Toronto in 1970 and remained there until 2006, teaching theory and analysis, composition, and orchestration. John Hawkins won the Second-Century Week Composition Competition (jointly with Hugh Hartwell) for his Eight Movements for Flute and Clarinet (1967), and received other distinctions as both a composer and performer, among them the 1983 Jules Léger Prize for Breaking Through (commissioned by ARRAYMUSIC). Hawkins performed for both the SMCQ in Montreal and New Music Concerts (NMC) in Toronto, the latter of which he was a founding member, and performed as a soloist on the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec's (SMCQ) recording of Jacques Hétu's Cycle (RCI 301/4-ACM 31).

John Hawkins' commissioned works include Waves (for the SMCQ), Quintet for Winds (for the York Winds), Trio and substance-of-we-feeling (for NMC), Prelude and Prayer (for the Toronto Symphony), Three Archetypes (commissioned by the CBC as the test piece for the 1986 Banff International String Quartet Competition), Dance Variations (for Nexus, who also recorded it in 1997), Two Popular Pieces (for the Wilson-McAllister Duo), The Cicada's Song to the Sun (for Chamber Concerts Canada), and Light to Dark (for the Atlantic Arts Trio). His score to Timothy Findley's story for children, The First Fable, was commissioned by Chamber Concerts Canada and premiered at the Guelph Spring Festival in 1989.

Style and Influences
Hawkins' compositions were relatively few, possibly because of his desire to make each work different from the last. Remembrances, premiered at the Stratford Festival in July 1969, quotes Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler, using figures, chords, or melodic fragments as distant memories. Breaking Through, subtitled 'A musical entertainment for three performers,' uses idioms from the Broadway musical in an attempt to reach a broader audience. Three Archetypes is modelled on the Three Pieces for String Quartet by Stravinsky (a composer whom Hawkins greatly admired) and combines the idea of the Jungian archetype with a convincing use of the postmodern musical style. While variety was more to Hawkins' taste than consistency, an introspective lyricism pervaded most of his works, along with the influence of the delicate polyphony of Webern. John Hawkins was a member of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. He continued to perform and conduct until 2006.


Eight Movements; 1966. Fl, clarinet. Ms

Five Pieces for Piano. 1967. Jay 1972. Centrediscs CMC-1684 (Foreman)

Three Cavatinas (Whitman, Yeats, Burroughs). 1967. Sop, chamber ensemble. BMIC 1969

Remembrances. 1969. Chamb ensemble. Jay 1971. RCI 300 (SMCQ)

Two Pieces for Orchestra. 1970 (Montreal 1971, movt 2). Full orch. Ms

Waves (Hawkins). 1971. Sop, piano. Ms. RCI 300 (MacKinnon)

Spring Song (anonymous). 1974. SATB. Ms

Études for Two Pianos. 1974. Ms. RCI 464 (LePage)

Trio. 1975. Fl, violoncello, xylophone. Ms

Quintet for Winds. 1977. Ww quintet. Ms

Prelude and Prayer (e.e. cummings). (1980). Ten, orch. Ms

Dance, Improvisation and Song. 1981 (rev 1982). Cl, piano. Elliot Chapin 1983

Breaking Through. 1982. V, piano, percussion. Ms

Dance Variations. 1983 (rev 1986). Perc quartet. Ms

Three Archetypes. 1984 (rev 1986). Str quartet. Ms. 1986. RCI 632 (

substance-of-we-feeling. 1985. 2 percussion. Ms

Two Popular Pieces. 1986. 2 guitar. Ms

The Cicada's Song to the Sun (Hawkins). 1987. Sop, oboe, guitar. Ms

Light to Dark. 1987. Sop, clarinet, piano. Ms

The First Fable (T. Findley), children's entertainment. 1988. Mezzo (alto), soprano, dancers/mimes, narrator, oboe (english horn, oboe d'amore), violoncello, percussion, piano. Ms

Further Reading

  • Mather, Bruce. 'Le collage musical; ''Remembrances'' de John Hawkins,' The Canada Music Book, 3, Autumn-Winter 1971

    Schulman, Michael. 'For John Hawkins composing isn't easy,' The Canadian Composer, 83, Sep 1973

    MacMillan, Keith and Beckwith, John, eds. Contemporary Canadian Composers (Toronto 1975)

    Plawutsky, Eugene. 'The music of John Hawkins,' The Canadian Association of University Schools of Music Journal, vol 8, Spring 1979

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