Liona Boyd | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Liona Boyd

Boyd, Liona

 Liona (Maria Carolynne) Boyd. Guitarist, composer, b London, Eng, 11 Jul 1949, naturalized Canadian 1975; B MUS (Toronto) 1972, honorary LL D (Lethbridge) 1981, honorary LL D (Brock) 1990, honorary LL D (Simon Fraser) 1991, honorary D MUS (Victoria) 1996. Brought to Canada as a child, Liona Boyd began studies with Eli Kassner at 13. After graduating with honours from the University of Toronto she lived 1972-4 in Europe, studying in Paris with Alexandre Lagoya (of whom she had been a pupil in 1971 at the JMC Orford Art Centre). She also took master classes with Julian Bream, Alirio Diaz, and Narciso Yepes. In 1974 she began recording for Boot's Master Concert Series, completing three successful LPs. She made her New York debut 22 Mar 1975 at the Carnegie Recital Hall and in 1976 began to tour North America with Gordon Lightfoot, performing at the opening of his programs and thus introducing classical guitar to a new and substantial audience. She herself was the object of the attention usually accorded a pop performer. In 1977, she signed with CBS Masterworks in New York. She recorded several best-selling albums, including her first platinum record, A Guitar for Christmas.

Although primarily a classical guitarist, in the course of her diverse career Boyd has performed with Chet Atkins, André Gagnon (who recorded his Chanson pour Liona with her), Roger Whittaker, and Zamfir, in addition to the English Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Canadian Brass, and the McGill Chamber Orchestra. In 1982 she opened the Festival de la Guitarra in Cuba, and in 1984 she opened Guitar 84, the festival of the Guitar Society of Toronto.

In 1986 Boyd recorded Persona, an album that has been characterized as New Age music, with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and rock guitarists Eric Clapton and David Gilmour. Later that year she toured with a four-piece electric band. The new approach received mixed reviews (although Persona was very successful), and within a year Boyd had reverted to a classical style while incorporating more of her own compositions into her programs. Her later recordings favoured classical and Latin styles. Boyd performed extensively throughout Canada, the USA, and 44 other countries. She performed privately for many heads of state and government leaders, including Pierre Trudeau, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Fidel Castro, Ronald Reagan, and the World Presidents' Organization, and participated in benefit concerts for a wide variety of organizations. She appeared on many television talk shows and on the CBC TV programs The Guitar (1976), Liona (1978), Liona Boyd in Havana (1982), Life and Times (1999), and Opening Night (2002).

In 1986 Boyd began to collaborate with Richard Fortin, a Quebec guitarist and composer. She commissioned his Concerto of the Andes, which she premiered with the Costa Rica Symphony in 1990. Boyd composed the incidental music for the film version of Margaret Laurence's The Olden Days Coat (1981) and the documentary Pictures on Water (1989). In 1990 she wrote the music to the CD Paddle to the Sea which she also narrated. Pop pianist Frank Mills released a CD recording of her Kitty on the Keys (Capitol C2-91077) in 1988. She published six books of her own compositions and guitar transcriptions: Liona Boyd: The First Lady of the Guitar (Hansen House 1970), Miniatures (Hal Leonard 1977), A Guitar for Christmas (Hal Leonard 1986), Folk Songs for Classical Guitar (Hal Leonard 1987), Favorite Solos for Classical Guitar (Hal Leonard 1988), and Meet Liona Boyd at the Classical Guitar (Thompson 1988).

Her recital repertoire includes her own compositions such as Cantarell (1976), Concerto Baroquissimo (1983), Latin Suite (1987), and Asturiana (1997); her transcriptions of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Cimarosa, Debussy, Gottschalk, Puccini, and Satie; and works by Milton Barnes, Robert Feuerstein, Fortin, and Godfrey Ridout. She commissioned and premiered Barnes' Fantasy for Guitar, Ridout's Capriccio, and works by René Gely and Carlos Payet. Her composition My Land of Hiawatha (orchestrated by Fortin) is a tribute to Canada. In 2000, Boyd's single "Lullaby for My Love" reached the number one position on

Boyd won the Vanier Award in 1979, received five Juno Awards (1979, 1982-4) as instrumental artist of the year, was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1981, and was named to the Order of Ontario in 1991. She was five times named classical guitarist of the year by Guitar Player magazine, and was known as "Canada's first lady of the guitar." Beginning in 1991, Boyd made her home in California and then moved to Connecticut in 2007. She formed Moston Records, and in 1998 published her autobiography. The recording Camino Latino followed in 2001.

In 2009, Boyd's performing and recording careers were affected by the development of a neurological ailment that inhibited her virtuoso playing. She was diagnosed with Task Specific Focal Dystonia, a condition that is often caused by intensive and repetitive practising and one that has troubled such virtuoso players as pianists Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman. The condition has forced her to develop other aspects of her musical career and to place more emphasis on composition and on her vocal skills.

The latter aspect of her musical talents was displayed on a recording of vocal music entitled Liona Boyd Sings Songs of Love, with singer/guitarist Srdjan Givoje. Released in Sept 2009, the record was followed later that year with a release that focussed on her compositional skills. Entitled Seven Journeys: Music for the Soul and the Imagination, the record was a collaboration with Peter Bond, who co-wrote the music and served as producer, arranger, engineer and mixer. Bond also contributed vocals and electric guitar playing to the recording.


In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music (Toronto 1998)


Bach - Albinoni - Marcello - Cimarosa - Vivaldi. English Chamber Orchestra, A. Davis conductor. 1979. Col M-35853/CMEA Canadian Artists Series II

Baroque Favourites: Bach - Albinoni - Cimarosa - et al. 1998. 769 748 015-2 Moston

Best of Liona Boyd: Boyd - Bach - et al. 1982. CBS FM-37788

Boyd Paddle to the Sea (Holling). Boyd narrator. 1990. Oak Street POSCD-00032

Camino Latino - Latin Journey. 2002. MOS-711

Christmas Dreams: Boyd - Schubert - et al. R. Whittaker voice, G. Zamfir pan fl, Toronto Children's Chorus, Orpheus Choir. 1989. A & M SP-9513

Classically Yours. 1995. 2046795182 Moston

Dancing on the Edge. 1991. A&M 703019517-2

Encore: Boyd - Chopin - Fortin. 1985-8. A & M SP-9509

The First Lady of the Guitar: Barnes - Barrios - Payet - et al. 1978. Col M-35137

The First Nashville Guitar Quartet. Chet Atkins guitar. 1979. RCA AHL1-3302/RCA AYL1-3741

A Guitar for Christmas: Robertson - Bach - et al. 1981. CBS FM-37248

The Guitar: Bach - Albeniz - D. Scarlatti - et al. 1974. Boot BMC-3002/Lon CS-7015/(selections) A & M CD-9015

Highlights: Bach - Scarlatti - et al. 1989. A & M CD-9510

Liona: Cimarosa - Feuerstein - Boyd - et al. 1976. Boot BMC-3006/Lon CS-7068/(selections) A & M CD-9015

Live in Tokyo: Dowland - Soler - Falla - et al. 1984. CBS Master IM-39031

Miniatures for Guitar: Tarrega - Carcassi - Sor - et al. 1977. Boot BOS-7181/CBS Master - 3676

Passport to Serenity. 2000. 9905 700112 Moston

Persona: Vangelis - Boyd - Fortin - et al. Eric Clapton and David Gilmour guitar, Yo Yo Ma violoncello. 1986. CBS FM-42120/(selections) CBS MK-42313 (CD)

The Romantic Guitar of Liona Boyd: Boyd - Rota - Vangelis - et al. 1985. Silver Eagle-CBS FM-42016/9905700422 Moston

The Spanish Album: Boyd - Fortin - Albéniz - et al. 1998. 769 748 014-2 Moston

Spanish Fantasy: Tarrega - Pujol - Sor - et al. 1980. CBS M-36675

Virtuoso: Villa-Lobos - Payet - Berkeley - et al. 1983. CBS Master IM-37829

Whispers of Love. 1999. 769 748 016-2 Moston

Liona Boyd Sings Songs of Love. 2009. B002M81UI4 Universal Can/Zoom

Seven Journeys: Music for the Soul & the Imagination. 2009. B002S2KO68 Universal Music

See also Discography for Canadian Brass


The Originals: Liona Boyd. Jim Hanley, director. 30 min, video, 1995

Further Reading