John Gordon Armstrong

Canadian Composer


False Spring

Although I have written eight previous song cycles, each of those was a response, by me, to an essentially completed text. My task was to interpret and express, to the best of my abilities, the meaning of those texts. False Spring is my first collaboration with Ottawa poet Susan McMaster and our working premise was quite different. As a poet experienced with composition, improvisation and contemporary music, she was eager to play a more interactive role in the organization and construction of the piece. She encouraged my input, as she designed a set of texts specifically to suit my needs and the needs of the ensemble as I perceived them.

The result is a set of seven songs, five long and two short, which are, in effect, a series of musical “snapshots,” each with a seasonal association and each of which resonates with a sense of personal loss. The music is intended to reflect the poetry it expresses: simply and directly, with beauty and passion. False Spring was commissioned by Girigonza with the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council and given its première performance on March 26, 1996 at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Ottawa as part of the Open Score Series. The recording that follows is from the premiere by Girigonza — Paula Quick, soprano, Lucie Laneville, recorders and Ray Sealey, guitar. There is also a version that substitutes clarinet for recorders that I like very much.

Composed in 1995 for soprano voice, recorder, guitar
Text by Susan McMaster
Five Songs and Two Interludes
Duration: 15 minutes
Difficult/Very Accessible
Published: Canadian Music Centre (Toronto)

1. The Lake

2. Red Leaves

3. So faint the geese this fall

4. Pavane

5. Old Photographs

6, False Spring

7. Return