John Beckwith

John Beckwith is a Canadian composer, writer, teacher, pianist, and broadcaster who has written over 130 compositions for stage, orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo and choir. He was born in Victoria, BC where he grew up with strong artistic encouragement from his parents. At a young age he studied piano with Ogreta McNeill, then with Gwendoline Harper. In 1945 he went to Toronto to study on a scholarship. It was in Toronto that Beckwith became a member of a circle of musicians and writers that included the poet-playwright James Reaney, with whom he began a collaboration that lasted over 40 years. 

His has written concert reviews for The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star as well as program notes for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Over the decades, he has also produced, written and narrated many CBC radio series and documentaries. Beckwith began lecturing part-time at the University of Toronto in 1952, taught full-time 1955-90, and was dean of the Faculty of Music 1970-77. The collaboration between John Beckwith and James Reaney includes several operas, plays, and collages. The most significant being three operas: Night Blooming CereusThe Shivaree, and Crazy to Kill. These operas touch on musical and dramatic themes central to Beckwith's creative life, and draw on myths and archetypes to give southern Ontario settings and characters a universal perspective. He is the recipient of many awards and honours including the Canadian Music Council composer of the year (1984), the Toronto Arts Award for Music (1995), the Diplôme d'Honneur of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (1996) and five honorary doctorates from the Canadian universities McGill, Mount Allison, Queen’s, Guelph, and Victoria. In 1987, Beckwith was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.  

Related Events

The 2016 James Reaney Memorial Lecture with John Beckwith

November 5, 2016 at 4:30pm

See event