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Brady, Tim

Three Cities in the Life of Dr. Norman Bethune

Brady, Tim: Three Cities in the Life of Dr. Norman Bethune (Ambiances Magnetiques)

A chamber opera that tells the story of the life of the Canadian doctor and humanitarian Norman Bethune by interweaving extracts from Bethune's own letters with poetry of the 1930s.

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product information:

UPC: 771028113927

Label: Ambiances Magnetiques
Catalog ID: AM 139
Squidco Product Code: 5544

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2005
Country: Canada
Packaging: Cardstock 3 page foldover
Recorded on January 24th-26th, 2005 and June 20th, 2005 at Studio 12, Radio-Canada in Montrˇal, CA by Fran¨ois Goupil and Morris Apelbaum.


Michael Donovan-baritone vocals

Pierre Simard-conductor

Tim Brady-electric guitar

Phillip Hornsey-percussion

Pamela Reimer-piano, sabelle


Nadia Francavilla-violin

Clemens Merkel-violin

Stephanie Bozzini-viola
James Darling-cello

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Artist Biographies:

"Clemens Merkel's unconventional sound defines a new sensibility in contemporary music, through its intimate purity of tone, its settled understanding of microtonal or unconventional harmonic language, and its unhurried sensitivity. He is well known for innovative interpretations of Bach and John Cage, and is sought after by composers worldwide as an inspiration for new repertoire. His diverse collaborators range from the Wandelweiser collective to Montréal's Musique Actuelle community, and from emerging experimentalists to today's most revered composers.

For over a decade, Merkel's unusual sound has fused with that of the Quatuor Bozzini, considered one of the world's leading string quartets. Together they have mentored an entire generation of creators through the Composer's Kitchen; have released numerous critically acclaimed albums on their collection qb label; undertake multiple tours annually to be featured at festivals worldwide; and maintain a profound impact on the music scene across Canada and Europe in particular. They nourish Montréal audiences with unusual self-produced events that bridge worlds and cross boundaries of style, generation and culture.

Following an early career in Europe, where he contributed to the continent's leading ensembles, Merkel has made Montréal his home since 2000. He supports and advocates for new music in Québec and in Canada, and is regularly sought after as speaker, curator and adviser. His presence is felt in academia as well, through articles written for the Revue Circuit, and through his teaching at Concordia University. He's a passionate chef and lives in Montréal's Portuguese neighborhood together with his wife Isabelle Bozzini and children Félix and Béatrice."

-Quatuor Bozzini website (

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track listing:

Scene 1 - Montréal (2005) 18:00

1 prelude: Three Cities: You Must Remember (Pai-Chou-En) poem, To Pony, Aug. 31, 1935 and letter, Oct. 8, 1935 (N. Bethune); poem: To Pony, Aug. 31, 1935 and letter, Oct. 8, 1935 (N. Bethune)

2 poem, An Immigrant (Dorothy Livesay, Montreal)

3 Incantation 1, letter, Nov. 6, 1935 (N. Bethune)

4 poem, Depression Suite (Dorothy Livesay, Montreal)

5 letter, Oct. 8, 1935 (N. Bethune)

Scene 2 - Madrid (2005) 17m40s

6 prelude: El Segador (songs from the Spanish Civil War)

7 poem, The Defense of Madrid, the Defense of Catalonia, (Rafael Alberti, Madrid)

8 The Evacuation of Malaga, pamphlet, Feb. 7, 1937 (N. Bethune)

9 poem, I Come from Cuatro Caminos, Jan. 1937 (N. Bethune)

Scene 3 - Chin Ch'a Chi (now: Shanxi-Charhar-Hobei) (2005) 12m31s

10 prelude

11 poem, Untitled (Lu Xun, China)

12 Incantation 2, letter, Aug. 15, 1939 (N. Bethune)

13 poem, Autumn 1939, (Dorothy Livesay, Montreal)

14 reprise, letters, Aug. 15, 1939 and July 1, 1939 (N. Bethune)

15 final letter, Nov. 11, 1939 (N. Bethune)
descriptions, reviews, &c.
"This chamber opera for voice, electric guitar, piano, percussion, saxophones, string quartet and tape has been performed in Montreal (2003) and Toronto (2005). It tells the life of the Canadian doctor and humanitarian Norman Bethune (1890-1939).Interweaving extracts from Bethune's own letters with poetry of the 1930s, Three Cities in the Life of Dr. Norman Bethune explores the psychological and social elements that propelled Bethune to leave his comfortable life in Montreal to fight with the Republican International Brigade in Spain in 1936, and finally to join the Chinese Army in early 1938. The work follows Bethune through three cities over the course of 5 years in one of the most turbulent eras of 20th century history as he seeks to make sense of the world, to fight for what he believes in, and to confront his own mortality."-Ambiances Magnetiques
Related Categories of Interest:

Ambiances Magnetiques
Musique Actuelle
Compositional Forms
December 2005
Canadian Composition & Improvisation

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