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Canadian Composer with Roots in JazzCopyright © 2001
Milton Barnes was recognised as one of Canada's most innovative composers. He wrote a large body of music for soloists, chamber groups, choruses and symphony orchestras. He disliked divisive musical categories, and his eclectic fusion style is evident through a wide range of his repertoire, which incorporated diverse influences from jazz, Latin and traditional Hebraic music within an essentially Romantic idiom.
He began his musical career as a jazz drummer and guitarist in the 1950s, and used that to support himself while studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where his tutors included composer Ernst Krenek. He attended the famous Berkshire Music School in Tanglewood, where he impressed conductor Zubin Mehta, an association which led to his studying at the Orchestra and Opera Conducting School of the Vienna Academy of Music in 1961 (he had also studied conducting at the Chigianna School in Sienna, Italy, in 1959).
Auditioning for Walter Susskind in 1963 led to an engagement with the Toronto Symphony as part of a Young Conductors Series sponsored by the Toronto Star. This launched his professional conducting career. He founded the Toronto Repertory Orchestra in 1964, and conducted it for nine years. He was music director for the Niagara Symphony and Chorus (1964-72) and the Niagara Falls Philharmonic and Chorus (USA) (1965-73), and did a great deal of recording and broadcasting work.
He took a deliberate decision to concentrate on composing rather than conducting in 1973. He filled a number of composer in residence positions in Canada, and composed for the theatre, feature films and television as well as the concert platform. A number of his compositions have been recorded, and a catalogue of his works can be viewed online at:
Thanks to James Hale