RTC-69: 1989 Manitoba Memoir

Commission: CBC

Length: 15 min.

Completion: 14 August – 30 October 1989

Premiere: 1991-02-26, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Simon Streatfeild (cond.)

Other: 2005-11-30, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Alain Trudel (cond.)

Publication: CMC

Recording: Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Simon Streatfeild (cond.), Canadian Composers Portraits: Robert Turner, Centrediscs CMCCD 9704 (2004)

In his program note, Robert Turner writes: “Manitoba Memoir for string orchestra was commissioned by the CBC for performance by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The work is dedicated to two CBC-Radio producers, the husband and wife team of Jim Hiscott and Andrea Ratuski.

Completed in October, this 15 minute work is in three connected movements.

The first is a flowing Pastorale (subtitled “Of Tune and the River(s)”) which concludes with a kind of chorale-prelude in which a hymn tune (adapted from the 1635 Scottish Psalter) is combined with the theme of the Pastorale.

This is followed directly by a robust Folk Dance (“Ethnic Celebration”) containing a lighter, playful middle section. The main dance theme is broken into by the concluding movement, an Epilogue subtitled “Prairie Sunset”. Here the music alternates quiet cluster harmonies for the full strings (21 separate parts) with ruminative interjections by a solo viola. Rising to an incandescent outburst, the music fades out on high harmonics and low plucked chords. Besides the solo viola in this section, the first and second movements feature solo passages for cello and for violin, respectively.”

The soloists in the first performance were: Rennie Regehr, viola, Paul Marleyn, cello, and Andrew Dawes, violin


Manishen, James. Review: “Nothing shop-worn about orchestra’s nostalgia theme,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 Feb 1991.

Premiere of Manitoba Memoir: “Receiving its world premiere last night was Robert Turner’s Manitoba Memoir, a three-movement work for strings composed in 1989 and commissioned by the CBC for this concert. Turner’s music always displays a satisfying blend of confident lyric usage, firm architectural control and sustained overall interest, so it was not surprise that last night’s premiere succeeded in splendid fashion.

The first movement “Of Time and the River” is a pastorale with an elegiac hymn that is more Bach-like and Ivesian [Charles Ives], despite the aerated tone clusters underneath, and cellist Bryan Epperson’s lyrical handling of the solo scored pleasingly. The exuberant “Ethnic Celebration” had violinist Andrew Dawes engagingly scooping his melody, while violist Rennie Regehr had the closing “Prairie Sunset” epilogue practically to himself over more clusters, suggesting wide open spaces but not without a more inward sense of the composer’s personal statement.”