“Memories of Robert Turner.”
I first met Robert Turner and his family while I was in high school, in the mid 60’s. At one point I went to his house on a weekly basis for composition lessons, and there met his wife Sara, who always had a warm, welcoming smile for me, and their son Alden, with whom I went to the same high school and would eventually form a band.
I have very fond memories of Dr. Turner, or Bob, as I came to call him in later years. Although he was quiet and soft spoken, he always had a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile. He had a razor wit and was always ready to share a joke and a laugh about himself and the ‘goings on’ in the Canadian music community. These stories had quite an effect on a wide-eyed teenager like me, and it wasn’t lost on me that Bob was neither apologetic nor egotistical when it came to his compositions. He was appropriately proud of his music but at the same time completely down to earth.
When I visited Alden, it was made known to me that when his father was composing, the whole house had to be silent for the duration, so as not to interrupt his concentration. As this included conversations, there were more than a few times we crept out the back door (being careful not to let it slam shut) and went elsewhere to hang out.
Bob was always kind in his criticism and suggestions of my compositions. In both my early lessons and at the university, he stressed the importance of playing my compositions on the piano, and not just doing everything in my head. He would say there was only one Mozart, which was always accompanied with a quiet, intimate belly
laugh (of which there were many), as if he was sharing an amusing secret. But he also stressed how crucial it was for a composer to develop their inner ear to the utmost of their ability. So every lesson he would go over the music mentally, and then play it.
Alden mentioned to me at some point that his father very much admired Mozart. He also confided to me that after a day at the university, his father might unwind by taking a manuscript of J.S. Bach’s choral music and searching it for the occasional voice leading error which he would correct, the way other people enjoyed working crossword puzzles.
Bob was a rare talent who had the ability to write a good melody. He had the creativity to fully develop his musical ideas, write contrapuntally, and really knew how to orchestrate. He was a master composer who wrote music that was artistic and well developed. His compositions are immensely creative.
Robert Turner was a master composer who wrote powerful music. He was a huge musical influence, but he meant a lot to me personally, too. I feel proud and privileged to have known both him and his family.