"Michael with Ruby and Scottie"

CURRENT EVENTS – April 28, 2019

It has been 16 years since posting what has been happening in my life, so I hope I will be forgiven for not including , what may, or may not, be considered interesting or important. Going back to 2004, the last time information on my web site was up dated, will certainly test my fading memories. My brother, Stuart, living in Washington D.C., having suffered from having been run over, finally died as a result of his injuries. He was 80 years old. Stuart died intestate, despite my pleading with him to make a will. The result was a nightmare of dealings with insurance companies and a D.C. bank that simply did not wish to comply with the lawyer I hired. The only good thing to come of this was to finally receive enough money from his estate to be able to fix up a portion of our house to make it possible to keep my wife, Penny, at home during the final stages of her declining health. She died in my arms at about 3:00 a.m., February 8, 2018, after many years of painful struggle. She was the bravest person I have ever known. Although she didn’t want a funeral, I felt she would have approved of a “Celebration of Life” which I managed, with the help of friend, Sharon West, to put on in her honor. A year later, on the anniversary of her passing, her sons, Randy and Joel, went to Maui and, in an authentic Hawaiian ceremony, scattered her ashes in the bay, where the whales she loved so much, came every year to give birth to their calves. Thus ended our 30 year journey together. I truly feel that now, she has gone home to the place she loved so much and which she felt was her spiritual home.

Between 2004 and today, April 2019, life for me has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, unfortunately a lot of downs because of Penny’s health problems. I have been more than fortunate to have the help and assistance of Penny’s care worker, Heather Peters, who came to us shortly after she lost her own father and mother. She loved Penny, who was very close in spirit to her own mother. In the final months of Penny’s declining health, Penny did everything she could to train Heather to carry on as a helper to me. This has been a wonderful blessing for me. Heather, her husband Adam and their 20 year- old son, Sam, have become my family and have helped me deal with my grief and all the inevitable difficulties which result in the death of a spouse. So now, with the help of Heather, her wonderful family and my step son Randy, I live alone with my two cats, Scottie and Ruby.

As to the music, I have had the great satisfaction in having many of my works performed in a wide assortment of locations around the world. As the composer in residence for the ballet company, Pro Arte, and as composer in residence of the North Shore Lions’ Gate Sinfonia directed by their talented conductor, Clyde Mitchell, I have the pleasure of seeing and hearing my works performed live. I will be up-dating my works, using the mp3 format, so look for additions to the mp3 list on this web site. We have also produced a number of videos, particularly of the dance which use my music. We hope to post these soon. Presently, I have been composing a series of musical portraits under the title “Scenes for a Silver Screen” which may include some of my film music. We hope to produce a concert which will premier many of these new works.

-Michael Conway Baker

Excerpts from a recent interview

How would you characterize your music?
I'm basically, an out and out Romantic! I love a good melody and rich harmony. I'm always delighted when my audiences are "touched" by my musical expressions. Many people feel a certain sad quality in my music. Perhaps this is because I love the Russian Romantics!

What is the source of your inspiration? Do you have a muse?
My music is often very pictorial. As a boy, I was very moved by poetry and painting. My film scores are mostly motivated by the visual and dramatic elements of the film.

Would you say there is anything particularly "West Coast" about your music?
Much of what I have written has been influenced by our West Coast. Good examples are my "Through the Lions' Gate" suite and my "Vancouver Variations" as well as a set of piano pieces called "Rainforest".

Are there any composers, past or present, you'd count as particularly influential on your love of music, and in the kind of music you write?
I love Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and most of the composers who are characterized as "Romantic". (But I also love the music of J.S. Bach and the later symphonies of Mozart.

What do you find particularly gratifying in writing for an orchestra?
The orchestra offers the widest range of expression for a composer. Every instrument is represented and the combining of all these "colours" can be breath-taking.

What impressions or emotions do you hope convey in the works to be performed by the Lions Gate Sinfonia?
I try to express as many human emotions as possible: Happy; Sad; Funny, Poignant. etc. After hearing my music many people have told me it makes them cry.

Not a lot of people can make a living as a composer. What advice would you have for a young, aspiring composer?
I know of no classical composer who makes a living strictly by writing classical music. Most teach in one form or another. Or they manage to get grants. I found I could make a living writing film and television scores. (But this is a very crowded and difficult area to break into -- every composer wants to do this!)

When you are not listening to your music, what are you listening to?
I love the "greats" of classical music: Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, et al. (But I also love certain kinds of jazz and pop.)

Paul Gravett

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Michael Conway Baker
Evocation Publishing Company Inc.
Email: mconwayb@shaw.ca
Phone: 604-929-8732
2440 Treetop Lane, North Vancouver, BC V7H 2K5

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