Mount Carmel (from Preludes to Canada by Brian Finley) Saskatchewan is not known for its mountains! But rising just behind the tiny town of Carmel (close to Humboldt) is Mount Carmel on top of which is a shrine to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. From this vantage point, one can look out for miles over the seemingly infinite and stunningly beautiful prairies. Yet it is not just the land which is so remarkable, it is also the endless sky! Always changing, the sky is alive with colour and energy; with the sun’s help, it seems to animate the fields below. It is an unforgettable experience to witness a distant rainstorm gather, unleash its torrent and dissipate, all without a sound! This is Mount Carmel, Saskatchewan.
Preludes to Canada (Brian Finley) – Written between 1998 and 2016, Preludes to Canada is a 13-movement journey across Canada for solo piano. Originating as a musical journal of impressions and feelings from cross-Canada travels hand in hand with Donna, each Prelude evokes one special place in a vast country bursting with special places. I also wanted to acknowledge Stuart McLean whose wonderful book Welcome Home about his travels in small town Canada greatly influenced this project by inspiring me to share my own observations of this wonderful country in a deeply personal, meaningful, positive and, dare I say, Canadian way. No apologies for that! Only deep thanks…
Brian Finley – Member of the Order of Canada, Brian Finley is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Westben Centre for Connection & Creativity through Music in Campbellford, Ontario. Brian enjoys a multi-faceted career as a composer, pianist, director and impresario. In addition to several works for the stage, Brian’s compositions include music for piano, voice, choral works and arrangements for full symphony orchestra. He has written and produced several full-length opera-musicals including SAMSON (2001), Rapunzel (2005) and The Selfish Giant (2010) and most recently, an opera based on his own original story The Pencil Salesman inspired and commissioned by Dr. Agnes M. Herzberg (2016). As a director he has staged musical productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music, The Magic Ornament and his own works including Requiem for a Millennium and A Westben Christmas Carol.
As a pianist, Brian has performed with orchestras from Dallas to Calgary as well as at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, Wigmore Hall in London, England, and the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. Having appeared in over 10 international piano competitions including the 8th International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, he won the third prize in the AMSA International Competition in Cincinnati as well as the Gina Bachauer Award in Dallas. His recordings include solo piano music from Wigmore Hall, three critically acclaimed CDs with his wife, soprano Donna Bennett as well as world premiere recordings of his Requiem for a Millennium (1999) and Rapunzel (2005). He has also been heard on CBC, CFMX, KING-FM in the US and on Soviet Television. As an accompanist, he has collaborated with some of Canada’s top singers including Adrianne Pieczonka, Richard Margison, Marie-Josée Lord, Mark DuBois, John Fanning as well as his cousin, Gerald Finley. With Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto, Brian's principal teachers included Maria Curcio (UK), Boris Lysenko and William Aide.
Together with his musical and life partner, soprano Donna Bennett, Brian co-founded the Westben near Campbellford, Ontario in 1999, serving ever since as the organization’s Artistic & Managing Director. Described as a cultural cornerstone in rural Ontario, the festival has brought together both professional and amateur musicians at “The Barn”, a uniquely inspiring custom-built timber-frame theatre situated in a lush meadow amongst the gently rolling farmlands of Northumberland County. Presenting artists ranging from Angela Hewitt to Oliver Jones, they have exposed audiences to an array of top quality musical presentations of fully-staged traditional and world premiere operas, symphonic and choral works, chamber and solo music, jazz, world and music theatre. Their work has contributed to community-building in the region, and has played an important role in supporting Canadian music and emerging artists. Brian was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 in recognition of his work within his community and with his fellow Canadians. For their work with Westben, Donna and Brian were both appointed Members of the Order of Canada in 2017.