Murray Schafer, 1933-2021

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Murray Schafer, one of Canada’s most original creative voices, died on Aug. 14 at age 88. The native of Sarnia, Ont. was living with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The loss of Schafer represents the loss of our greatest composer, one whose creative spirit knew no bounds,” David Jaeger, a friend of Schafer and former CBC Music producer, told the CBC.

The CBC said the source of the information was Schafer’s wife, the mezzo-soprano Eleanor James.

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Schafer was known for his bold large-scale works, many of them operatic in character. Some — in keeping with his passionate interest in the environment — were written for outdoor performance.

Among his most ambitious works is Apocalypsis, a two-part pageant of 1980 based partly on the Book of Revelation that was last performed in 2015 in Toronto by the Luminato Festival. This revival, said to involve 1,000 participants, was recorded by the CBC and released on the Analekta label.

Schafer was also a master of the string quartet. Montreal’s Quatuor Molinari has recorded the first 12 of his quartets for ATMA Classique. In 2015 the ensemble gave the premiere of the 13th, titled “Alzheimer’s Masterpiece.”

The Aug. 16 edition of About Time, the CBC Music radio show, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. EST, will be dedicated entirely to Schafer’s music.

(Quatuor Molinari plays R. Murray Schafer’s String Quartet No. 3.)


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