John Mills-Cockell

Composition & Sound Design for film, television, opera, theatre, dance and radio.


In September, 2013 Savitri & Sam, a new opera with libretto by playwright, director, producer Ken Gass, was given its second workshop at Citadel Theatre, Toronto.  Opera critic Leslie Barcza said of it: "the ninety minutes went by like a flash.  I got lost in the lusciousness of the sound, and (aside from liking the performers & their performances) I liked every character, including the one who ends up being a killer . . . this opera is as Canadian as apple pie or maple syrup.  The music is really beautiful.”

Most recently, in development, is Kid Catastrophe (BirthRites), an opera with author, playwright, librettist France Ducasse and light sculptor Michael Hayden.  The work utilizes multiple ensembles (soloists, chorus & instrumentalists) connected simultaneously via broadband in four performance venues around the world.

At the conclusion of its 2013 season John’s score for Blue Bridge Theatre’s Uncle Vanya, dir. by Brian Richmond,  was recognized as Best Sound in a Dramatic Production by Victoria Critics Awards.  Following Uncle Vanya, he was Music Director for Blue Bridge production of My Fair Lady which was nominated by Victoria Critcs’ Awards as Best Production.

John has also been working with music producer William Blakeney and Ken Gass on the complete recording of Savitri & Sam for EMF label.  Blakeney & he are also preparing remastered versions of recordings John made early in his career for a 3 CD set.


 
Review of Savitri and Sam by Leslie Barcza

 

Posted on September 29, 2013

by barczablog

Okay, maybe the headline tells you what show i am about to watch on TV, coming home from a (hint hint) Saturday night opera.   But i really mean it, they’re ready. Tonight I went to see a public presentation of portions of Savitri & Sam at the end of a week-long workshop, presented by Canadian Rep Theatre & Savitri Project Collective.

I heard 90 minutes of a much longer work: an opera. It felt like perhaps 20 minutes as it went by.

Perhaps I should explain where I’m coming from, as my credentials may be suspect.  I am usually so positive –avoiding negative commentary—that I may seem to be incapable of anything else.

I’ve been listening to Louis Riel after having read a review by John Gilks on his Operaramblings blog.  I’d seen it twice very long ago, and wanted to recalibrate my sense of it.  I’d sounded off on Facebook to say that the Canadian Opera Company needs to stage this opera again.  In 1967 two operas premiered as a centennial project with the COC:

  • The Luck of Ginger Coffey, which I saw, starring Harry Theyard (who I mention because it’s his birthday according to Charlie Handelman)
  • Louis Riel which I didn’t see at this time (our family subscription didn’t have enough tickets to permit me to see it this time…i was a child!), but I would see it in a remount a couple of years later, AND I’d see the TV version, which is the basis of the DVD I’ve been watching in 2013

Riel is the one that’s remembered.  In places it works very well, although in some places it’s wooden, a relic of a style that had once been in fashion.  It feels dated, it’s most interesting elements in the libretto’s treatment of a national myth, not its music.

I am quite certain that Savitri & Sam is better.  It doesn’t feel derivative, even if it does remind me in places of Pelléas et Mélisande, another opera telling a story of forbidden love.  But while it’s often as beautiful as Debussy it avoids the effete & precious stillness that mars that work, perhaps the least operatic opera ever written.

 

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Stella in black and white

A performance piece by John Mills-Cockell & Blake Parker

"The tale is a moral allegory. In Stella's world, animal eyes polished like mirrors stare out of silver windows dissolve in the wash of static gives back a picture of sleek foreign desperadoes with hair-raising underworld connections. In Stella's world, the photo twins drift down sunset streets neon lights winking hello-goodbye and their smooth bodies give off a faint whiff of negrito dreams and mental crack-up. In Stella's world, we walk down noisy streets of memory paradise same time same place whispers telephone voice frozen in storage vats of the brain a slender hand reaches up for new moisturizing tint sparkles on the magnetic water leaves us speechless with cold feet and a cancelled ticket. The political world of children's illustrations rubs shoulders with that of the radio DJ, advertising lingo, pop music, classical tangle of nostalgic strings dissolves into a stark image of Stella in black and white."

 

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Do you hear the rushing river?

Composer John Mills-Cockell unveils his most intimate work with Kestrel Music's release of the new compact disc Do You Hear The Rushing River? Creating a luminous body of instrumental music that is seductive, magical and full of emotion, this influential, style-setting, contemporary composer proves that poetry can be written without words. This collection of music, haunting and ethereal, expresses the composer's passionate search for inner peace in the hum of everyday life.

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Skylight

The creation of the sound design for Skylight play at the Vancouver Playhouse. If you are interested in reading about additional feature articles, then click on the links for Music for Heaven, Do you hear the Rushing River ?, or Stella! in Black and White.

This play by British playwright David Hare was directed by Bill Dow for Vancouver Playhouse. It is essentially a two hander, a successful middle aged entrepreneur, Tom, and his ex mistress, Kyra, a school teacher living in a lower class district of London. The man's 17 year old son appears at the beginning and end of the play. It all takes place in Kyra's cluttered flat.

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