LIFE / CYCLE
Music by: Michael Snelgrove (b. 1962)
Text by: Sid Stephen
Performed by: Newman Sound Men’s Choir Newfoundland & Labrador
The Beothuk were an indigenous people who inhabited the island of Newfoundland long before the Vikings and European colonization. While the Beothuk were able to coexist with European settlers, they attempted to avoid them by moving inland from their traditional settlements. This resulted in the loss of important food sources and exposure to infectious diseases which ultimately led to their extinction. The last known Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died in 1829. Shanawdithit spent the last several years of her life in captivity, where she wrote and sketched in a diary. In the mid-1970s, Sid Stephen wrote a collection of poems inspired by Shanawdithit’s journal. It is from these poems that the texts come for Newman Sound’s commissioned work: Life / Cycle. The Beothuk were hunter/gathers and the river was their life source – for food and transportation. The music tries to be representative of their main waterway, The Exploits River, slow moving and gentle. A single paddler works against the current creating an uneven cadence. One by one, parts enter, creating the many layers of a flowing river. Indigenous beat patterns underlie the meandering melodies. Ending slowly as the river reaches the sea, its momentum is stunted. The piece ends with the text “only man would put an “i” in island”. Based on a poem by Sid.
Michael was born in Botwood, NL in 1962. He grew up in St. John’s studying music with Doctor Eric Abbott. As a teenager he moved to London, ON where Bill Davies, his high school music teacher was a huge influence on his musical path.
He moved to Edmonton where he enrolled in the Music Faculty to start his post-secondary musical studies and after two years moved back to St. John’s where he completed his BMus and BMusEd.
Michael has a Master’s in Music in Instrumental Conducting from Memorial University. Michael is a composer, conductor and performer. He spends most of his time now composing. His music has been heard on five continents. His last three commissions were from the Association of Music in International Schools for performances in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.
He has had many commissions from CBC and Memorial University. He has composed music for the Festival 500 and Soiree 99 occasions. He has won many awards for his compositions, the last being from the Hannaford Street Silver Band in Toronto. He has over 200 compositions to his credit. In 2003, Michael was accepted as an Associate Composer of Canada at the Canadian Music Centre.
His teachers included, Malcolm Forsythe, Mannis Sasonkin, Violet Archer and Paul Bendzsa. He has conducted all of the ensembles at Memorial University, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and the Ceremonial Guard Band in Ottawa. He has studied conducting with Don Buell, Gerry Olsen and Mark David.
As a freelance trumpet player Michael plays on albums and gigs around the province. He has played with the ensembles at Memorial, the NSO, the Ed Goff and Jim Duff Big Bands and Billy and the Bruisers. His last major playing gig was with The Radiance of the Seas Orchestra with Royal Caribbean Cruise lines.
His teachers included Don Buell and Fordyce Pier. Michael resides in Grand Falls –Windsor, NL where he lives with wife Peggy and their two boys, Samuel and Maxwell. (in fact, Sam has flown the nest and is in post-secondary education.) He has recently retired as the Fine Arts Specialist at Exploits Valley High where he taught all disciplines of music and drama for the last 25 years.