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Daily Dose — Don Macdonald’s reaches new heights with new single from Lyyra

Ari Lord
By Ari Lord
April 23rd, 2024

The first single from a new women’s ensemble, Lyyra, is composed by Nelson’s own Don Macdonald.

The video of ‘When the Earth Stands Still’ by Macdonald is on YouTube here.

Macdonald, featured in this week’s Hall Printing Daily Dose feature, published the song around a decade ago with a choral music publisher in the US, and since then the sheet music has been purchased by choral groups far and wide.

He is not sure how Lyyra came across his song, but he’s really happy about it.

“People relate to the poetry, and it’s one that’s not hugely challenging to sing.”

Macdonald composed both the music and the lyrics for the song. One of his previous favourite versions of his piece was performed by the University of Johannesburg Choir in South Africa, a version he describes as “heartfelt and passionate.”

Lyyra is a choral super group, which may be a confusing descriptor to those not familiar with choral music.

“Lyyra just came out, and they are an extension of VOCES8 likely the most famous choral group in the world. Rather than mixed voices, as in women and men, this is just high voices.”

The musician says the experience of hearing his piece sung at its best is incredible.

“When I’m writing a piece, my ears hear the best performance possible, but rarely do you hear it the way you envisioned it. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear. The attention to detail with every element of the piece, from the right tempo to making sure you hear every word, because the poetry matters. To impeccable tuning to dynamics that are exactly what the composer wanted.”

The piece has been performed thousands of times and there are many recordings, but this level of polish is incredible to witness.

The inspiration for this piece was, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the nature of the Kootenays, when Macdonald was laying in this grass with his young son.

“Both of us were transfixed by the slow-motion celestial dance of billowing clouds above us. In moments like these, time has a way of slowing down and the high stakes patterns of everyday life somehow become more trivial. We can greatly appreciate the gifts of life and the ability to love and be loved,” explains Macdonald.

Nelson born and raised, Macdonald, has been contributing to Nelson’s music scene since he started teaching in the Selkirk College music department several decades ago.

“Singing has been a part of my life forever,” says Macdonald, who has been teaching in the music department at Selkirk College since the late 1990s.

He also recently completed a three-year term as a composer in residence for a group in Vancouver called Chor Leoni, one of the finest male choirs in the world, according to Macdonald.

He has also worked in the film industry writing music for film and television, but found it challenging to balance the high demands of that industry on top of his full-time teaching job.

Singing has been part of his life for as long as he can remember, says Macdonald, who was born and raised in Nelson.

“My first musical experience was sitting on my mom’s lap while she played piano for the Nelson Boys’ choir. At the time, a lot of young fellows would go into choir, at a time when competing was a big deal.”

He also learned a lot from his mother who was a piano teacher. Music is pretty much in his blood. He even had an uncle in Scotland who was a highly regarded Gaelic singer, Neil Macdonald.

He studied music at the University of Victoria, where he met his wife, local musician, conductor, and community arts coordinator Allison Girvan.

At university he found his groove in jazz and choral music, as a saxophone player, singer, violinist and composer.

Macdonald is planning on recording a vocal jazz album, likely within the next six months, that would include his violin and jazz singing, along with some other Selkirk faculty.

Check out Macdonald’s website here.

To watch videos of Macdonald’s recorded songs, click here.

Local music expert and educator Don Macdonald has reached new career heights as top choral group, Lyyra, records a rendition of his song. — Submitted

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