Order of Canada appointee Andrew Paul MacDonald looks back on his life in music and education

·2 min read
Guitarist and composer Andrew Paul MacDonald has been based in Quebec's Eastern Townships since the late 1980s. (Submitted by Andrew Paul MacDonald - image credit)
Guitarist and composer Andrew Paul MacDonald has been based in Quebec's Eastern Townships since the late 1980s. (Submitted by Andrew Paul MacDonald - image credit)

Musician, composer and recently retired Bishop's University music professor Andrew Paul MacDonald is starting 2022 with one of the country's highest honours.

"I'm just overwhelmed and delighted with this," says MacDonald of being appointed to the Order of Canada.

MacDonald received the honour last month for his "contributions to contemporary Canadian classical, jazz and electronic music, as an educator, composer and performer," states Governor General Mary Simon on the list of 135 new appointees.

It comes after his retirement from teaching last year. His long-spanning career includes a Juno Award in 1995 for best classical music composition.

Originally from Ontario, MacDonald moved to Sherbrooke, Que., in 1987 to teach at Bishop's University. He continued to compose and perform while teaching, and inspired many students over the years, including Mike Preston.

"It couldn't have happened to a more deserving person," said Preston from his home in Victoria, where he owns and teaches at a music school. He says MacDonald was a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher, and was supportive of his students' musical endeavours outside of the classroom.

"He would also show up at 1 a.m. to see your band at the bar and have a beer with you after," Preston said.

MacDonald has always been active in composing and performing, even as he chaired the university's music department four times.

One of his compositions, Music for the Open Air - À la campagne, was the theme song for the CBC Radio show Music From Montreal. He says it was inspired by his move to the Eastern Townships.

"I was so delighted with the beautiful people here and the beautiful landscapes, that a lot of music formed in my head very very quickly," he said.

MacDonald is a prolific composer of all kinds of music, including opera. In 2011, he worked with Pacific Opera Victoria to create a new opera based on the play Mary's Wedding by Stephem Massicotte. His work has been performed by orchestras across the country and around the world.

Rather than use the attention for his own projects, MacDonald wants to help other artists, especially those who don't have work right now because of the pandemic.

"The public can help them out by buying their CDs or recordings online like streaming online and paying for those virtual concerts," he said.

"Come up and get your vaccinations, boosters, wear a mask, social distance and stay home so we can have that live music again and these musicians can get back to work."

MacDonald isn't planning on slowing down in retirement. He just finished recording his 20th album — with the accompaniment of the string group Quatuor Saguenay.

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