Mackay, Neil

Neil McKay (1924 – 8 December 2016) was born in British Columbia and became a U.S. citizen in 1963. In 1965, he began teaching composition and associated subjects at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa Music Department, where he remained until his retirement in 1987. At 92, he passed away on December 8, 2016. Dr. McKay began his musical career as a jazz arranger-performer in 1940, then served as a clarinetist in the Canadian Navy Band from 1944 to 1946, and then as an arranger-conductor in Canadian radio from 1953 to 1954. After receiving a B.A. from the University of Western Ontario, he traveled to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, to pursue M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in composition. Festival Concertino, his master's thesis, won first prize in the Ottawa Symphony's Canadian composer competition and was premiered in the nation's capital. Symphony No. 1, his doctoral dissertation, was published by E. F. Kalmus and is widely performed in the United States and Canada. In addition, Howard Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra recorded the slow piece Larghetto, which won the Benjamin Award for silent music (reissued by Polygram on the album Music for Quiet Listening).

Dr. McKay's works are divided into three periods. His approach was somewhat conservative during the first, from 1953 to 1968, as evidenced by the symphonic compositions and the String Quartet (premiered by the Fine Arts Quartet), Dance Overture (commissioned by the Duluth Symphony), and the opera Ring Around Harlequin. During the second period (1968–1988), there was much experimentation with Asian, African, and Polynesian musical conceptions and instruments. Evocations for concert band (published and recorded by Shawnee Press); Parables of Kyai Gandrung for Javanese gamelan and orchestra (written with Hardja Susilo and commissioned and premiered by the Honolulu Symphony); World(s) for solo koto (performed around the world by Ricardo Trimilios and recorded by Keiko Nosaka for Camerata Records of Tokyo); Soundprints for koto and clarinet.


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