John Martens | The Canadian Encyclopedia


John Martens

John (Ernst) Martens. Tenor, b Winnipeg 15 Oct 1935; BA (Toronto) 1963, M MUS (Southern Methodist) 1969, DMA (Michigan) 1972.

Martens, John

John (Ernst) Martens. Tenor, b Winnipeg 15 Oct 1935; BA (Toronto) 1963, M MUS (Southern Methodist) 1969, DMA (Michigan) 1972. A pupil (but not a relation) of Victor Martens, he made his professional oratorio debut 5 Dec 1963 in Messiah with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and won the Rose Bowl at the 1964 Manitoba (Winnipeg) Music Competition Festival. He gave up school teaching in 1967 for a career in music, increasing his qualifications with study 1969-72 on a Canada Council doctoral fellowship with Thomas Hayward and Lloyd Pfautsch at Southern Methodist U, Dallas. He taught briefly (1972) at the University of Michigan, moved to Toronto as a member of the Festival Singers 1972-4, and returned in 1974 to Winnipeg to teach music at the Mennonite Brethren Bible College. Leading Canadian choral conductors (Melville Cook, Elmer Iseler, Hugh McLean, Wayne Riddell) and several in the USA have chosen him repeatedly as an aria soloist or the Evangelist in the Bach passions, so that by the mid-1970s he came to be regarded as the foremost current Canadian exponent of those roles. He has also sung in numerous Messiah performances, including those by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at Massey Hall in 1973 and Ontario Place in 1976 and 1977. Other engagements have included Haydn's The Creation (1966) with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc au bücher (1972) with the Detroit SO under Sixten Ehrling, Bach's Christmas Oratorio (1974) with the Vancouver Bach Choir, the Monteverdi Magnificat (1974) with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at the Guelph Spring Festival, Stravinsky's Pulcinella (1974) with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under Lukas Foss and (1976) with the TS under Andrew Davis, and Lukas Foss' Psalms (1975) with the TS and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. In Winnipeg he gave the premiere, 18 Jun 1976, of Leslie Mann'sSeven Elizabethan Songs. Excerpts from his performance of Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin were captured on a 30-minute videotape released by the University of Michigan TV Studio in 1972. After Martens' Rose Bowl performance Kenneth Winters, writing in the Winnipeg Free Press (20 Apr 1964) praised 'a fine tenor voice, a sensitive musical conscience, a reliable ear and the kind of quiet authority that radiates from honest work well done.'

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