Kevin McMillan | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Kevin McMillan

Kevin (John) McMillan. Baritone, teacher, b Listowel, north of Stratford, Ont, 17 Apr 1958; B MUS (Western) 1983, M MUS (Juilliard) 1986, honorary L MUS (Conservatory Canada) 2002.

McMillan, Kevin

Kevin (John) McMillan. Baritone, teacher, b Listowel, north of Stratford, Ont, 17 Apr 1958; B MUS (Western) 1983, M MUS (Juilliard) 1986, honorary L MUS (Conservatory Canada) 2002. After taking piano lessons and singing in church and school as a child, McMillan sang in various choirs, including the Listowel District Secondary School Chorus and the Ontario Youth Choir (1977, 1978, 1980). He began formal music studies in 1979, when he transferred from the University of Guelph, where he had studied science and agriculture, to the University of Western Ontario, where he studied 1979-83 with Martin Chambers. He was in England during the summers of 1980-2 to work with Peter Pears and Elisabeth Schwartzkopf at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh. He continued his studies 1983-6 at Juilliard, where his teachers were Daniel Ferro and Ellen Faull. His debut as soloist with an orchestra was in Messiah for the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston in 1984 and he was soloist in Brahms' A German Requiem with the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall in 1986. Returning to Canada in 1987 McMillan was a prize winner in the CBC National Competition for Young Performers and won first prize in the Guelph Spring Festival's National Vocal Competition. In February 1989 he made his New York recital debut in the 92nd Street Y "Schubertiade Series." After this performance, he was singled out in a review by the critic Peter G. Davis in the magazine New York (13 Mar 1989): "[He] not only rejoices in a firm, superbly schooled voice of great beauty but also sings German song with rare insight and compelling intensity."

McMillan's repertoire favours art song and oratorio, and his clear diction is a frequently noted characteristic of his technique. Owing in part to an accident in 1980 which left him dependent on braces and crutches, he did not pursue a career in staged opera, although he performed in Vaughan Williams' Riders to the Sea at the University of Western Ontario in 1979 and was Schaunard in a semi-staged production of La Bohème at the National Arts Centre in 1987. In concert, he has sung the roles of Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Oreste in Iphigénie en Tauride, Masetto in Don Giovanni, and Papageno in The Magic Flute.

He has given recitals in numerous cities in North America, including Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, and Brandon, Man (the opening concert of the 1990 Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition); and in Washington, DC; San Antonio, Texas; and London. Many have been broadcast on CBC radio. He has sung with virtually all major Canadian orchestras, including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO), National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestra London Canada, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. In the USA, he has sung with the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony, among others. He toured Europe 1989-90 as a soloist in Bach's St Matthew Passion with the Internationale Bachakademie of Stuttgart conducted by Helmuth Rilling. He toured Germany in St. Luke's Passion by Penderecki, and performed Die schöne Müllerin in France in 1993. His later European engagements included an appearance at the Prague Autumn Festival (1994) and other festivals.

In 1997, McMillan gave the world premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies' Job in Vancouver, as well as the London, Eng, premiere later that year. Other premieres given by McMillan include the 1998 North American premiere of Philip Glass's Songs of Milarepa, with the Scotia Festival orchestra conducted by the composer; and the world premiere of Daniel Schnyder's The Revelation of St. John, with the Milwaukee Symphony, in 2001.

In a memorable performance of Messiah with the MSO in 1987, McMillan sang both the tenor and baritone arias after the tenor soloist was unable to complete the performance. This was the first sign of a brief shift to the lyric tenor repertoire, which McMillan successfully undertook in the early 2000s.

McMillan taught privately from 1988; at the U of Western Ontario 1998-2009; and at James Madison University, Virginia, beginning in 2009. He gave master classes at institutions across Canada and the USA, served as juror for the CBC Radio Competition for Young Performers 1995, and was examiner for the WOCM 1992-98.

His recording career was recognized with a Gramophone Award 1991 for Nielsen's Symphony No. 3, and a Grammy Award 1992 for Carmina Burana. He received several Juno nominations in the 1990s. His recording with the Amabile Youth Singers won best choral recording 1990-2 from the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors. McMillan was featured in the CBC TV profile, The Music Must Go On. He founded the Chatham Capitol Theatre Association in 1996, for which he received the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.


Amabile Youth Singers with Guest Kevin McMillan. Barron, Zadorsky cond. 1991. 2001 MC IBS

An die musik. Stewart piano. 1998. CBC MVCD 1106

J.S. Bach Secular Cantatas. Les Violons du Roy, Labadie cond. 1994. DOR-90199 Dorian Recordings

Bouchard Exquisite Fires. NACO, Pinnock cond. 1997. NAC Recordings/ 81219 2 Marquis Classics

Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem. Freiburger Bachchor, Freiburger Bachorchester, Beuerle cond. 1992. Ars Musici AM 1057-2

- Symphonic Transcriptions. San Diego Symphony, Talmi cond. 1992. Pro Arte Audio CDS 3433

Davies Job. CBC Vancouver Orch, Vancouver Bach Choir, Davies cond. Collins Classics

Lieder on Poems of Heinrich Heine. McMahon piano. 1992. CBC Recordings MVCD 1052

Mendelssohn Elias. Prague Autumn Recordings. Prague Symphony and Chorus, Jackson cond.

Nielsen Symphony No. 2, and No. 3 Espansiva. San Francisco Symphony, Blomstedt cond. 1990. D125001 London; 430 280-2 London

Orff Carmina Burana. San Francisco Symphony Orch and Chorus, Blomstedt cond. 1991. 430 509-2 London

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht, Ode to Napoleon, Op. 41. I Musici de Montréal, Turovsky cond. 1992. CHAN 9116 Chandos

Schubert Die schöne Müllerin. Jones piano. 1993. DOR-90162 Dorian Recordings

- Schwanengesang D.957 and Lieder. Natochenny piano. 1993. ERAD 151 Marquis Classics

Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. Greer piano. 1989. ERAD 127 Marquis Records


Mozart, The Magic Flute. Papageno. Cond Mark Russell Smith. 2001. Eric Carle Production, PBS Television

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