There’s more to music than meets the ear.
But it’s still really all about the music.
That’s the premise behind Ian Hampton’s new book, Jan in 35 Pieces.
“And it’s also a bit of a recognition of the work that ordinary musicians do,” he said, “to help people to understand the music, classical music in particular, and to understand that music also requires musicians to serve on boards and listen to auditions and keep concert series going and all that kind of administrative side. It’s difficult to survive without a certain number of people volunteering their efforts to keep things going.”
Ian is the “Jan” of the book’s title: “I distanced myself by calling myself Jan rather than Ian, so I’m talking in the third person.”
The “35 pieces” are 35 pieces of music.
“Each chapter is headed with a piece of music, so the music comes first and the memoir comes second,” he explained, adding with a chuckle, “I would prefer it come a distant third.”
“I’ve tried to make the book amusing,” he said, “if not a sort of a reveal-all sort of a book.”
Hampton’s wit is well-known among those who know him, and it comes through in the book, said Carolyn Granholm, assistant principal at Langley Community Music School (LCMS), where Hampton has been a teacher and administrator for nearly four decades.
Hampton joined LCMS in 1979 and has been “instrumental to building the school,” she said. “He’s been bringing world-class musicians to perform here, and he’s been a really big supporter of Canadian composers and Canadian music. He’s a cornerstone of the school.”
“He has had an extraordinary career,” said Granholm, noting that some of his many accomplishments include playing as principal cello for both Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the CBC Radio Orchestra.
He was a member of the Purcell String Quartet for 20. He has taught at the Academy of Music, at UBC, and at Trinity Western University, and he has an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University.
Through musical selections, personal anecdotes, stories, and profiles, Hampton said, he uses his experience to reveal musicians’ “preoccupations with music and how they set about learning it or trying to perfect it or what happens on travels and concerts and that sort of thing.”
“The construction of the book is sort of a little bit like a concert,” he said.
“You have the main chapter about whatever piece it is, then there are some interludes within the chapters, and a few profiles of people. Originally, what I thought I’d do was to write a book about music like the vet books [All Creatures Great and Small et al, by James Herriot], so I’ve tried to show what a musician’s life is like.”
The real goal is “just to describe classical music itself, and why it is important to me and, by inference, why it might be important to other people,” said Hampton.
“It’s always very difficult to talk about music; music is a very abstract thing, if you are trying to describe it – almost impossible. I felt that very much so when I was playing in quartets and we did a lot of school concerts: how to describe what you play and what you are about to play musically, and so on.”
It’s not surprising, considering Hampton’s longstanding relationship as a teacher and administrator with LCMS, that Langley plays an important role in the book.
“Langley often figures in the prologue or epilogue to various chapters,” he said. “Sometimes I introduce a piece by it happening amongst the students of Langley music school, and then we have flashbacks of the same piece being played by the London Symphony, or this sort of thing. It’s mostly music which is important to me… various experiences playing it. There are sometimes a number of little scenes to do with one particular piece.”
Jan in 35 Pieces, published by Porcupine Quill Publishing, is being launched at the music school on Friday, June 22, at 7 p.m..
“We are thrilled to be hosting a launching for Ian’s book,” said Granholm.
“His wit and talent for observation and story-telling really come through. We want everyone in the community to come and celebrate this extraordinary person and his book.”
A second launch is slated for the following day at 4 p.m., at the Canadian Music Centre at 837 Davie St., in Vancouver.
“We’ll have about 20 minutes of readings interspersed with a couple of pieces performed by the Rose Gellert String Quartet,” said Hampton, adding with another of his chuckles, “I’ve never been to a book launch, so I’ll be interested to see what happens.”