This article about Christopher Jackson, written seven years before his death in September 2015, takes on a special poignancy as we remember his unique contribution to musical life in Canada. What a pleasure it has been to work with Christopher all these years. During our recording sessions, I would watch him from the other side of the microphones: like all those who know what they want, he was very demanding. At the same time, he was able to inspire rather than impose. He had a refined sense of pitch that illuminated the complex polyphonic works he explored. We will miss Christopher tremendously.
— Johanne Goyette, President, ATMA Classique
Christopher Jackson’s Pioneering Spirit
Organist, harpsichordist, conductor, artistic director, teacher, mentor, renaissance man …. Christopher Jackson’s accomplishments are so numerous that it is difficult to choose a single word to describe him and the impact of his work.
A pioneer of Montreal’s fertile early music scene, Jackson was among the first to present period music to audiences in the early 1970s. He founded the world-renowned Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal (SMAM) in 1974 and obviously hit a nerve with music lovers in that city: one of his first concerts attracted more than 400 people, an astonishing feat considering the Canadian period music movement was in its infancy at that time. His reputation extends well beyond national borders — Jackson has been invited to conduct several prestigious ensembles in France, Belgium and Spain, and led a tour of Monteverdi’s Orfeo across France in 1998.
A leader in the academic world, Jackson was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University in 1994, a post he retired in 2005. He was also granted an honorary doctorate by Laurentian University in 1999 in recognition of his contribution to the world of music. Ever the pioneer, Jackson was one of the key minds behind an unprecedented partnership between Concordia’s Engineering and Fine Arts Departments. The result is the state-of-the-art Integrated Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Complex, which opened in downtown Montreal in 2005.
His most recent, and possibly most challenging incarnation at Concordia is as Director of the Grey Nuns Project, a long-term initiative that will transform a heritage building — the Mother House of the Grey Nuns Order— into a gathering place for Concordia’s artistic community. When completed, the project will be the first totally integrated arts school in North America.
For all his entrepreneurial initiative in the academic world, Jackson never strays far from his musical career, and continues to create unique and beautiful concert programs and recordings with SMAM. Their latest CD for ATMA, Roma Triumphans [ACD2 2507], brings to life the glory of Rome’s polychoral tradition at the height of the Renaissance. Jackson’s role as ancient music detective is one that he has inhabited for years, searching libraries and working with music historians and musicologists to revive previously unknown or unedited works.
May his curiosity never wane!
Luisa Trisi, 2008