Anita Sleeman

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Anita Andrés Sleeman

Anita Sleeman (née Andrés) (December 12, 1930 – October 18, 2011) was a Canadian contemporary classical music composer. She was also a conductor, arranger, educator, and performer.



Born Anita Andrés December 12, 1930 in San José, California[1] to Alejandro Andrés from Salamanca, Spain and Anita Dolgoff from Stavropol, Russia.[2] Sleeman began taking piano lessons at age three and took up trumpet and French horn at school[3][4] in San Francisco. While there, her music teachers noted her exceptional abilities at an early age (she began to show a talent for composition at age eight). Sleeman attended Placer Junior College as a music student. She met her future husband, Evan Sleeman, in Placer County and they married in 1951. They purchased a ranch in Elko County, Nevada and along with their six children immigrated to Canada in 1963. They lived on a ranch in the remote Anahim Lake area near Bella Coola. In 1967, the couple relocated to Tsawwassen,[5] Metropolitan Vancouver.[3] Throughout her life she played the French horn in a variety of stage and concert bands and performed as a keyboardist in jazz ensembles.


At age 19 Sleeman composed a march that was played at her community college's commencement[4] in 1950 (the first public performance of her work).[3] Sleeman taught music appreciation at the Anahim Lake elementary school.[3] While in Anahim Lake she played piano and organ at many community gatherings. Sleeman resumed music studies at the University of British Columbia, earning a BMus in 1971, and MMus (on a graduate fellowship) in 1974. At UBC she was a pupil of Jean Coulthard and during that time she taught at the electronic music lab, co-founded the Delta Youth Orchestra,[5][6] and was involved in the establishment of the music program at the Capilano College in North Vancouver as a member of its music faculty. She returned to California to complete her doctorate (1982) at the University of Southern California attending master classes with Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, and Charles Wuorinen. She also attended the Dick Grove School of Jazz.[7] For 17 years she served as musical director and conductor of West Vancouver's Ambleside Orchestra, retiring in 2010.

Her compositions have been premiered in London, England and Fiuggi, Italy as well as in Ottawa, Windsor and Vancouver; commissions include CBC Radio, Vancouver Community College, the Delta Youth Orchestra, the Galiano Trio, and others. At an early age Sleeman was introduced to the music of Olivier Messiaen, whose inspiration has been important in her development. Other influences are Varèse, Stravinsky, Koechlin, Lígeti, and Bartók. Her diversity of style has also been enhanced by her Spanish and Russian background and her love of jazz. She admired the work of Frank Zappa, to whose memory she dedicated selected performances of her work.[7]

Partial list of compositions[edit]

  • Antiphon (for Trumpet and Organ), 1947; Premiere: March 19, 1974, UBC Recital Hall, Vancouver, BC, Alan Ridgway, trumpet, Dietrich Bartel, organ.
  • Cambios: Op. 37 (for flute, clarinet and bassoon), 1990; Premiere: Jan. 1991, Firehouse Theatre, Vancouver, B.C., The Galiano Trio
  • Cantigas (for string quartet [2vln/vla/vc]), 2001; Premier: July 2003, Moncton, NB, performed by Quatuor Arthur Leblanc
  • Cantus (for concert band), 1981; Premiere: March 1981, Hancock Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA; USC Composers' Ensemble, Joyce Shintani, conductor
  • Capriccio (for trombone, violin and orchestra): op. 20, 2001; Premier: January 2001, Chrysler Theatre, Windsor, Ontario; performers: Dale Sorensen, trombone; Lillian Scheirich, violin; Windsor Symphony Orchestra; Susan Haig, conductor
  • Carol of the Bells: A Fantasy on the Christmas Carol (for concert band), 1989; Premier: Dec. 12, 1989, South Delta High School Auditorium, Tsawwassen, B.C.; Delta Band, Rob Colquhoun, conductor
  • Celebration Overture (for concert band), 1994; Premiere: Nov. 1994, Mt. Seymour United Church, North Vancouver, BC; West Vancouver Concert Band, Arthur Smith, conductor
  • Concertino for Trombone and Band, 1977
  • Concerto for Twelve Players (for flute [piccolo, alto flute], English horn, clarinet (bass clarinet), trombone, 3 percussion, Rhodes piano, harp, guitar, violin, double bass; Premiere: Dec. 1, 1980, Hancock Auditorium, USC, Los Angeles, California
  • Cryptic Variations (for symphonic wind ensemble), 2000; Commissioned by Vancouver Community College in commemoration of its 25th anniversary; Premiere: Mar 18, 2000, Caulfeild School Auditorium, West Vancouver, BC; Vancouver Community College Wind Ensemble, Jerry Llyod Domer, conductor
  • Duo for flute and piano in 3 untitled movements, 1979
  • Fanfares, canons and fugues (for 2 trumpets, horn and trombone), 1979; Premiere: Oct. 1979, Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles, California
  • The Legend of the Lions, Op. 40, (for flute, clarinet, bassoon and dancer with narration by the performers), 1992, words in English from a story by Pauline Johnson; Premiere: Feb. 4, 1993, Douglas College, New Westminster, BC; Galiano Trio. Indigenous themes
  • Little Suite (for flute, clarinet and bassoon), 1998; commissioned by the Galiano Trio
  • Palm Court Music, Op. 38 (for alto saxophone, violin, violoncello, percussion and piano, 1991; Premiere: June 17, 1991, Vancouver Arts Council Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia; David Branter, alto sax, Toni Stanick, violin, Heather Hay, cello, Robert Caldwell, percussion, Terence Dawson, piano
  • Passacaglia Concertante, Op. 36, 1990; Premiere: June 13, 1990, Newport Performing Arts Center, Newport, Oregon, Ernest Bloch Festival Orchestra, Anthony Armoré, conductor
  • Picasso Gallery II (for clarinet, violin, cello and piano), 1996
  • Prelude for Piano, Op. 26, 1980; Premiere: Dec. 1, 1980, Hancock Auditorium, USC, Los Angeles; Marcie O'Donnell, piano
  • Recollections, Op. 32 (for flute and string quartet), 1985; Premiere: Oct. 6, 1985, Presentation House Gallery, N. Vancouver, B.C.; K. Cernauskas, flute, Pro Nova String Quartet
  • Rose Adagio (for mezzo-soprano and piano), 1987; words in English by Norman Frizzle
  • Tafelmusik (for flute, clarinet and bassoon), 1991; Premiere: Oct. 9, 1991, Christchurch Cathedral, Vancouver; Michael Cheramy, Lori Freedman, David Boddington
  • Trio (for piano trio [violin, violoncello, piano]), 1993; Premiere: June 14, 1993, Arts Council Theatre, Vancouver, British Columbia; performers: Artemis Trio: Sheila MacDonald, violin; Heather Hay, violoncello; Valerie Rutter, piano
  • Two pieces for clarinet and piano, 1989; Premiere: June 1989, Vancouver Arts Council Gallery; Johanna Hauser, clarinet, Alice Enns, piano
  • Variations, Op. 33 (for flute [piccolo], oboe [English horn], clarinet [bass clarinet[, horn, 3 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos, double bass), 1986; Performed at Scotia Dance Centre (sponsored by CMC) under direction of Giorgio Magnanensi (date unknown)
  • Wind Games (for flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano and percussion, 1994; written at the invitation of the Vancouver New Music Society in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Music Centre; Premiere: Nov. 27, 1994, Vancouver Playhouse; Vancouver New Music Society Ensemble

List of additional performances[edit]

  • February 1997: The Galiano Trio (flute, clarinet, bassoon) presented a concert of Sleeman's works, as part of the Little Chamber Series That Could season. This performance featured her Legend of the Lions and was enhanced by dance and projected scene design.
  • September 1997: Sleeman was selected to represent Canada at the Donna in Musica festival in Fiuggi, Italy.
  • September 1999: Picasso Gallery II was chosen for performance at the International Association of Women in Music Festival in London, England.
  • January 2002: Cantigas (commissioned by ACWC) was premiered in Ottawa by the Quatuor Arthur- Leblanc at the Then, Now and Beyond series sponsored jointly by Association of Canadian Women Composers and the Ottawa Chamber Music Society. The performance piece was repeated August 6, 2002 at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, again performed by the Quatuor Arthur-Leblanc, in the presence of Her Excellency the Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson.
  • July 2006: a new piece commissioned for the CBC, Rhapsody on Themes by Dohnanyi, was premiered in Ottawa, Ontario at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, and performed again in 2007.


Sleeman died early in the morning of October 18, 2011 at her home in North Vancouver, British Columbia. A memorial service for her was held on November 26, 2011 at St. Christopher's Anglican Church, West Vancouver.[1][2]

Critical reception[edit]

Critic Ken Winters of The Globe and Mail praised Sleeman's work Cantigas as "remarkable", continuing, "It's as resourceful as Bartók in exploiting string techniques and sound potentials, and just as vigorous musically."[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Sleeman, Anita (Andrés)". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: Bell Globemedia). 29 October 2011. ISSN 0319-0714. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Obituary » Dr. Anita (Andres) SLEEMAN". The Province (Vancouver: Postmedia Network Inc.). 29 October 2011. ISSN 0839-3311. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ware, Evan. "Anita Sleeman". The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. The Historica Dominion Institute. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Anita Sleeman Biography". Canadian Music Centre. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Kerr, Jessica (11 November 2011). "Sleeman remembered for her dedication to music". The Delta Optimist (Delta, British Columbia: Postmedia Network). ISSN 0710-1422. OCLC 8436396. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  6. ^ "Delta Symphony Society » History of the Delta Symphony Society". Delta Symphony Society. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Baker, Bob (24 October 2011). "Anita Sleeman (1930-2011)". Canadian Music Centre. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  8. ^ Winters, Ken (30 November 2002). "Son and Quatuor a delightful surprise". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: Bell Globemedia). p. R10. ISSN 0319-0714.