Nic Gotham

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Nicholas Ivor Gotham, known as Nic Gotham, (27 September 1959 – 25 July 2013) was a Canadian jazz saxophonist and composer. His 1992 chamber opera, Nigredo Hotel, won two Dora Awards and was nominated for the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award.

Life and career[edit]

Gotham was born in Eastleigh, England and grew up in Ancaster, Ontario where his family emigrated when he was four years old. He studied at the University of Western Ontario and at York University, Toronto under the saxophonist David Mott and composer James Tenney.[1] In the mid-1980s he played with Fred Stone's improvising ensemble (known informally as Freddie's Band).[2] He went on to form his own ensembles which were active in the Canadian jazz scene during the late 1980s and 1990s, including his first band "Gotham City", "Hemispheres" (a fifteen piece "big band" specialising in jazz and new music), and "40 Fingers" (an improvising saxophone quartet).[3][4]

In 1988 Gotham approached Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald to write the libretto for his first opera, Nigredo Hotel after having composed the incidental music and sound effects for her play Goodnight Desdemona.[5] The opera, a commission by Tapestry New Opera Works, was premiered by the company on 13 May 1992 at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. The production went on to win two Dora Awards and the work was nominated for the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award.[6] It was subsequently performed in several other Canadian cities and at the Glasgow Mayfest, revived in Toronto in 1995 and 2005, and received its Australian premiere in 2006.[7]

Gotham received the Freddie Stone Award, which honours a Canadian musician "who reflects musical integrity and innovation", in 1997.[8] The following year, he and his wife, the Latvian-Canadian playwright Ban̦uta Rubess, and their two children moved to Riga. There, Gotham became a prominent figure in the Latvian jazz and contemporary music world as a teacher, performer, and composer, with works commissioned and premiered by the Riga Saxophone Quartet, the Latvian Radio Choir, the Sinfonietta Riga and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra.[9][10] His second chamber opera Oh Pilot! with a libretto by Ban̦uta Rubess was premiered by the Latvian National Opera in 2007.[11]

Gotham and his family returned to Canada after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Shortly before his death in Toronto at the age of 53, he received his PhD in music composition research from Brunel University with a doctoral dissertation entitled Form and freedom: the marriage of musical systems and intuition. Latvian Radio 3 broadcast a program devoted to his life and music on what would have been his 54th birthday (27 September 2013).[12]


  1. ^ Canadian Music Centre (29 July 2013). "Nic Gotham 1959-2013". Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  2. ^ The Canadian Encyclopedia. "Stone, Fred". Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  3. ^ Chapman, Geoff (22 February 1996). "Hemispheres launches new season 40 Fingers piggyback with bonus concert". Toronto Star. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  4. ^ Clery, Val (22 May 1986). "Joey's singing swan song with class". Toronto Star. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  5. ^ Wagner, Vit (17 May 1992). "Writer and jazzman probe 'dark night of the soul'". Toronto Star, p. C.2. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  6. ^ Wagner, Vit (8 June 1995). "Nigredo Hotel opens yet again; Second debut a rare victory for modern opera". Toronto Star, p. G.2. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  7. ^ Wilson, Janet (October 2006). "Challenging work with top singers" Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine, Opera~Opera, p. 18. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  8. ^ Sound Symposium XIII: July 7–15, 2006. "The Freddie Stone Award". Archived from the original on December 15, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-19.. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  9. ^ Lūsiņa, Ines (20 February 2001). "Niks Gothams no Saksofonijas". Diena. Retrieved 4 November 2013 (in Latvian).
  10. ^ LETA (29 July 2013). "Mūžībā aizgājis mūziķis un komponists Niks Gothams". Retrieved 4 November 2013 (in Latvian).
  11. ^ Opera America. New Works Directory: Oh Pilot. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  12. ^ Latvijas Radio 3 (27 September 2013). "Neakadēmiski: Nika Gothama mūzika". Retrieved 4 November 2013 (in Latvian).

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