CHRIS DEDRICK 1947 - 2010
Musical trends come and go, especially amidst the rapid-fire atmosphere of contemporary pop culture—but the appeal of a strong melody, creatively arranged and expressively sung, is timeless. Which is why Christopher Dedrick is the subject of as much international acclaim today as when he began making music more than three decades ago. The Toronto-based composer, arranger and conductor has amassed a body of work that encompasses hundreds of works: instrumental, vocal, soundtracks, songs, recordings and performances, all of them the product of an attention to detail and a passion for creativity that has captivated casual listeners and fellow artists alike.
Chris’s professional career began in the late ’60s, at the age of 19, as a singer and principal songwriter in sibling vocal group The Free Design. In the midst of perhaps the most creative and competitive climate in pop history, The Free Design produced seven albums between 1967 and 1973 that stand among the most inventive and melodically seductive of their era. Of the group’s hit debut single, “Kites Are Fun,” New York Times critic Alec Wilder wrote: “…It was so fine that I literally wept when I heard it.”
Chris began to contribute as writer, player and producer to recording sessions for many artists, including Peter, Paul & Mary, Melissa Manchester, Barry Mann, and Simon & Garfunkel with James Taylor.
Since settling in Canada in 1972, Chris has established himself as one of the country’s foremost composers and arrangers for television and film—a status validated by the honour of a Genie for his original score for feature film, The Saddest Music In the World, and three Gemini Awards (among 12 nominations) for scores for television. His most recent nomination (2006) is for The Man Who Lost Himself. Other notable soundtracks: Shades of Black (the Conrad Black Story), Waking Walter, Childstar, Tripping the Wire, I Claudia, Elizabeth Rex, Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion, Emily of New Moon, The Avro Arrow, Walter and Henry, Road to Avonlea, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Planet of Junior Brown, Million Dollar Babies, and many more.
But this doesn’t begin to summarize his many credits and interests. Among the dozens of works he has composed for chamber ensembles, jazz bands, choirs and symphony orchestras, Chris is a major creative force behind several recordings and performances by the world-renowned Canadian Brass. In addition to having arranged and composed selections from five of their 1990s albums, the Canadian Brass turned in rapturously received concerts of his suites Mother and Child (Hamilton, 1994; with the Bach-Elgar Choir) and Fantasies for Anna (Toronto, 1995). Chris also conducted the Canadian Brass and members of the New Philharmonic at the 1995 premieres of Entre Nous in Toronto and New York City.
Vocal music—especially a cappella choral music—has continued to feature prominently in Chris’s career. Under the direction of his mentor, Dr. Kenneth Mills, Chris sang and co-wrote many innovative and highly acclaimed compositions with the Star-Scape Singers, which produced over 15 albums, containing some 100 choral songs.
“I’m very grateful to live, work, and play in the world of music,” says Chris. “How can anything be added to the incredible life-force that music is? The composer/musician is an explorer who, through hard work and inspiration, aims to uncover and share some unique facet of that sublime wealth.”
As if to confirm the tangible care and passion invested in Chris’s music—as well as its timelessness—his career has, in a sense, come full circle as of late. In October 2003, an American record label began a deluxe CD reissue program of The Free Design’s discography. The event prompted some of contemporary alternative music’s most respected artists—a few of which weren’t yet born when the albums were originally released—to step forward and claim the group, and Chris’s impeccable songcraft, as an influence. “[It] somehow still sounds innovative and genre-defining,” wrote the New York Times’ Neil Strauss.
It’s a sentiment that’s sure to be applied to all of Christopher Dedrick’s music for generations to come.
- Michael White
(Michael is a Vancouver-based entertainment journalist who has written for MOJO, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, eye Weekly, and others.)
|1947||Born in Delevan, NY|
|1953||First public performance, vocal and ukelele|
|1958||Began playing trumpet|
|1963||First professional arrangment|
|1965||Attended University of New York State at Fredonia|
|1966||Began trumpet, theory, composition at Manhattan School of Music/Started writing songs|
|1967||First recording contract: Free Design on Project 3 Records|
|1968||First network TV appearance: The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson|
|1969||Entered USAF, chief arranger for the Airmen of Note|
|1970||First film score: "Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker"|
|1971||First appearance with a symphony orchestra: The Buffalo Philharmonic (with the Free Design)|
|1972||Moved to Toronto, Canada/ Recorded solo album: "Be Free"|
|1975||Last Free Design concert tour|
|1978||First recording with the StarScape Singers|
|1980||First performance at Carnegie Hall|
|1983||First European concert tour|
|1985||Focus of career turns to film and TV scoring|
|1994||First Gemini Award: "Million Dollar Babies"|
|2004||Genie Award: "The Saddest Music in the World"|
|2010||Passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Posthumously nominated for a 2010 Gemini Award, Best Original Music Score for a Dramatic Program, Mini-Series or TV Movie