One can build good fortune by cultivating kindness and extending it to others – a practice the arts nourish within us, said Berthold Carriere, composer, conductor, teacher and co-music director of the Stratford Symphony Orchestra.
“Life doesn’t always work the way we expect – no matter how you plan it. So much depends on hard work, sheer luck and the kindness of others. If the people I met along the way hadn’t helped me, and given me a break, there’s no way of knowing where I’d end up,” he said.
Carriere spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, the Don Wright Faculty of Music and the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the Monday, June 15, morning session of Western’s 305th Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Music, honoris causa (DMus), upon Carriere in recognition of his distinguished career in theatrical and musical theatre in North America.
“There are ways of cultivating your kindness by developing empathy and stimulating your imagination. These are prerequisites of kindness, and they are among the benefits conferred on us by the arts. I do believe kindness and understanding are impossible without the kind of emotional, intellectual and spiritual insight the arts can help you attain,” he told the graduates.
Carriere graduated from the University of Montreal in 1966, and completed his masters at Western in 1973. While here, he studied composition with Arsenio Giron and Philip Downs.
At the start of his career, Carriere arranged and conducted music for CBC Radio and Television, while teaching music in Ottawa in the late 1960s. In 1967, he conducted the Dominion Day celebration on Parliament Hill in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II.
Holding the post of music director for Theatre London from 1972-74, and again from 1976-77, Carriere also took a similar position with the Ottawa Little Theatre in 1974. His involvement with the Stratford Festival as conductor began in 1973, after which he was recruited to become the festival’s music director. He composed and arranged music for more than 80 Stratford Festival productions.
As musical director of the Theatre Department at the Banff School of Fine Arts from 1968-70, Carriere was also named director of music emeritus at the Stratford Festival, after holding the position of director of music for more than 38 years.
Carriere has received numerous awards, including a Special Tribute Guthrie Award in 1975; two Dora Awards (The Boyfriend, 1981 and The Mikado, 1987); and Western’s Alumni Professional Achievement Award in 2000. In 2001, Carriere was named a member of the Order of Canada and he was given the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003.
In her citation, Music Dean Betty Anne Younker said Carriere has left a legacy and lasting impact in musical theatre.
“Mr. Carriere is passionate as he describes a legacy built on tradition and innovation; his words reflect an uncompromising commitment of excellence to the art form; anything less is unacceptable,” she said.
“He has made an impact on artistic experiences for audiences regionally, provincially, nationally, and internationally, and has done so from the passion he has for the arts. His career has been one of commitment with a sense of generosity and honesty, which compels us to honor him today,” Younker added.
“Our world is full of noises, but by organizing sound in a structured way, we can create sweet airs that give delight. In doing so, we assert a transformative power of art to our humanity,” Carriere said.
“The arts will enrich your enjoyment when things are going well and offer consolation when they’re not. No matter how well you do in life, there will be times when you need those kinds of windows beyond yourselves. I hope you will cherish the gifts that you have, and use them in the best way possible. I hope you will encounter kindness and understanding from those you meet along the way, and in turn, you will extend those gifts to others.”