When I think about music and my music making, I’m reminded of the Spanish word “mas” which means “more”.
Meaning – I believe that music must possess meaning to be worthwhile. Sometimes that meaning comes from a text that tells a story, or paints a picture, or directs our attention to the spiritual plane. Sometimes that meaning simply comes from the stirring of the soul in response to a voice, a harmony, or a building of tension in the musical elements. Whatever the stimulus, meaningful music is what I strive to create. It must first mean something to me. Only then will the performer and the listener find something of worth. And that is what Len Ballantine Music is first of all about.
Accessibility – I believe that music ought to be accessible and approachable to the performer and the listener. That is to say, the music ought to be within the grasp of the musicians, and listeners need to be readily able to understand it. Both the music I strive to create, and the teaching I endeavour to impart, always contain a strong accessibility factor.
Satisfaction – I believe that music should be satisfying. If I’ve done my job well, there will be a high satisfaction component to both the role of the performer and to the result in the listener. The intent of my music and teaching is that all the participants come away with a deep sense of satisfaction. And this is the final reason why Len Ballantine Music exists.
If there is one word that could describe my life-long musical journey it would have to be ‘diverse’. As a child, my family home was a veritable potpourri of music of all kinds. Piano studies with father began at the age of four, and he ensured that there were excursions in winter to hear the Detroit Symphony, and picnics in summer to Belle Isle to hear the Concert Band under Leonard Smith. And every Sunday there were hymns and choruses to be sung in church to the unique accompaniment of a fine brass band which my father conducted. I soon learned to play a valved instrument myself and willingly adding my voice to the constant stream of four-part harmony as our family drove the miles from Windsor ON to Halifax NS to visit my parents’ war-time friends.
Home truly provided a diverse musical environment, and by the time I arrived at the University of Toronto to study piano seriously, I had already embraced an eclectic world of sounds and styles. It’s no surprise that I simply couldn’t settle into a life limited to playing the piano. So I left the performance program where I had earned a scholarship to study with the eminent Swiss pianist, Pierre Souvairan, to enter the composition stream. And my musical world continued to evolve when I began to sing in the University’s Concert Choir under the direction of Lloyd Bradshaw. Everything I already was as a musician and pianist came into a new light as the world of vocal music suddenly emerged for me as a passion. The further influence of Elmer Iseler and the Festival Singers of Canada sealed my fate. I became hooked on choral music, motivating singers, and arranging music for vocal, piano, and brass.
But I couldn’t settle into any one path. For a time I taught music at Wellesley College School, did summer stock music theatre with David Warrack, played piano for Rita Sward’s Ballet School, was a paid soloist at Eastminster United Church, was the organist and choir director at St. Stephen’s and St. John’s Dixie Anglican Churches. I even wrote jingles for Sony Walkman, the Waterbed Gallery and Cooper’s Baseball gloves! These years were tough but truly incredible as a testing ground of my musical capacities.
Eventually, I was hired as the National Secretary of Music for The Salvation Amy in Canada. This allowed me enough stability to consider marriage to Heather and possibly a settled family life. For both of us, the Christian faith had been a consistent and important thread in our lives. And soon after our marriage we ventured into ministry as officers of The Salvation Army, a career which brought us together on the same team, and allowed us to apply our various skills in posts with congregations in Stratford, London and Toronto, as well as six years in the UK where I led the SA’s premiere vocal ensemble, The International Staff Songsters. In those years, we travelled the British Isles, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and the US, where choral clinics and worship workshops became our focus. Notable among these many adventures were the magnificent festivals staged at the Royal Albert Hall for which I was privileged to both arrange music and conduct. I also have fond memories of the numerous recordings undertaken while in the UK with some of the finest musicians it has been my privilege to work with.
Now, in ‘retirement’, Heather and I are beginning yet another adventure in the amazing and diverse story of our lives. Ballantine Music is a shared enterprise, where Heather manages the web content and interacts with people… while I take the preferred ‘artists’ position of hiding in the loft to write blogs or teaching tips, and dream up Canadian Haiku that may morph into a choral piece some wintery night when the temperature outside is -30 C.
All this to say that a lot of living has gone into what makes Len Ballantine Music possible today. It is our sincere hope that you will find our advice and our musical products to be inspirational and very much a positive influence in your own journey of music making. As Heather would say, “It’s all about relationship.” And in this case, I certainly agree. What we truly want to have is a relationship of encouragement and enablement with those that encounter our site… so that we can inspire each other in the pursuit of one of God’s greatest inventions. Solo Deo Gloria!