Ian Hampton in his office at the Langley Community Music School. Miranda Fatur Black Press Media

Langley classical musician nominated for Canadian literary award

Cellist Ian Hampton is in the top five finalists for the RBC Taylor Prize.

After working for most of his lifetime in the classical music industry, it only makes sense cellist Ian Hampton would have enough experience and insight to publish a novel outlining his career.

So that’s exactly what he did last spring.

READ MORE: Classical musician from Langley explains life in 35 pieces

After a couple book launches and readings last year, Hampton’s first and only novel Jan in 35 Pieces was nominated and shortlisted for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize–an award that commemorates Charles Taylor’s excellence in literary non-fiction.

“I thought I’d try and write a book that described a musician’s life. Something that the layman could perhaps understand. The trouble with music though is that it’s abstract. It’s difficult to say why this piece is good, or why you love it,” explained Hampton.

Hampton, along with four other shortlisted Canadian authors will head to Ontario at the end of February to speak at a round table, and do book signings. The award winner will be announced on Monday, Mar. 4.

“The publisher told me [or] I wouldn’t know,” laughed Hampton, who said he’s “astonished,” by the nomination.

“[I’m] overwhelmed, if not positively terrified.”

According to the Taylor Prize website, the winner will receive $25,000 and an invite to read at the International Festival of Authors in October in Toronto.

Hampton, who is the emeritus artistic director at the Langley Community Music School, said he never composed much during his music career, and never anticipated he’d write a novel.

“I always thought I should be a composer, but of course, life intervenes and we all have to earn a living somehow.”

During the time spent working on the book, Hampton noted some similarities between playing music and writing such as “playing around with words, [and] sentences.”

Each chapter in Jan in 35 Pieces is titled after a piece of music, and the story line follows the life of Hampton, who goes by the name Jan in the book.

“There’s pieces I personally love,” said Hampton about each chapters’ title.

Many pieces selected are associated with moments in Hampton’s life.

“I talk about my early years of training which was in war-time London, so I selected a piece which every student at that time had to play,” he explained of one chapter.

“There’s various episodes throughout my life that act as the skeleton of this book. To some small degree I hope this book is a social history of music in the late 20th century. I’m very keen on social history, I find it very, very interesting. It’s a good thing to do.”

Hampton began his music career in London, Eng., and after moving to Canada, was appointed the principal cellist of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and of the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra, among many other successes.

In 1979 he became principal of the LCMS, and now retired, continues to teach cello at the school.

For more information on Hampton and the LCMS visit: http://langleymusic.com/faculty/ian-hampton-cello/

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