Beverly Glenn-Copeland – legendary trans musician finally gets the spotlight he deserves
Recently, composer Beverly Glenn-Copeland releases his first new piece of music in over 15 years. The new single, “River Dreams” will appear on his forthcoming album, Transmissions: The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland out now via Transgressive, the new label home for both Glenn’s catalogue and future recordings. This is simply amazing. The vocal range, lyrics, and composition all meld into one glorious harmony!
Glenn explains, “I feel that music originates from the Universe itself, and it comes to me via something I call the UBS i.e. The Universal Broadcasting System. This song River Dreams came to me through the UBS. The song has a feeling to it. It is both calming and interesting because of the unusual time signature which is seventeen eighth notes to every bar. Musically that is expressed as 17/8 instead of time signatures with which we are more familiar like 4/4 or 3/4. I recorded it in my home studio sometime in 2019.”
Transmissions is a career-spanning album that includes compositions from his early works and his cult-status release, Keyboard Fantasies. It also includes both new and archival unreleased tracks and live versions. Fans can order Transmissions here.
In 1970, nine years after leaving the United States to study music in Canada, Beverly Glenn-Copeland released two self-titled albums. Both were a stunning showcase of classical and jazz acumen, layered with poetry and accompanied by some of the best players of the time. Original pressings now fetch thousands of dollars. Glenn-Copeland then vanished as a recording artist until his re-emergence in 1986 with the release (just a few hundred copies on cassette) of what many now believe to be his masterpiece, Keyboard Fantasies. Thirty years later, revered Japanese record-collector Ryota Masuko came across one of those cassettes and went on a mission to turn other audiophiles onto Glenn-Copeland’s work and to find the artist himself.
Word spread and a cult following was quickly amassed. After repeated requests for live performances, Beverly Glenn-Copeland acquiesced, forming a band of young musicians he calls Indigo Rising and playing his first-ever shows in Canada and Europe. Nearly 60 years after he departed the United States, Beverly Glenn-Copeland returned in late 2019 with a performance at MOMA in New York City alongside a short documentary from the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s (CBC) In the Making series, and a screening of feature documentary Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story by Posy Dixon.
Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly-Glenn Copeland Story
‘Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story’, tells the time-travelling tale of this mystical musician and vocalist, as the present finally catches up with him and he embarks on his first international tour at the age of 74. As a sci-fi obsessed woman living in near isolation, Beverly Glenn-Copeland wrote and self-released Keyboard Fantasies in Huntsville, Ontario back in 1986. Recorded in an Atari-powered home-studio, the cassette featured seven tracks of a curious folk-electronica hybrid, a sound realised far before its time.
Three decades on, the musician – now Glenn Copeland – began to receive emails from people across the world, thanking him for the music they’d recently discovered. Courtesy of a rare-record collector in Japan, a reissue of Keyboard Fantasies and subsequent plays by Four Tet, Caribou and more, the music had finally found its audience two generations down the line. Capturing five decades of relentless musical output and shifting manifestations of gender and sexual identity set against a backdrop of profound social change, the film celebrates the unpredictable rhythms of life. A lullaby to soothe those souls struggling to find their place in the world.
Interesting story of an individual who had struggles within himself, and was saved through music. Not only the wonderful music he would create through his lifetime, but the “negro” music of his youth that he so cherished. Leaving the United States as a teenager, he headed north to Montreal, and attended McGill, where he soon left before completing his degree due to the constant harassment from fellow students. He eventually turned to music, creating what some may call, lost masterpieces of work that can be described somewhere between opera, classical, and new age.
After the rediscovery of his music, he went out on tour again with a band of 20-something session players, playing sold out venues. He thrives on the energy of youth, and it’s what keeps him going. His lust for life, and happiness in aging, adds to the mere beauty of the results that can be achieved if you continue to believe in yourself despite adversity from others. The film goes behind the scenes both with his music, and his life. Catch this piece of history that’s been undocumented until now.
Winner of the 2020 Audience Award at Hot Docs, the film – part biopic, part tour documentary. The film is currently appearing on the international festival circuit and upcoming screenings can be found here.
As well as the following dates and locations in Toronto
VIFF – October 1st – 17:30
Inside Out – October 1st-11th
Although the recorded output of his career has been sparse, he has been prolific in other ways. Canadian’s knew him best as regular guest ‘Beverly’ on the beloved Canadian children’s TV show Mr. Dress-up for nearly 30 years. He wrote for Sesame Street. He wrote musicals, operas, children’s music and hundreds upon hundreds of other songs even though he only had the means to record those few aforementioned albums.
‘There is this incredible underlying thing,’ he says, ‘that joy and suffering is a part of life. Life is good and bad. There is something profound to being alive. The great joy is to be alive. That is wondrous. Being alive means you’re going to go through some hell, some wonderful stuff and a lot of stuff that is neither here nor there.’
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.