Beverly Glenn-Copeland reissues classic 1986 album, Keyboard Fantasies (exclusive Q&A)
composer Beverly Glenn-Copeland announces the reissue of his 1986 masterpiece, Keyboard Fantasies. The LP/CD release will be out on April 9th via Transgressive, marking the 35th anniversary of its original release and will feature updated artwork and liner notes by pop star, Robyn. This will be the first time the album has ever been available on CD, and both physical formats are available here.
See below for an exclusive Q&A theBUZZ did with Copeland.
To mark the occasion, the artist is sharing a new live performance video of “Let Us Dance” directed by Posy Dixon. “I am profoundly grateful to all who have supported the music of Keyboard Fantasies during these last years, with special appreciation to my wife Elizabeth,” says Glenn. “Though written over thirty years ago, I have listened to your recent musings about the hope the music inspires and the calm it brings, finally understanding that the transmissions sent through me from what I call the Universal Broadcasting System are helping to accomplish the UBS’s purpose, namely that of bringing us together as a single human family at last. For this I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Blessings.”
The reissue follows the release of his album, Transmissions: The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland. Transmissions was a career-spanning album that includes compositions from his early works including selections from Keyboard Fantasies. It also included both new and archival unreleased tracks and live versions. This collection marked the first new release from Glenn-Copeland since 2004.
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 In the Making series and a screening of feature documentary Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story by Posy Dixon.
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.’
Q&A between Mandy Goodhandy and Beverley-Glenn Copeland
1. What’s different with the re-release of keyboard fantasies?
There is nothing really different about this re-release except that it is being re-released in various formats, with a couple of extra good things thrown in.
2. Favourite composition from the album?
3, Is there a song that you feel still resonates to new listeners today as much as when it was originally written, and why?
Most people who listen to this album say that the whole album makes them feel calm. Every New is the one that people’s response has been extraordinary, which has lyrics as part of the composition. Three tracks on the album have words and three don’t. Winter Astral is one I feel was transmitted through me. It was a shock to me because it’s not something I ever would have thought of. It goes to particularly beautiful places harmonically. I just love it.
4. How did the Robyn connection come about for the liner notes?
That’s really interesting, I didn’t know of Robyn. I ended up going to Stolkholm in 2019. She was there, she showed up at a performance I was doing and introduced herself to me. When I came to know who she was, I was in great shock. She had an amazing international career for many years, and she just wanted to do it. She felt so touched by the music, and had a copy of the album, so she very kindly offered to do the liner notes for this.
Keyboard Fantasies Tracklist
A. Ever New, Winter Astral, Let Us Dance
B. Slow Dance, Old Melody, Sunset Village
Keyboard Fantasies Liner Notes: By Robyn
Not all, but the best artists are like tourist guides waiting at the brink of an emotional landscape, waving their flag, greeting the arriving visitors to their new destination. “Welcome to Sadness, let me show you around!”
Not all artists are aware of the task, but some are nice enough to take this less glamorous part of the job seriously. Beverly Glenn-Copeland is one of the best at it. As an adventurer and a rebel he tread uncharted territory for years, getting to know the terrain so that others could follow and visit what he had already explored. I was one of those people who discovered Keyboard Fantasies many years after it was made, but it felt new and like it was made for this time. Glenn sang to me as I was lying down on the floor of a rehearsal studio: “Let it go, let it go down, it’s ok.” And I could hear that the voice knew what it was talking about, it pierced my heart and still gave me space to feel my own feelings. Glenn does this, he shows you the way with his voice, his polyrhythmic arrangements and the empty spaces in between, through his own experiences, but always with so much care for the one who listens. It’s even spelled out in the lyrics.
He seems even more focused on the healing and teacher aspects of his artistry now, but it is on Keyboard Fantasies that this purpose seems to crystallise.
Sometimes I think about Glenn and I imagine the moment after he finished the song, ‘Sunset Village’. I imagine him maybe listening back alone in his house in Ontario in the snow. I think about that this music existed such a long time before it became more widely known. That it was there in his mind and in his house long before I heard it and long before it was rediscovered by people all over the world. It does something strange, it makes me a discoverer together with Glenn every time I listen. And Glenn is like: “watch your head when you enter the cave; the ceiling is lower than one might think.” – Robyn
MORE ABOUT BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND
The diverse work of legendary Canadian/American singer, composer and transgender activist Beverly Glenn-Copeland has been gathering momentum and recognition in recent years thanks to a reissue of the extraordinary folk-jazz of his debut self-titled album (1970) and the widespread discovery of his masterpiece Keyboard Fantasies (1986). This year’s re-issue of Primal Prayer (originally self-released in 2004) and recent tours throughout North America and Europe have shown that Glenn-Copeland’s music continues to defy categorisation and genre 50 years after his miraculous career began.
Born in Philadelphia in 1944, Glenn-Copeland grew up in a house obsessed with classical music, his father practiced piano for 5 hours a night. Glenn refers to Bach, Chopin and Mozart as his ‘cradle music’, music that seeped into his blood-stream. He moved to Montreal in 1961 so that he could study German Lieder (song-cycles) at McGill University. Faced with challenges and hostility relating to his race, gender and sexual orientation he dropped out of university before completing his degree. He picked up a guitar and started writing music.
In 1970 Glenn-Copeland recorded two brilliant albums. The first was part of CBC Radio’s ‘Transcription Series’ titled Beverly Copeland. It was a virtuosic showcase of classical and jazz vocal stylings, poetry, jazz and folk, accompanied by some of the best players of the time. Original pressings of that album now fetch thousands of dollars when passed from collector to collector – just 250 copies were pressed. Six months later Glenn-Copeland made a studio album with many of those same musicians, this time titled Beverly Glenn-Copeland, it was folk-jazz classic and an album that has been the subject of a mystical reputation and underground following for almost five decades now.
It wasn’t until 1986 that Glenn-Copeland recorded again. This time he was inspired by a profound relationship with nature, an obsession with science fiction and some of the earliest drum-machines and synthesisers. Keyboard Fantasies is a minimalist, proto-electronic masterpiece with unbelievable soul. Imagine Joni Mitchell collaborating with Brian Eno and you’ll get close. Self-released on cassette, it sold less than 100 copies at the time. But Keyboard Fantasies was this record that would break Glenn’s career wide-open more than 30 years later.
Glenn wasn’t twiddling his thumbs between these now-iconic records. His life has been a non-stop combination self-discovery and part pop-culture fairy-tale. He appeared 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 lived in the cities and in the wild. 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.
In the early 1990’s Beverly Glenn-Copeland first heard the term ‘transgender’. Armed with the language to describe the way he had felt since before he was even a teenager, he found a self-identity which had eluded him his whole life.
In 2016 Keyboard Fantasies was discovered by a revered Japanese record-store owner and collector. Word spread in the record-collecting community and several re-issues were released on different labels. Glenn played his first shows of original music in more than 40 years to standing ovation after standing ovation. He formed a band of brilliant and talented young musicians from Nova Scotia, Montreal and Toronto and started touring the world.
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.