Deborah & Peter Skoggard
Musicians & Healers
Published, EAC Communiqué, February 1989
eter and Deborah Skoggard are a composer and singer who live in the very centre of Elora. They have a small daughter Emily, four years old. They believe it’s time for the individual creator to give way to something more co-operative and integrated; time to let go of our individual boundaries, to allow for group creation. With their vision they challenge us all. They hope to start a centre for transformation through the arts, and through innovative productions help people to hear music with immediacy and fresh perception. Deborah and Peter explain:
“I started singing very young. When I was eight or nine, living in England, I sang Britten’s “War Requiem” at Coventry Cathedral, with Benjamin Britten conducting the massed school choirs.
“I was born in Scotland, but grew up in England. My father was English and my mother Canadian. I moved to Toronto when I was 12 and went to Lawrence Park because of its music programme. I sang in St. George’s United Church choir. Most of Canada’s young singers now were in that choir at one time.
“I started studying singing at 15, and went into the Kiwanis Festival and won everything. I won the Rose Bowl when I was 18, which was the top prize for vocal. But in Grade 12 I decided I hadn’t fitted into the social scene so I became a cheerleader, and I lost my voice. That was real suffering. I had to have throat surgery, and the doctor said I wouldn’t sing again.
“I went to McGill to study cello, but only wanted to sing. I found a wonderful teacher, Rugana Herlinger, a 90 year old Czechoslovakian soprano. She made me hum for a whole year, called Boca Chiusa, and I got my voice back. I give her credit for that.
“Subsequently, I studied at the Guild Hall in England. I then went to the Mozarteum in Salzburg for a summer, stayed three years, and graduated. I had to learn French, Italian and German. I spent a lot of time in cafés but also did some wonderful singing. I sang Carmina Burana under Orff. He was very old and deaf, but an incredible man! I sang with Von Karajan conducting. When you work with people like that it gives you standards.
“I came from Salzburg to the San Francisco Opera Company, and that’s where the heartbreak began for me. I realized that the Inner Call was stronger for me than a career. I looked to achieve something meaningful there but it was impossible. This all came to a head in 1979 when I went to Paris and won the Mozart Prize in the International Vocal Competition. When I was standing on the stage and everyone said I should be happy, I know I had achieved something, but not what I felt was my God-given gift.
“I was a very unhappy person. I was displaced. I had been pushing very hard when I was young. But I knew I loved singing.
“The Inner call grew stronger and stronger. I found a place inside me, and a connection between my heart and my soul. I couldn’t deal with a career, so I started teaching.”
“When I came to Canada and met Peter I continued teaching. I also worked on aspects of Inner Transformation, of the Inner Path. Now all of a sudden in this last year it’s come together for me. I see how music can serve that vision. Now I’m quite clear what I really want to do.”
I found a place inside me, and a connection between my heart
and my soul.
“I grew up on Long Island, New York. Like Deborah, my mother was Canadian from Toronto, but my father was American, born in Sweden. My grandfather was a painter. My father was a writer with strong feelings about creativity. I started piano in Grade 3, after hearing my brother play Chopin’s Grand Polonaise. I learned the basics. Very early I did write little pieces of music and my father encouraged me. But it wasn’t consistent. I wasn’t a Mozart. Over the years I’d set a friend’s poem to music. I was always doing things that had the right feeling of being just beyond my limits.
“But it wasn’t till I opened a restaurant in Toronto with my brother that I began to write melodies for e. e. cummings’ poems. To memorize them I set them to music. I had dropped out of university after my third year. Composing tunes was a way of looking into poetry, of keeping the spirit from getting bogged down in the quagmire.
“After a few years I decided to give music a try and enrolled at the Conservatory. I studied piano, Baroque recorder and music theory. There you learned things but you weren’t always sure what you’d do with them. I was writing. It was a way of working with spirit, to keep from feeling bleak or sad.
“I wrote and learned by discovery. I’d say ‘Oh my gosh, it does work!’. It was dumbfounding. I’d take these miraculous things to my composition teacher and he’d put a mark here and there. My reaction was: it’s incredible. Can you believe this?
“I remember hearing a piece by Ravel many years before I studied music. I had a feeling of what he was trying to do, even in key and rhythm. He was taking old forms and playing with them…like painting a portrait and putting blue on the nose, and green and red and just making the whole thing dance and come alive with wild juxtapositions of colour, yet with classical form.
I was always exploring keys and rhythms and harmonics. I began to write piano accompaniment. I was 22 or 23 then and I sang in a choir; I learned about choral music, how four voices can sing different tunes and emotions and all fit together. As Mozart said, that’s how God must see it, the music of the world. The music I write seems to be an offering, to speak of Man’s relations to life. It’s like bringing angels and carpentry together. When you build you have to have a certain shape to be a chair to sit in. Instead of wood you have emotion wood. You bring and lead and take people weaving through, and you lead yourself, following the words…usually poetry. Somehow you’ve gone into a world where form and content don’t contradict each other. And that’s like words before they sprouted and divided. You’ve touched something there.
“A year and a half ago I entered three choral competitions and got three prizes. For the Amadeus Choir I won first prize unaccompanied, and also fourth. For the Jubilate Singers I got a fourth in competition with seventy-two composers across Canada. Very encouraging.”
“See, it’s the path of discovery and exploration. It will take a while before I get to orchestral music. But I’m writing quartets, and arranging my Credo for string accompaniment.
“It’s always one step at a time.”
by Beverley Cairns, February 1989
The music I write seems to be an offering, to speak of Man’s relations to life.
UPDATE – 1997
In the intervening years Peter and Deborah have come closer to their goals, Deborah training and working in holistic healing and nutrition and Peter qualifying as a Registered Massage Therapist.
In May 1997, Peter’s “Blake Choral Songs” were performed at the Guelph Spring Festival. Peter gave lectures relating to Blake’s vision, illustrated with slides of Blake’s artwork. “Missa Brevis” received Honourable Mention in the Choral Competition of the Jubilate Singers.
UPDATE – 2005
In 1998, Peter and Deborah opened the Oasis Healing Arts Centre Clinic in Elora, where they offer a wide range of services. Deborah works in holistic healing, energy medicine and “inner mind technology”, and holistic addictions therapy. Peter does Nutrition, Massage Therapy and Cranio-Sacral Therapy. Their daughter Emily is posed (barring anything unforeseen) to represent Canada at the 2008 Olympics in Show Jumping on her mount “Super Mario”.
DEBORAH says: “My passion and my project now is my book, five years in the writing, and soon to be published” (in negotiations). “What On Earth Do You Think You Are Doing?” is a marriage of science, spirituality and consciousness. It is an allegorical journey of three characters through cosmic evolution to biological evolution to conscious evolution. Its premise is that conditioning has closed us to our true potential, has made us mechanistic and limited (Newtonian physics) as opposed to the creative, limitless (Quantum physics) beings we were (God) designed (us) to be.
“As you can imagine, it is a huge undertaking but immensely rewarding!”
PETER continues to be amazingly creative and original. In 1999, “The Bird of Perception” was staged at the Guelph Spring Festival, settings of poems by e. e. cummings, W. H. Auden, and Peter Skoggard; In 2001 the Guelph Spring Festival premiered “Moon Over Eguchi” based on 14th c. Japanese Noh Drama. Year 2003 saw a collaborative workshop production of “somewhere i have never travelled”, 13 of the 16 Settings of e. e. cummings’ poems with four choreographed by David Earle for members of the Dancetheatre David Earle, Temple Studios, Guelph.
Peter’s most recent work was presented in December 2004 at the River Run Centre, Guelph. “Bayt Lahm”, the other Bethlehem Story, is a dramatic oratorio with poetry of 11 Arab Women, one Israeli Peace Activist, and Canadian diplomat R.A.D. Ford.
Deborah Skoggard August 2012
After a long struggle with illness, Deborah Skoggard gently died at home in her 63rd year on Saturday, August 11, 2012.
Peter Skoggard 2018
Peter has a wonderful zest for life, writing music and exploring dance with David Earl. He is involved with Elora’s ‘Save our Water’ fight against Nestle’s bottling well on Middlebrook Sideroad and is below dancing as a great blue heron.