Jillian Horton
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Jillian Horton

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"Jillian Horton Record Review"

With a silky smooth voice that echoes the late Eva Cassidy and a storytelling sensibility that takes cues from Joni Mitchell, the 30-year-old Horton hits all the right notes on her debut. The Brandon, Manitoba born cerebral singer is also a doctor, having recently completed medical school; she is currently interning in Winnipeg. She brings a doctor’s disciplined approach to her songwriting, which is evident on her first recording — a debut disc that perfectly captures her voice and piano-playing prowess. The ten songs are personal reflections of her journey, dealing with regrets, reinventions and revelations. Her prairie upbringing is also an underlying theme present throughout — this rural milieu provides the musical metaphor and inspiration behind songs such as “All the Pretty Horses” and “Dinosaur Park.” One of the disc’s most revealing songs is the love gone wrong song “Winnipeg” that chronicles Horton’s journey to Winnipeg following her graduation from medical school and in the process she makes the decision to leave a lover behind. Overall, a jazzy, gospel vibe marks this self-titled first record of a five-album deal with Marquis and it shows that this songwriter is in for a long career. - Exclaim! Canada's Music Authority

"Horton's Star Began Its Rise in London"

By James Reaney

The echoes of Jillian Horton's amazing days at Western, when she was already a young master of words and music, are now being heard across Canada.

"It was during my second or third year of undergrad that I really started to sit down and write a ton of music," Horton says from Winnipeg.

"I regard Western as the place where I really got my 'start,' and I'm always delighted to have an opportunity to rave about how the school — and specifically, the department of English and drama — put me on a path to the exciting things I am doing in my life right now," the singer- songwriter/doctor/playwright says.

It was at a cast gathering after a UWO Players Guild Society's staging of The Crucible by Arthur Miller in November 1992, that Horton sat down at the grad pub's piano. The classically trained pianist began to sing her own songs, something she seldom did. Her fellow cast members were enthusiastic. Horton suddenly realized those songs might have a life far beyond her private performances.

"It was like an epiphany. I was like, 'Wow! Maybe people will like this music,' " she says.

Around Horton was a cast of supportive friends, including teachers, fellow Western students and actors, Fanshawe music industry arts grads and members of the Ivey family. The Iveys are the London philanthropists whose national scholarship brought Horton to Western and they have remained friends.

Horton, 30, has been a little busy since her days in the creative crucible at Western in the 1990s.

Even the thumbnail version of her life and art makes her sound like a person the CBC might dream up, if she didn't already exist. Leaving out her Brandon years, which came before Western, and skipping over her medical studies at Hamilton's McMaster University and her residency and fellowship at a Toronto hospital, which came after UWO, let's jump to the present.

The UWO English grad is now a Winnipeg physician specializing in general internal medicine with a sparkling debut CD of her own songs, brilliantly produced by Eitan Cornfield and recorded by former Fanshawe College music industry arts student John (Beetle) Bailey.

She's married to former Londoner Eric Hachinski, a fine classical pianist now studying law at Manitoba, has already been heard on Stuart McLean's The Vinyl Cafe, a CBC Radio home for emerging musical talent and is soon to be heard on Shelagh Rogers' CBC Radio show, Sounds Like Canada, if she isn't bumped for Rufus Wainwright or Anne Murray again.

To me, all these remarkable accomplishments in life and art recall Horton's fine piece of music theatre, Some Greater Name. A magical exploration of Canada's weirdest prime minister, Mackenzie King, and his beloved terrier, Pat, the 1997 work stands out as one of the great moments in London cultural life.

Horton acknowledges an obvious model in Billy Bishop Goes to War, by John Gray with Eric Peterson. That work that also combined Canadian history, a small cast and the composer-playwright on stage to shape the songs.

Horton's words and melodies proved to be an eerie and entrancing flight into the mind of the Canadian leader and the heartbreaking nobility of the terrier, who was — in my opinion — far too good for King.

UWO teachers as John Lingaard, Richard Green and Ernie Redekop all helped Some Greater Name reach the stage, showing the university's lead role in those days.

Through its stars, UWO-connected actors Jim Doucette (as the PM) and Rachel Holden-Jones (as Pat), the play helped introduce a new generation of theatre talents. Lingaard and Green have left London, a loss for our theatre scene. But Doucette, Holden-Jones and Anne-Marie Caicco, another close friend of Horton's, all appeared on separate London stages this month, proof that the new talent is still flourishing.

Some Greater Name wasn't performed often, with performances at Cape Breton, the McManus downstairs at the Grand, and Woodstock among its credits. Horton says works like it probably need their playwright-composer on stage, at the piano. In Horton's case, her medical studies had to come first.

Now that she's a doctor, she's found more time for the piano and her songs. But she's singing, not accompanying singing dogs or PMs. Horton can be heard on her excellent self-titled CD (Marquis/EMI). If it were a play, the CD would have a couple of acts with a lot of witty romantic grief leading to a happy, serenely passionate ending. It's probably no accident that the guy in track No. 2, Winnipeg, is a jerk and the guy in the finale, Song for an Evening in June, is a piano concerto, a maestro who steals her heart to a standing ovation.

Years ago, a Free Press critic said of Horton's work in The Crucible that "(she) makes few missteps, but . . . doesn't go as far as one might wish in an admittedly taxing role."

Well, this Free Press critic says she was just getting started when it comes to conquering taxing roles — and we were lucky to see those first steps. - London Free Press

"The Perfect World of Jillian Horton"

By Graham Rockingham

Remember back in high school, there was always this one kid who was just too perfect. You know the type. They dressed well, had all the looks, probably starred on all the teams, ended up getting straight As and a scholarship to Harvard. You wanted to hate them, but couldn't because they were just so nice.

Jillian Horton is that kind of person. Seven years ago she turned down a full scholarship to study English literature at Oxford so she could study medicine at McMaster. Horton figured she could do more good in the world as a healer than as a scholar. Three years later she was the medical school valedictorian.

After graduation, Horton moved to Toronto for four years of intensive training at some of the best teaching hospitals in the country. While doing her residency, Horton would end her gruelling 90-hour work weeks by coming home to her apartment, sitting at a keyboard and composing music. It turned out, of course, that her songs were so good that a record company with a big-label distribution deal decided to sign her to a multi-disc contract. All this and she's not even 30.

Oh, by the way, you probably figured out from her picture that Horton's got some looks, too. Yeah, you want to hate her, but she's just so nice.

Horton's on the phone from her parent's home in Brandon, Man. She's there to wish her dad a happy 69th birthday. We're talking about her self-titled debut album which has just been released by Marquis Records with the help of Capitol/EMI. She plays piano and sings in the tradition of Carole King and Laura Nyro, although Jann Arden and Joni Mitchell are her favourites. She has a strong lyrical sensibility, befitting a woman with a masters degree in English, and sings of bad love, good love, self-doubts and missing home.

"I'd come home after working long hours and go to the piano," she says. "In a very strange way, music emerged as the thing during my residency that kept me from going nuts."

It was tough enough writing the songs and recording the album while training to be a doctor. Now she's got to figure out some way of balancing the demands of the record company with her new job as a doctor with the Winnipeg Health Authority. It makes touring difficult. She hopes her speciality in internal medicine will loosen some time up. It's a field characterized by three or four weeks of intensive hospital work, followed by as much as two weeks off. Most doctors need the time to recover. She needs it to perform.

Although Horton is a Manitoba girl, her big break in the music world started with a chance meeting in Hamilton. In her early teens, Horton studied to be a classical concert pianist, a career cut short by chronic tendonitis. At one point, when she was 16, she visited a clinic in Hamilton for therapy. During one of her sessions, she met a Toronto cellist named Eitan Cornfield who worked frequently for CBC Radio. Years later, during her medical residency, she heard a CD on the radio by Canadian singer Patricia O'Callaghan.

"I had never heard of her before and they played some selections off her CD. I was spellbound. I thought this is the kind of record I wanted to make my whole life. I didn't know they still made this kind of stuff.

"I bought the CD and I was flipping through the notes and saw that Cornfield had produced several of the cuts. So I said 'what the hell, I'm going to write him.' I'd never forgotten that meeting in Hamilton. I said 'I'm a doctor now, but in my heart I'm also a musician and I've always dreamed of doing something with all the music that I write. And I know that if I don't do something really soon that dream is just going to fade away. Would you be interested in listening to some of the stuff that I've written?' He did remember me and he wrote back right away."

Cornfield loved the songs, booked her into a professional studio, recorded a demo and brought it to O'Callaghan's label, Marquis. They loved them. From then, on every bit of her time away from the hospital was consumed by the recording project.

"After finishing a shift when I'd been up for 30 hours, I'd stumble downtown and do something like visit the person working on the layout for the album cover," she said.

Almost as an afterthought, Horton mentions that something else was indeed going on in her life. Apparently she found some time to meet a man, fall in love and get married. His name is Eric, a Juilliard-trained concert pianist from London, Ont. He's embarking on a second career, having enrolled in the University of Manitoba law school.

"We're a mess, basically," Horton laughs. "He was a musician and now he's got to be a lawyer. I was the doctor and now I've got to be a musician. We don't make any sense." - Hamilton Spectator

"Good Medicine"

By Morley Walker

SAY one thing for Brandon-born singer-songwriter Dr. Jillian Horton. If her new CD tanks, she has a decent career to fall back on.

In June, the vivacious 29-year-old completed a four-year residency in internal medicine at the University of Toronto. In August, she and her new husband moved to Winnipeg, where he is enrolled in law school and she is suiting up as a doctor.

Last week, however, Horton was back in the Big Smoke, where she launched her self-titled album on the Marquis Classics label.

"You could say I've gone overboard in terms of job security," says Horton, who seems to have the ambition and energy of three people. "I'm very much caught between the two poles of music and medicine."

The baby of a family of four children in the Wheat City, Horton started organ lessons at age six, before switching to piano at 10. She seriously pursued her classical studies until her mid-teens, when she developed tendonitis.

At age 17, she left home to take a B.A. in English at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. Did we mention she was also an aspiring poet and playwright?

During her master's degree, also in English at Western, she wrote a play about the life of our wartime prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. It was staged at the Undergrand, the second stage of the Grand Theatre, London's equivalent of Manitoba Theatre Centre. She was 22.

Horton won a full Commonwealth Scholarship to do her PhD in English at Oxford University in England. But she had an early-life crisis. So she switched gears entirely. She got accepted into the medical program at McMaster University in Hamilton, where she spent three years learning about organs of a non-musical sort.

Yet she couldn't flush the music out of her system. In her undergrad years, she had begun composing songs and lyrics at the piano, moody Joni Mitchellesque numbers about exile and longing, which she warbles in a rich soprano.

Almost four years ago, she was listening to CBC Radio when she heard a song by Toronto-based torch singer Patricia O'Callaghan. "I had a small epiphany," Horton recalls. "I wished I could make a song that perfect."

It turned out that the man at the controls of several cuts on O'Callaghan's CD was veteran CBC producer Eitan Cornfield, whom she had met at a tendonitis clinic in Hamilton.

Horton called him up and told him about the songs she had been writing and singing. They began working together and, before long, they had recorded several of her songs. She issued them on an independent CD in 2002.

Execs at Marquis Classics, whose stable includes O'Callaghan and jazz singer Molly Johnson, liked what they heard. They got her to flesh out the album with four new songs.

The Marquis CD, aimed at the adult-pop market, hits stores this week. But Horton is not touring to promote it. Instead, she's coming back to Winnipeg to get a job in internal medicine.

"I'm going to take it as it comes," says Horton, who has done little in the way of live performing. "There's no question that it's going to come up, and I will make time in my schedule to do it."

Early into her medical residency, Horton decided that she and Toronto were not a fit. When she finished, she promised herself, she was coming home to Manitoba to be near her family. Her parents and two of her siblings still live in Brandon. Another sister lives here.

She didn't give her future husband, Eric Hachinski, much of a choice. He's a classical pianist who has lived in Toronto, London and New York. On their first date, she told him her plans, perhaps hoping that was something that would interest him. "Lucky for me it was."

Her previous boyfriend, she says, was a "snob from the big city who considered moving to Winnipeg a fate worse than death." Horton immortalized his failings in a song called Winnipeg, which appears on the CD.

Hachinski, 29, obviously made the right choice. "I think of Winnipeg as my spiritual home," Horton says. "Our plan is to love it." - Winnipeg Free Press



"Jillian Horton" (Marquis Classics 2004)
Distributed by EMI

"Dinosaur Park" (Independent Release, 2003)

RADIO AIRPLAY -- CBC (Radio One and Two, including Sounds Like Canada, Disc Drive, Vinyl Cafe, Fresh Air, As It Happens, and several regional programs)

Canadian College Radio

The four most played tracks:


"All The Pretty Horses"

"Good Strong Coffee"

"Song for an Evening in June"



More than fifteen years ago, when Jillian Horton was a teenager studying at a small piano school in Vermont, she told her teacher, American pianist Alvin Chow, that she didn't know what she was going to do with her life.

"He told me if music was in my heart and I ran from it that I would spend my whole life running," she recalls.

It was the better part of a decade before Jillian Horton confronted that prophecy; her life, like her music, always seems to return to a handful of particular themes: fate, faith, compassion, home.

Jillian was born in Brandon, Manitoba. The youngest of four children, she spent the first seventeen years of her life in the small community about 50 miles north of the US border. Her relationship with the city remains emotionally complex.

"It's home," she says, of Brandon, "and it was a city that supported me in so many of my activities when I was young. But it's also a city that shunned my sister and failed to provide the most basic supports for my sister and my family, and we all suffered for it. All of those things are tied up in my thoughts and feelings for the place."

While Jillian was a talented musician and student, her sister, twelve years her senior, suffered a brain tumor at the age of six, and was left with devastating and profound diasbilities.

"This was thirty years ago, back when people just shoved the disabled into institutions and denied them any part in communal life. My family refused to do that with my sister, and back then there were no supports for that. My sister was treated like garbage. In general, so were my parents."

Music emerged early on as a way that Jillian would seek solace from this family tragedy. "Around the age of ten or eleven, the piano just kind of became this magnet, pulling me towards it. I started to practice two or three hours a day. It became something I could count on to provide refuge, mentally and physically. It was like there was a bubble around me and the piano whenever I played...nothing could get in."

It was clear to those around her that there was something special about her relationship to music. "One of my junior high music teachers overheard me playing something I had written myself on the guitar. She asked me if I had written it. Up until that point, for some reason, I had kept the fact that I wrote music to myself, so I was almost too embarrassed to admit it was my own writing. But she was so enthusiastic...she told me I had to keep writing music, that I had to promise her I would. She moved away at the end of that school year, but the fact that she had given me that bit of positive feedback kept me writing from then on."

It would have been easy for writing to fall by the wayside. By the time she was in her early teens, Jillian was an accomplished performing pianist, in love with classical music, and hoped to pursue classical performing as a career. This was how she found herself at the prestigious Adamant School in Adamant, Vermont, studying with Alvin Chow, somewhere around 1990.

But there were problems. "I had practiced so much over such a short period of time that I developed tendinitis," she remembers. "It came up very quickly, it was really painful if I played or practiced a lot, and at first, I couldn't accept the idea that maybe this wasn't going to be a career I could pursue. I was also a tall, awkward kid, and I had had a couple of falls with mild injuries to the soft tissue in my hands, which I never let heal because I was always practicing."

Hence, the heart-to-heart with Chow one night on the front porch, at Adamant.

"I never forgot his words," she says. "Even when my life took a completely different path, I think I hung on to them because I knew they were true for me, that he was right."

It was shortly after that that Jillian ended up travelling to the Clinic for the Performing Arts at McMaster University in Hamilton, seeking treatment for her tendinitis.

"I couldn't accept that there wasn't an immediate fix for this, a pill, a surgery, something. I went to that clinic thinking there was an answer, and of course, I never found one. On that level, it was a waste of time."

On another level, that trip would lead to a series of events more than a decade later that would launch her recording career, but she couldn't have known that then.

Not long after, she recalls, "I basically gave up on music. I accepted a full scholarship to the University of Western Ontario, and I moved there with the idea that I was going to start over and leave music behind."

At Western, Jillian studied English and Drama. She turned to acting and then writing, churning out a number of manuscripts, short stories, poems and plays. She barely touched a piano for nearly two years.

Then, one night, she was out with a group of actor friends at a pub.

"There was a piano there, and someone asked me to play. I started and I couldn't stop. It was like a floodgate opening. I started to sing, and I was pl