a word from Mark
With 60+ years of music-making behind me and more music projects (planned and unplanned) for the future, there’s only so much that I can present on this site. Visit me on social media for news and announcements. And check this site occasionally for new musical downloads, including sheet music, from the past and future.
1953-1971: the formative years
Mark was born in Victoria BC, Canada on October 2, 1953. He remembers being mesmerized, at around age 3, by the sight and sound of his Dad, Gordon, playing Boogie Woogie on the family piano. Two years later, when Mark started taking piano lessons from his Grandma (on his Mom’s side), Marie Young, he wrote his first song. At age 7, he was taking violin lessons from Frona Colquhoun. By the time he was 15, Mark had sung in a Gregorian Chant choir, participated in Ms. Colquhoun’s student-string quartet, and performed in his junior high school’s string orchestra and with the Victoria Youth String Orchestra. He was also, by then, the eldest of ten children and the Beatles had become a part of his psyche.
When Mark graduated from Mt. Douglas Senior Secondary School in 1971, he had taken 8 years of violin lessons and 12 years of piano lessons (up to Grade X Toronto Conservatory). But he much preferred to play ‘by ear’. By this time, he had composed more than a dozen instrumental songs. He also liked cars and was technically/mechanically inclined. A year later, he was living in Vancouver and soon found work as a Traffic Engineering Technician.
the 1970s: mind expansion!
Embracing the mind-expanding counterculture of the time and the opportunities that presented themselves, Mark became increasingly aware of important social justice, environmental, and animal rights issues. At age 20, for example, he became a vegetarian and stopped wearing animal products. These issues also started to make their way into Mark’s music when, at age 24 or so, he started writing lyrics. Naturally enough, his lyrics tended to call for progressive social change. He also wrote a few love songs.
At around the same time, Mark joined his first band: Bargain at Half the Price. He sang bass and played violin for a year with the 18-piece, lefty-political folk/rock ensemble. They recorded an album and performed at political events and numerous concerts throughout BC, singing mainly about peace and labour issues. This life-changing experience set Mark firmly on a musical pathway and left him with some life-long friends.
All the while, Mark continued writing songs on his piano. Feeling the itch to play piano in a band, he bought a Fender Rhodes electric piano. Soon, he was a member of the indie-rock band UDYLI. He also performed as a soloist or in a duo in lounges, coffee houses, restaurants, recitals, talent shows, and contests, and for weddings and other special events.
In 1979, Mark left the band and quit his job to attend BC Institute of Technology (BCIT) full-time to earn an Operations Management diploma.
Bargain at Half the Price, at the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse in Vancouver around 1977. Lots of fun. Lots of stories.
Mark Reed, lounge piano dude, 1983
illustration by Judy Hilgemann
Jonnē Krōm, the extra-terrestrial android Earth-probe
The Fault at The Town Pump in Vancouver, 1990
the 1980s: arrival of the Muse
In 1981, with his management diploma in hand, Mark moved to Toronto to find a good-paying day-job. Instead, he found unemployment. So, he sat down and invented an electronic valve control system (e.g., for faucets) and, six months later, returned to Vancouver whereupon he patented his invention. With one-off gigs not producing income sufficient to live by and to finance the development of his invention, Mark wound up working a day-job as a government clerk.
In 1983, Mark decided to get serious about being a professional musician. He joined the musicians’ union (AFM), signed with a booking agent, and worked lounge piano gigs around the province of BC and in New Brunswick. He also occasionally played piano in amateur musical theatre, dance productions, and recitals.
In 1984, Mark decided to create an all-new, all-original ‘alternative rock’ band. He called upon his former UDYLI bandmate Graeme Chard and they together started to assemble a band. Around that time, Mark dreamt of an android from another planet that was here, observing life on Earth. Mark had met his Muse! Mark gave the android the name Jonnē Krōm (Johnny Chrome). And the band became the android’s voice here on Earth, as Jonnē Krōm, with Graeme and Mark writing most of the group’s songs. By 1985, the group had become a 5-piece and was established in Vancouver’s indie-music scene.
Shortly after singer Sue Baim joined Jonnē Krōm in 1988, the group changed its name to The Fault; but Jonnē remained in the background, influencing Mark’s music and worldview. As the new band’s fan-base grew, the band drew some interest from ‘music industry’ folk and rode a modest wave of indie-music popularity in Vancouver for three years.
Concurrently, in 1989, Mark joined with singer-songwriter Bill Oliver (of Bachelors in Paradise) to form The Earthlings and to record some of Mark’s songs that he had written and then adapted as ‘childrens’ music. The 5-song demo featured some of their friends’ kids singing. Mark also continued to perform solo music gigs.
On the non-music front, Mark had, in the late ‘80s, worked as a clerk for MOSAIC which assists immigrants and refugees and for Reel West, the premier Vancouver movie industry publication. In 1989, he took another government job as a Traffic Engineering Technician. And he continued developing and trying to sell/license his invention.
The control panel for the prototype of Mark’s patented electronic valve control system. He demonstrated the technology as an electronic faucet that he called the Touch Tap.
Pantomime of Jack & the Beanstalk at Vagabond Theatre, New Westminster, 1982; Mark accompanied solo on piano.
the transformative 1990s
In early 1991, The Fault disbanded while it was in pre-production with Paul Hyde, in preparation to record the group’s first CD. Not wanting to waste all that pre-production work, Mark and Sue decided to carry that project on, but to record just their own songs. With help from their friends, including Paul Hyde, The Fault bassist Rob Marr, the folks at PoolWest Records, and many others, they completed the project under the name U.N.I. They released an album on cassette but didn’t perform live together until 1999 (see below).
Ever versatile, Mark continued to explore solo music performance, including improvising along with the Theatre Sports improv-comedy troupe on Rookie Nights and playing live music in a couple of Fringe Festival productions.
In 1995, Mark, now 41, put his invention-project to rest. It’s a story in itself. He also quit his day-job, became a vegan, and moved back to Victoria, BC, where he was born, to earn a joint-BA in Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Victoria (UVic). After earning the (Honours) degree in 1999, he proceeded onto earning a MA in Sociology. During this time, Mark continued performing solo piano gigs, including a 2+ year weekly lounge stint at the Union Club. He also volunteered with the Victoria Branch of the UN Association in Canada (UNAC) and, in 1999, became its President. And he became a Board Member of the Vancouver Island Musicians’ Association (AFM Local 247).
Also in 1999, Mark rejoined former bandmate Sue Baim. She, too, had earlier returned to her home-town of Victoria. She persuaded Mark to direct and arrange the music for a musical theatre production that she envisioned about Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli. Following Sue’s amazing portrayal of Liza in the show (which played at the McPherson Theatre), Sue and Mark resurrected U.N.I and performed as a duo in bars, clubs, retirement homes, and senior care facilities around Victoria.
During the first decade of the new millennium, while earning his Masters in Sociology (achieved in 2006), Mark was active, through the UNAC and otherwise, in the social justice and environmental movements. In 2005, he was elected to Secretary-Treasurer of the Vancouver Island Musicians’ Association. And in 2006-08, he volunteered and worked for the SPCA. All the while, Mark continued to write songs and perform occasional solo gigs. In 2004, he joined the original rock band, one2many, led by singer Dave Jensen; and, by 2010, when he left the group, they had released an album and an EP.
(Earlier was mentioned Mark’s interest in cars. That would be hi-performance and racing cars. He owned a few interesting cars, e.g., a ’56 V8 Healey, a ’61 Chev bubble-top with a 396, and ten Corvairs. From 2002 thru 2011, Mark auto-crossed his ‘68 Corvair and served as Membership Director of the Victoria Motorsports Club for a few of those years. Mark stopped auto-crossing when he realized that he couldn’t reconcile it with his views on the natural environment. He would still like to have an old 911 Porsche daily-driver.)
2011-2020: expansion and exploration
Since the 1980s, Mark incorporated synthesized strings into much of his playing. In the late 2000s, he had begun writing specific string arrangements for some of his songs. When he left one2many, it was to find a way to perform his music with string musicians. In 2011, he debuted the piano quintet (piano+string quartet) performance of two of his songs at his high school’s 40th anniversary concert at the Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria, BC. For the next two years, he, with his piano trio, performed his music at numerous recitals around town.
A highlight for Mark was when, in 2013, Erato Ensemble, a Vancouver-based art-song chamber ensemble, performed his song “Message to Home” at Vancouver’s Orpheum Annex, with Mark in the audience – a first for him. At the above-right is the video recording of that performance. Following that, Mark started scoring and arranging his songs for piano, strings, and voice, in earnest.
Mark, now in his 60s, decided that he had better record the original piano arrangements of all of his songs at least reasonably well, before he could no longer recall or play them. So, in 2014-15, he recorded them in his living room on the 1906 upright piano on which he wrote most of them.
Mark subsequently also wanted to flesh some of his songs out, with strings, guitars, drums, and vocals. And he wanted to do so such that a rudimentary story of the android Jonnē Krōm would be told. So, in 2017-20, he assembled the group Big Speck. To date, they have performed one concert – an oratorio – and recorded an album.
In 2019, Maestro Charles Job requested Mark to arrange his song “Message to Home” for performance by his 26-piece Palm Court Light Orchestra. Mark did so and the orchestra rehearsed the piece once, before COVID-19 put the concert on indefinite hold.
In 2020, Mark has been focused on working to share his music and his concerns for the Earth and its inhabitants that he expresses through it; hence, this website. His lifelong love of music and his activism have mutually influenced each other, informed, in good part, by what Mark imagines how Earth would appear to an objective observer.
To this day, Mark wonders … how would Earth appear to an objective, intergalactic traveller? Perhaps its first impression would be:
“This planet is a beautiful, wild, and wonderful place. But there is an intelligent, self-aware, disease here that is destroying it.”