Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Canada's Music: An Historical Survey/Twentieth Century Canadian Composers

Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Canada's Music: An Historical Survey/Twentieth Century Canadian Composers

Article excerpt

CLIFFORD FORD. Canada's Music: An Historical Survey. Agincourt, Ontario: GLC Publishers Limited, 1982, viii, 278 pp.

IAN L. BRADLEY. Twentieth Century Canadian Composers, Vol. II. Agincourt, Ontario: GLC Publishers Limited, 1982, xii, 281 pp.

For those of us who have been struggling to teach courses on Canadian music without adequate resources, we can at last say that the situation has drastically changed. The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada has been quickly followed by two notable publications from GLC Publishers.

Clifford Ford's book is the first overview of the development of Canadian music from its origins to the present day. Ford has chosen, and cogently argues for, the kind of sociological approach adopted by Helmut Kallmann in A History of Music in Canada, 1534-1914 (1960). As a complement to Kallmann's now out-of-print study, Ford devotes half his coverage to the post-World War I years, a period of decisive change that saw the gradual disappearance of colonial thinking in Canadian culture, particularly music, as Canada gained the status of fully independent nationhood. Ford pulls together several threads in his treatment of changing Canadian musical institutions, the impact of the emerging broadcasting and recording industries, the organization of instrumental ensembles, the beginnings of state support for the arts, as he explores their accumulative effects on music education, music publishing, instrument making, performance, and composition.

Ford's analyses of the sociological data are generally sound, despite the occasional tendency to lapse into generalizations and distortions of historical fact. For instance, the general competitive music festival began in Edmonton in 1908, not 1906 (as stated on pp. 12 & 86) when only preliminary plans were formulated. Rousseau's opera, Le Devin du village, was not "unfinished," as it had had numerous performances in Europe before its Quebec performance in May 1846. Napoléon Aubin, in writing out the parts, might have added some instrumentation to airs that originally had only continuo accompaniment. Ford seems to be somewhat confused about the existing organs at the Sharon Museum, which presently owns only one barrel organ (not more, as indicated on p. 232), and one keyboard pipe organ (1848). The extant barrel organ (ca. 1820) had two barrels containing ten sacred tunes each. The other barrel organ, with three barrels of sacred and secular tunes, is not known to have survived. With regard to the manufacturing company of Fox in Kingston, it should be noted that there were a number of companies active between the death of J.C. Fox in 1868 and the founding of Weber & Co. in 1871; thus it is slightly inaccurate to state simply that "the John Fox company changed management and name to Weber & Co." (p. 59).

Perhaps Ford followed Kallmann's example in referring to Alexis Contant's Cai'n as the first Canadian oratorio; the entry "Oratorio, Canadian" in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada lists at least three oratorios that preceded it. The information on the three early AngloCanadian composers who achieved international recognition is somewhat garbled. Gena Branscombe never lived in Toronto, and W.O. Forsyth was born in 1859 (not 1863) near Aurora. The Metropolitan School of Music of which he was head was absorbed by the Canadian Academy of Music (formerly Columbian Conservatory of Music) in 1912. Clarence Lucas was born in Smithville, near Hamilton, and taught at the Toronto College of Music from 1888, not 1889, as stated by Ford (p. 68).

There are inaccuracies as well about the orchestras of the early twentieth century in Toronto. The name Toronto Permanent Orchestra was used by Frederick Torrington for an organization that seems to have been active only in 1900. In 1906, Frank Welsman formed the Toronto Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, which became the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1908, remaining active until 1918.

The Ottawa Choral Society was not founded by Edgar Birch but grew out of the Schubert Club, founded by F. …

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