Marius Barbeau, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Six Bergerettes du Bas-Canada, the Canada Music Council, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the University of Toronto
Canadians love music and Canada has produced several fine composers and performers.
But, the person I wish to write about today is Sr Ernest MacMillan (CC [Canada Council], a companion of the Order of Canada; b. Mimico, Ontario 1893 – d. Toronto, 1973), whose contribution to the establishment of music in Canada is simply unparalleled.
Sir Ernest was a child prodigy who gave his first organ concert at the age of ten. He then accompanied his father to Edinburgh and, during his three-year stay in Scotland, Ernest studied at the University of Edinburgh under Friedrich Niecks and W. B. Ross, and took private organ lessons from Ross. Consequently, before his eighteenth birthday, he had earned his certificate as a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) and an extramural B Mus (Bachelor of Music) degree from Oxford University (1911). From 1911 to 1914, he studied modern history at the University of Toronto, but was awarded his Bachelor of Arts in absentia. He was detained in Germany.
Ruhleben: an unlikely detainee
Ernest MacMillan was a colourful individual and he led a colourful life. In the spring of 1914, he went to Paris where he began to study piano privately with Thérèse Chaigneau (1876-c. 1935). However, he travelled to the Bayreuth Wagner Festival, but did so at the worst possible moment. While he was in Bayreuth, Canada declared war against Germany and, as a result, young Ernest was detained, first and briefly, at Nuremberg and, later, in a civilian detention camp at Ruhleben, Germany, for the duration of the first World War.
Accomplishments at Ruhleben
Resilient as he was, Ernest MacMillan learned German and got involved in the musical and theatrical life of Ruhleben. He became an active member of both the Ruhleben Musical Society and the Ruhleben Drama Society. He conducted, transcribed the music of Cinderella (Tchaikovsky/ Prokoviev) from memory, with some help. He also honed his skills as an actor. However, his finest achievement as a detainee was his setting of Swinburne‘s ode England, which he submitted as part of the Requirements for his D Mus (Doctorate in Music) from Oxford University.
After the war, Ernest MacMillan returned to Toronto and started to teach piano and organ at the Canadian Academy of Music (CAM). On December 31st, 1919, he married Laura Elsie Keith, his fiancée since before the war. In June 1924, the Canadian Academy of Music (CAM) amalgamated with the Toronto College of Music (TCM) and, in 1947, it became the Royal Toronto Conservatory (RTCM), then located at the corner of College Street and University Avenue. The Royal Toronto Conservatory would move to its present location in 1964.
However, Ernest MacMillan’s position was not affected by these changes. At first, he was a teacher, but would go on to become Canada’s most prominent musician. Allow me simply to list his better-known official functions. He was:
- the organist at the Eaton Memorial Church, from 1919 to 1925;
- principal of the Toronto Conservatory of Music, from 1926 to 1942;
- conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, from 1931 to 1956;
- Dean of the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, from 1927 to 1957;
- conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, from 1942 to 1957.
But Ernest MacMillan, who was knighted in 1935, was also a composer, a performer, a lecturer, a writer, an adjudicator, an administrator, a statesman, the founder of the Royal Toronto Conservatory’s Opera Company and the co-founder of The Canadian Trio (1941-1943), of which he was a member as pianist, with Zara Nelsova (cellist) and Kathleen Parlow (violinist). Moreover, during his tenure as principal of the future Royal Toronto Conservatory, Sir Ernest travelled everywhere in Canada as examiner, spreading enthusiasm for music.
Sir Ernest and French-Canadian Folklore
Having reviewed Marius Barbeau’s and Edward Sapir’s Folksongs of French Canada, Sir Ernest MacMillan joined prominent Canadian anthropologist Marius Barbeau, (CC [The Canada Council], Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, recipient of the Order of Canada; b. Sainte-Marie, Québec, March 5, 1883 – d. Ottawa, February 27, 1969). Sir Ernest therefore participated in gathering the folk music of French-speaking Canadians. German-born American anthropologist-linguist Edward Sapir 1884–1939) and Marius Barbeau were Canada’s first anthropologists and worked together at the National Museum of Canada. For Ernest MacMillan, this collaboration was an important moment. He became a folklorist.
In all, Marius Barbeau collected some 9,000 songs and 5,000 melodies. Dr Barbeau, a Rhodes Scholar, had written his thesis on the “Totemic System of the North Western Indian Tribes of North American.” However, renowned German-American anthropologist Franz Boas, then of the American Folklore Society, convinced Barbeau to specialize in French-Canadian folklore. Barbeau took Boas’s advice and, in 1918, he had become president of the AFS. For composers, exposure to folklore can prove extremely fruitful. The music of Dvořák attests to the creative influence of folk music.
When he met Barbeau, Sir Ernest was already an accomplished composer. While a detainee in Nuremberg, he had composed a String Quart in C Minor. In Ruhleben, he set Swinburne‘s ode England, a choral work which earned him his D Mus (Doctorate in Music) at Oxford University. He had also composed a Te Deum and other pieces.
But his partnership with Barbeau would lead to further compositions. Sir Ernest drew inspiration from the music of French-Canada and composed:
- “Notre Seigneur en pauvre” and “À Saint-Malo”
- Six Bergerettes du Bas-Canada; and
- a choral setting of the Canadian ballad “Blanche comme la neige” or “White as Snow.”
“Notre Seigneur en pauvre” is rooted in the French-Canadian legend according to which the poor who knocks at one’s door is Jesus himself. As for “À Saint-Malo,” it is a song that could reflect the discovery of Canada. In 1534, Jacques Cartier had sailed from Saint-Malo, Brittany, and had claimed Canada for France. But “À Saint-Malo” is a folksong that had probably belonged to an oral tradition for centuries. Bergerettes are a fifteenth-century bucolic form.
“Notre Seigneur en pauvre” and “À Saint-Malo” were combined to constitute Two Sketches for Strings, performed by the Hart House [University of Toronto] String Quartet at the 1927 Folksong and Handicraft Festival, a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)Festival, which took place in Quebec City. The Six Bergerettes du Bas-Canada were performed the following year, at the 1928 CPR Festival.
Sir Ernest’s partnership with Dr Marius Barbeau was all the more enriching since Dr MacMillan took an interest in the music of French Canada. In French Canada, music had long an establishment, but Sir Ernest brought it under the wider umbrella of Canadian Music.
* * *
Would that Sir Ernest had composed more music, but he was otherwise occupied. The founding of the Canadian Music Council, established c. 1946 was his initiative. He became Chairman in 1947. The CMC received its federal charter in 1949. From 1947 to 1969, Sir Ernest also served CAPAC (Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada Limited/Association des compositeurs, auteurs et éditeurs du Canada Ltée). Moreover, Sir Ernest got involved in the Jeunesses Musicales movement.
Ernest MacMillan was indeed an organizer. In this respect, I will quote a sentence from the Sir Ernest MacMillan entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia:
MacMillan was an educator, an administrator, and a developer of systems and policies rather than a teacher.
To the above, we could perhaps add “rather than a composer,” except that Sir Ernest had demonstrated he was an excellent composer. When I studied Music in Canada, members of the class lamented his not bequeathing more compositions since the music he had composed was delightful. It could be, however, that having been detained for four years, Sir Ernest had to work publicly. And there can be little doubt that Canada needed such a musician. Matters were perhaps just as they should.
* * *
But Sir Ernest did compose music and more of his compositions should be unearthed, including his many arrangements, his compilations, such as his Book of Songs, used in Canadian Schools in the 1930s and 1940s, music written for the teaching of music and the hymns he composed for The University [Toronto] Hymn Book (Toronto 1912). There is more to this story.
© Micheline Walker
9 January 2012
Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch! “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” by Carl W. Buechner.
phlebotomy certification said:
I would like to use the ability of thanking you for the professional advice I have usually enjoyed browsing your site. We’re looking forward to the actual commencement of my college research and the complete preparing would never have been complete without browsing your web blog. If I might be of any assistance to others, I might be pleased to help through what I have discovered from here.
queen s diamond jubilee medal said:
I just added this feed to my bookmarks. I have to say, I very much enjoy reading your blogs. Thanks!
rap 2012 said:
I just now wanted to thank you once more for this amazing blog you have made here. Its full of ideas for those who are genuinely interested in this specific subject, especially this very post. You’re really all so sweet in addition to thoughtful of others and reading your website posts is a good delight to me. And that of a generous reward! Dan and I are going to have pleasure making use of your ideas in what we should instead do in the near future. Our checklist is a mile long which means that your tips will certainly be put to great use.
cosmetic dentistry said:
I just wanted to thank you again for the amazing web-site you have made here. It really is full of useful tips for those who are seriously interested in this kind of subject, specifically this very post. You’re really all really sweet in addition to thoughtful of others in addition to the fact that reading your blog posts is an excellent delight if you ask me. And thats a generous reward! Ben and I really have excitement making use of your points in what we need to do in a few weeks. Our listing is a mile long and simply put tips will certainly be put to good use.
Lyle Ratz said:
I own recently started a blog, the intelligence you equip on this website has helped me greatly. Acknowledges for many of your second & work. "It is no employment saying, ‘We are doing our vanquish.’ You enjoy got to flourish in doing what is vital." by Sir Winston Churchill. See als caf argent
Pete Waterson said:
Hi my loved one! I want to say that this post is amazing, nice written and come with almost all vital infos. I would like to peer extra posts like this .
broadway tickets nyc half price said:
I became honored to obtain a call from my friend as he identified the important ideas shared in your site. Browsing your blog write-up is a real great experience. Thanks again for thinking of readers much like me, and I would like for you the best of success as a professional in this field.
Kerrison Ong said:
Wow, wonderful blog format! How long have you been running a blog for? you make blogging look easy. The total glance of your website is magnificent, let alone the content!
press release skincare said:
I’d been honored to get a call from a friend immediately he discovered the important tips shared in your site. Going through your blog posting is a real brilliant experience. Many thanks for taking into consideration readers much like me, and I desire for you the best of achievements being a professional in this arena.
I loved up to you will receive carried out proper here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nevertheless, you command get got an nervousness over that you want be handing over the following. in poor health definitely come further earlier once more as precisely the similar just about very frequently inside case you defend this increase.
Areil Watson said:
We’re a gaggle of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with helpful information to paintings on. You have done a formidable job and our entire community can be grateful to you.
moving companies in northern virginia said:
Thanks a ton for being my personal teacher on this topic. My spouse and i enjoyed your article a lot and most of all favored the way you handled the areas I considered to be controversial. You happen to be always quite kind towards readers much like me and assist me to in my living. Thank you.
Thanks for stopping again at Colltales, Micheline. It’s amazing (and sad) how in the U.S. we’re mostly ignorant about Canada. Thanks for helping to change that. Have a great weekend. Wesley
What king note. I thank you most sincerely.
RSS Submitter said:
I have been surfing online greater than three hours lately, yet I by no means found any fascinating article like yours. It’s beautiful value enough for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the net might be much more useful than ever before. “No one has the right to destroy another person’s belief by demanding empirical evidence.” by Ann Landers.
tuto référencement web said:
Je suis tout à fait d accord avec cette opinion. Je vous remercie une fois de plus. Bonne journée
référencement site web http://1erexpertseotips.wordpress.com référencement web gratuit
Mark Henschel said:
Nice page. I arrived here whilst looking for background on “Notre Seigneur en pauvre”, one of my favourite MacMillan pieces.
You left out my absolute favourite though, The Cortege Academique, a splendid organ processional of 1953.
Notre Seigneur en Pauvre is a great piece and it is part of French-Canadian folklore. I’ll look for the Cortège académique. Sir Ernest is hard to find and he should have composed more pieces.
Thank you for writing and my best regards,