Archive for News

Dean Dr. Arnold Walter, overseer of great growth at the Faculty #tbt

Following receiving a doctorate of law degree from University of Prague and studying musicology at University of Berlin, in 1937 Dr. Arnold Walter arrived in Toronto via Spain, where he had fled Nazi Germany. After teaching at Upper Canada College, he became director of the Royal Conservatory Senior School in 1946. He became dean of the Faculty of Music in 1952, a position he held until 1968.

In this article in The Whole Note, Professor Robin Elliott notes the importance of Dr. Walter’s arrival: “He was neither British nor Canadian, the first central European to arrive on faculty.”

The Canadian Encyclopedia sums up his extraordinary administrative and start up work in music education, opera, and information:

After immigrating to Canada in 1937, Arnold Walter became a visionary and influential leader of music education in Canada, developing musical talent and helping to build audiences for musical performance and appreciation. He introduced Carl Orff’s teaching method in North America, and established both the Senior School and the Opera School at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music). Under his tenure as director (1952–68), the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto attained international stature, with the first electronic music studio in Canada and one of North America’s most comprehensive music libraries. Walter was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971.

Professor Doreen Hall and Dr. Walter brought the Orff Method of teaching to Toronto. Here is an interview in 1968 courtesy of the Ball St University Library:

The Electronic Music Studio was established under Dr. Walter’s time as Dean. From MacLean’s Magazine (George Pyke, “Made-to-Measure music that eliminates musicians, March 24, 1962):

The Toronto studio was established after Dr. Walter, who is head of the U. of T. music faculty, met [Hugh] Le Caine at a conference and listened to his ideas. Dr. Walter sees “space acoustics” as one fascinating future field for electronic composition. The new sound would be made to travel around an auditorium to 25 or more loudspeakers and inundate the audience from all sides — a sort of 25-way stereophonic sound. This, he thinks, would make the ghostly wails of science-fiction movies (which have already discovered electronic sound) as old-fashioned as the C major scale.

Dr. Walter had also hired Professor Harvey Olnick in 1954 to establish the first musicology program in Canada. Dr. Walter went on to establish graduate programs in composition, musicology, and music education at the same time. In 1965 he established the doctoral program in musicology.

Dean Boyd Neel, Dr. Ettore Mazzoleni and Dr. Arnold Walter in the MacMillan Theatre, Faculty of Music 1963 Jack Marshall & Co. Ltd

He also hired accomplished and influential instructors Kathleen Parlow to teach violin and pianist, vocal coach and accompanist Greta Kraus.

Arnold Walter died on October 6, 1973. In 1974 The Faculty of Music named its smaller performance hall in the Edward Johnson Building after him.

Arnold Walter portrait above entrance to Walter Hall in the Edward Johnson Building

Additional Resources:

Canadian Music Centre biography

Canadian Encyclopedia biography

Is Music the Frontier of Medical Science? Music and Health Research Collaboratory established in 2012 #tbt

Professor Lee Bartel led the creation of the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) in 2012. An early history of its development can be found here.

From this article by Jessica Lewis: “Yes we’re a music school that does performance but we do performance informed by technology, performance that has impact on medicine and health,” [Professor Bartel] says. “People have always assumed that there is a link between music and health from the way music makes you feel. Now we can demonstrate that in a scientific way”.

Bartel says that there are new frontiers in standard medical research that involve music and sound in a way was never anticipated. “It’s not just ‘music makes me feel happy therefore I walk faster thus my heart gets healthier,’ but because we are very specifically making sound in a particular way that has an indirect music-medicine affect on your brain.”

The Faculty of Music hosted The Sounds of Science: Music, Technology and Medicine on May 3, 2016 in collaboration with a number of other U of T Departments led by Professor Molly Shoichet.

Professor Michael Thaut and Professor Corene Hurt-Thaut joined the Faculty of Music in July 2015. Professor Michael Thaut was named Director, Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) and Director, Music and Health Sciences Graduate Programs, and in fall 2017 was named a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Music, Neuroscience and Health.

Dr. Michael Thaut

In June 2018 the Faculty of Music’s first ever PhD in Music and Health Sciences convocated, Dr. Cheryl Jones. Her dissertation is titled Exploring Music-based Cognitive Rehabilitation Following Acquired Brain Injury: A Randomized Control Trail Comparing Attention Process Training and Musical Attention Control Training

Dr. Corene Hurt-Thaut

Led by Director Dr. Corene Hurt-Thaut, the International Training Institute in Neurologic Music Therapy kicks off its four day workshop today. Neurologic Music Therapy is defined as the therapeutic application of music to cognitive, sensory, and motor function due to neurologic disease of the human nervous system.

Neurologic Music Therapy is research-based. Its treatment techniques are based on the scientific knowledge in music perception and production and the effects thereof on nonmusical brain and behavior functions.

Populations served by Neurologic Music Therapists include, but are not limited to: stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, cerebral palsy, developmental disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and other neurological diseases affecting cognition, movement, and communication (e.g., MS, Muscular Dystrophy, etc).

Returning from WW1 POW camp 100 years ago, Ernest MacMillan became the centre of music in Toronto for decades to come. #tbt

Canada declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914 while Ernest MacMillan enjoyed performances in Bayreuth, Germany. He then went to Nuremberg to study and compose. Believing he had registered as a visitor-tourist, he misunderstood the notices that German police had posted requiring enemy aliens to report to the police, but remained wary as his British colleagues were arrested starting in November.

In January 1915 he was arrested and fined 3,000 marks (depending on how calculated that is very roughly $25,000 CDN in today’s dollars) and sentenced to 2 months in prison.

Ernest MacMillan at Ruhleben, back row far left.
Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

Following prison he went to Ruhleben internment camp for British civilians near Berlin, where he became a musical leader of the 4,000-5,000 people (mostly men) held at a horse racing track including directing The Mikado and giving lectures on each of Beethoven’s nine symphonies.

Painting of a gala performance of The Mikado at the the British Civilian POW Camp, Ruhleben, Germany. This is photograph Art.IWM ART 6173 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

Returning to Canada in January 1919 he became organist and choirmaster at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in 1919 (staying there until 1926) and he immersed himself in musical life in Toronto.

Music Director and Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Ernest MacMillan riding a bicycle along University Avenue.  Photograph was taken by the Toronto Star in June, 1942 as he was leaving the Toronto Conservatory of Music for lunch.
Music Director and Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Ernest MacMillan riding a bicycle along University Avenue. Photograph was taken by the Toronto Star in June, 1942 as he was leaving the Toronto Conservatory of Music for lunch.

He was named principal of the Toronto (later Royal) Conservatory of Music in 1926, holding that position until 1942.

He was named dean of the Faculty of Music in 1927, holding that position until 1952.

During his time at the Faculty, he oversaw:

  • addition of music courses in 1934-35 year (MusBac and MusDoc degrees were awarded by exam only up to this point; academic courses were added following minor media hubbub of Percival Price, the Dominion Carilloneur at the Peace Tower in Ottawa, having his doctoral degree rejected by the Faculty),
  • the approval by U of T of a 4 year BA in Music degree for Arts & Science students in 1937,
  • a Music Education degree program established in 1946,
  • and the administrative separation of the Royal Conservatory of Music and Faculty of Music in 1952 that ultimately led to his academic retirement.
Sir Ernest MacMillan, 1948, at the piano with Godfrey Ridout, Prof. Leo Smith, John Weinzweig and Dr. Healey Willan surrounding him. The photograph was taken circa. 1948 by Nott and Mell. City of Toronto Archives series 1569, file 17, item 1

He became conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1931 and held that position until 1956.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s 10th season, 1931-32,
and its first with conductor Ernest MacMillan, photo courtesy of City of Toronto Archives

He became conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in 1942, a position he held until 1956.

He was the first president of the Canadian Music Council in 1949, a position he held until 1966. This organization established the Canadian Music Centre in 1959.

He was the president of Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada (CAPAC) from 1947 to 1969.

In 1935 at there mere age of 42 Ernest MacMillan was knighted by King George V “for services to music in Canada.”

Lois Marshall and Sir Ernest MacMillan practicing before a concert at the CNE Bandshell in July 1964. Photo by Barry Philp

Sir Ernest MacMillan died forty six years ago on May 6, 1973 (NY Times Obituary).

Additional resources:

Sir Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973), Library and Archives Canada

Sir Ernest MacMillan, The Canadian Encyclopedia

Canadian Music Centre


Sir Ernest MacMillan: The Importance of Being Canadian by Ezra Schabas (U of T Press, 1996)

MacMillan on Music, edited by Carl Morey (Dundurn, 1997)

It’s recital season! A look at a few of our performance profs who have helped students get there: pianist Marietta Orlov, harpist Judy Loman, and cellist Shauna Rolston Shaw #tbt

Students have been full swing performing in their recitals the past couple months are there are many more to go. Here’s a look at a few professors who have worked with our students to get them to graduation.

Marietta Orlov

Marietta Orlov

Prof Orlov joined the Faculty of Music in fall of 1981 and has taught hundreds of pianists in her time here. She studied in her native Romania with the renowned teacher Florica Musicescu (teacher of Dinu Lipatti and Radu Lupu) and graduated from the Faculty of Music in Bucharest with a BMus in Performance and a Master’s Degree in Performance.

Starting at age of 16, she was active as a soloist for 10 years. During this time, she had the distinct honour of being appointed Romanian State soloist.

Prof Orlov has taught and presented master classes at the Aria International Summer Academy, the Chautauqua Festival in New York, International Institute for Young Musicians (Kansas) Oberlin College and the Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival.

Marietta Orlov at piano, early 1980

Judy Loman

Judy Loman

Judy Loman is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with the celebrated harpist, Carlos Salzedo.

She has been Principal harpist with the Toronto Symphony since 1960, and has appeared as a soloist with that organization in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

She joined the Faculty of Music in 1966 and continues to teach. She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2015 “for her service to the arts community as one of Canada’s renowned harpists.”

Shauna Rolston Shaw

[L-R] Cellist Dr. Dobrochna Zubek, Prof Shauna Rolston Shaw, and violinist Dr. Lynn Kuo in Walter Hall

Since receiving a mini cello for her 2nd birthday, Shauna has appeared around the world, performing with such distinguished artists as Krzysztof Penderecki, Sir Andrew Davis, Robert Spano, Marin Alsop, Keith Lockhart, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Hans Graf, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Andrey Boreyko, and Menahem Pressler, as well as undertaking innovative collaborations with Veronica Tennant, Evelyn Hart, and Peggy Baker.

She has performed in many of the world’s major concert halls including Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and was the featured artist at the 1988 Olympics.

Shauna earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Yale University and a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music where she studied with the distinguished cellist and pedagogue, Aldo Parisot.

Prof Shauna Rolston Shaw joined the Faculty of Music in 1994.

Congratulations to all the students who have finished up their recitals and all the instructors and professors for their teaching this year! (And break a leg to all those who still have their recitals!)

Percussion Professor Russell Hartenberger becomes Dean in 2008 #tbt

Having recently joined Steve Reich and Musicians in 1971 and founding percussion ensemble Nexus in 1972, Russell Hartenberger wrapped up his Ethnomusicology PhD at Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1974 and joined the Faculty of Music as percussion professor.

Russell Hartenberger performing on Clapping Music recording (1972) with composer Steve Reich:

Nexus was a fixture at U of T Music as an Ensemble in Residence and was highly influential in contemporary music circles, touring around the world for decades.

Nexus promotional photo (L-R: John Wyre, Russell Hartenberger, Bill Cahn, Bob Becker, Robin Engelman), photo by Doug Forster. Percussion Professor Russell Hartenberger went on to be Dean from 2007-2010.
Nexus promotional photo (L-R: John Wyre, Russell Hartenberger, Bill Cahn, Bob Becker, Robin Engelman), photo by Doug Forster.

Dr. Hartenberger is an extraordinary musician and teacher. From the Nexus website:

With Steve Reich and Musicians he recorded for ECM, DGG and Nonesuch Records, and performed on the Grammy Award winning recording of Music for 18 Musicians. With the Reich Ensemble, Russell toured throughout the world and performed with the New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Cologne Radio Orchestra, London Symphony and Brooklyn Philharmonic. As a member of Nexus, Russell has performed with leading orchestras in North America, Europe and Asia. Along with members of Nexus, he created the sound track for the Academy Award-winning Full-Length Documentary, The Man Who Skied Down Everest. His awards include the Toronto Arts Award in 1989, Banff Centre for the Arts National Award in 1997, a Juno nomination in 2005, and was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1999. He was presented with the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts by the World Cultural Council at Leiden University, the Netherlands in November of 2017.

Students of Prof Hartenberger have gone on to perform and teach around the world, including with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Singapore Chinese Orchestra, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Florida State University, University of Hong Kong, University of Arizona, or found their our percussion ensembles like TorQ Percussion Quartet.

In the 2007-2008 academic year Prof Hartenberger was named Interim Dean and was officially named Dean beginning July 1, 2008, a position he held until December 31, 2010. He was the first (and only) performance faculty member to become Dean in the Faculty’s history.

At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year after being a faculty member at the University of Toronto for 42 years, Prof Hartenberger retired. A celebration was held in Walter Hall on April 10, 2016 and featured a 10 minute long Snare Drum Roll Marathon with alumni, faculty and students on stage.

Snare drum prep photo by Cecilia Hye Won Lee
Snare Drum Roll Marathon photo by Michelle Hwu
Percussion Professor Russell Hartenberger started the “Snare Drum Olympics” at the Faculty in 1999. At his retirement event on April 10, 2016, 67 alumni and students did a final salute with a 10 minute marathon roll. Video clip by Lydia Wong.

As he retired Prof Hartenberger published not one, but two books: The Cambridge Companion to Percussion (February 2016) and Performance Practice in the Music of Steve Reich (October 2016).

A recent interview with Professor Hartenberger. He tells his students “Play everything you can, every kind of music, at every level, and at the end of the rehearsal or concert, say ‘what did I learn?’”:

A Champion of New Canadian Music and Teacher Extraordinaire: Mary Morrison #tbt

In 2002, at the 3rd annual Opera Canada “Rubies” Gala, guest presenter Marilyn Horne presented Mary Morrison with the Opera Educator award for her outstanding achievements in the world of vocal pedagogy.

In fact, Morrison has taught at Universities across Canada for over 40 years. She was appointed at U of T in 1979, and has since supervised the vocal studies of many young singers who are among today’s stars of opera and the concert stage, including Barbara Hannigan, Measha Brüggergosman, Gregory Dahl, Tracy Dahl, Gordon Gietz, Shannon Mercer, Wendy Nielsen, Adrienne Pieczonka and John Tessier.

“Mary Morrison at the age of eight, with a cup she had just won for her singing in the Winnipeg Kiwanis Festival, 1934.” Image from book Music Makers – The Lives of Harry Freedman & Mary Morrison by Walter Pitman, The Dundurn Group, 2006.

Mary Morrison was born in Winnipeg in 1926. In 1944, she made her local radio debut, singing in the CBC’s ‘Sweethearts’ and ‘Prairie Schooner’ at the Manitoba Music Competition Festival. Morrison came to Toronto in 1945 to study voice, pursuing an Artist Diploma at the Royal Conservatory of Music Toronto (RCMT). Morrison was a part of what would become the University of Toronto’s opera school at the very beginning.

Morrison also debuted as Mimi in La Bohème with the Opera Festival (the early Canadian Opera Company) in 1950. Morrison went on to perform with the CBC Opera, in roles such as Micaëla in Carmen, Liù in Turandot, Lucie in Arthur Benjamin’s A Tale of Two Cities, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro (radio and TV), and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte. With the COC, she was Marguerite in Faust, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Marie in The Bartered Bride, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Felice in Wolf-Ferrari’s School for Fathers, and the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. Below she is pictured in their production of La Bohème, as Mimi.

“Mary as Mimi in La Bohème.” Image from book Music Makers – The Lives of Harry Freedman & Mary Morrison by Walter Pitman, The Dundurn Group, 2006.

Morrison also made solo symphony appearances with the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and the symphony orchestras of Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg.

Morrison’s advocacy of Canadian new music, and 20th-century music led to her being named an ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre in 2009, and being awarded the Canadian Music Citation for Outstanding Achievement in the Performance of Canadian Music in 1968.

She was a member (with flautist, Robert Aitken and pianist, Marion Ross) of the Lyric Arts Trio, which premiered numerous Canadian works, and Canadian premieres of US and European works.

[L-R] Robert Aitken, Mary Morrison, and Morrison’s husband composer Harry Freedman. Photo by André Leduc, courtesy of Canadian Music Centre.

Morrison worked with some of the world’s most renowned and prolific international composers of the 20th Century, including Luciano Berio, John Cage, George Crumb, Maxwell Davies, György Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki, Igor Stravinsky, Toru Takemitsu and Iannis Xenakis.

Many new Canadian works were written specifically for her, by composers such as John Beckwith, Murray Schafer, Harry Somers, John Weinzweig and her late husband, Harry Freedman.

Notably as well, Morrison participated in the premiere of Louis Riel, an opera by the Canadian composer Harry Somers. Louis Riel was written for the 1967 Canadian centennial, and was produced by the Canadian Opera Company, with Victor Feldbrill conducting. Bernard Turgeon performed as Riel, and Morrison as his sister Sara. The opera was later adapted by Franz Kraemer for CBC TV, in 1969, for which Morrison reprised her role of Sara.

Mary Morrison (right) as Sara in
original COC production of Louis Riel with
Bernard Turgeon (centre) and Patricia Rideout (left)

Morrison was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1983, and was awarded a medal of service from the City of Toronto in 1985. In 2017, Morrison received an honorary degree with the University of Toronto, along with former student Barbara Hannigan. Summing up her philosophy of teaching she said “The key for me is to discover what will help students in their individual choices and the development of their full potential.”

Mary Morrison (centre) and Barbara Hannigan (left) receiving their honorary degrees at Convocation Hall, the University of Toronto

by Alexandra Brennan

Music Ensembles large and small! #tbt

The Faculty of Music is wrapping up its academic year and all the large and small ensembles are having their final performances.

Here is a look at various ensemble photos we have in our archives.

UofT Concert Choir, mid-1970s in Walter Hall

UofT Concert Choir with brass choir, March 1975

World Music Ensemble with Prof Jim Kippen, early 2000s

Chamber Orchestra with David Zafer, early 1990s

Wind Symphony in MacMillan Theatre early 1970s photo by Bob Lansdale

Irene Jessner Gala Concert performers in Geiger-Torel Room, November 1986. (Back, from left) Dean Carl Morey, Edward Moroney, Linda Bennett, Patrick Timney, Nancy Hermiston, Bruce Kelly, Mark Dubois, Stephanie Bogle, Roxolana Roslak, John Greer, Jean MacPhail, Martha Collins, Stephen Ralls, William Aide. (front) Teresa Stratas with a seated Irene Jessner.

Wind Symphony conducted by Stephen Chenette at Northwestern University, February 1987

U of T Symphony Orchestra with Conductor David Briskin, 2008

Concert Choir with Brass Choir, March 1975

U of T Concert Band, January 1975 photo by Slim Bent

Jazz quintet in Edward Johnson Building lobby, 1996

Brass choir in rehearsal, early 1970s

U of T Symphony Orchestra with MacMillan Singers performing
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, conducted by David Briskin, February 2, 2011

Okay, this is not an ensemble but we love this photo of
John Loretan playing an Alphorn, mid-1980s.

The First Dean of the Faculty of Music, founder of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Augustus Vogt #tbt

Born before Canadian Confederation, Augustus Vogt grew up in Elmira, Ontario where his father was a hotel-keeper and built organs.

Vogt became a church organist at age 12 (performing on an organ built by his father) and continued his education in Hamilton, Ontario. He then went to the New England Conservatory in 1881 and Leipzig Conservatory in Germany in 1885.

In 1894 he established the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the country’s longest running mixed voice amateur choir. Their first performance was at Massey Hall on January 15, 1895. He led the choir on numerous tours, establishing partnerships with many US orchestras.

Vogt continued to work as a conductor, organist, and educator while adding administrator to his many duties when he became principal of the Toronto Conservatory of Music in 1913 (later known as the Royal Conservatory of Music).

He helped establish the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto becoming its first Dean in 1918, a position he held until his death in September 1926.

The Mendelssohn Choir honored him with a stained glass memorial window in St. Paul’s Andglican Church in Toronto.

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir singing Bach’s solemn Mass in B Minor in memory of Dr. Augustus Stephen Vogt, at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Bloor St. Service concluded with the unveiling of a stained glass window to his memory, April 17, 1929

Choral Music remains a vital part of the Faculty of Music. The final choral concert of the year is Sunday, March 31st 2:30 pm in MacMillan Theatre led by conductors Dr. Elaine Choi and Dr. Mark Ramsey.

More information on Dr. Augustus Vogt:

The Canadian Encyclopedia

The Musical Times Vol. 53, No. 838 (Dec. 1, 1912), pp. 773-776 (5 pages)

“U of T will offer bachelor of bebop”: Professor Paul Read leads the new Jazz Studies Program in 1991 #tbt

Phil Nimmons started with a big band and teaching improvisation in 1973 at the Faculty of Music. After adding another big band and some more jazz courses, it was clear a formal program was needed. But who would lead?

Enter Paul Read.

Paul Read headshot, early 1990s

Graduating from the Faculty of Music in 1970 (he later added a Master’s degree in 1991), Read was a member of the Humber College Music Faculty in Toronto from 1979 to 1991, where he taught and served as Program Coordinator (1982-1987) and Director of Music (1987-1991).

In 1991, he founded degree programs in jazz studies at the Faculty of Music, where he was Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies. Prof Read was Canada’s Representative on the Board of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) from 2002-2008, and was the founding Director of the National Music Camp (NMC) Jazz Program (1987 to 2006). Prof Read retired in 2009 after a brief stint as Director of Graduate Jazz Studies.

UofT Jazz Ensemble 2005, with Prof Chase Sanborn (centre)

In 2015 Prof Read received the Muriel Sherrin award for international achievement in music from the Toronto Arts Foundation. From the TAF site: “The Toronto Arts Foundation Muriel Sherrin Award is a $10,000 cash prize that celebrates an artist or creator who has made a contribution to the cultural life of Toronto through outstanding achievement in music or dance. The recipient will also have participated in international initiatives, including touring, studying abroad and participating in artist exchanges.”

Toronto Arts Foundation Award winners Paul Read, right, and Scott Miller Berry, left, with Toronto Mayor John Tory, photo by Sean Howard via Toronto Star.

With the foundation laid by Prof Read, Jazz Studies continues to thrive and evolve at the Faculty. There are now about 100 undergraduate students and 21 graduate students in the program.

Students perform weekly on Mondays at the Rex, at the Upper Jazz Studio at 90 Wellesley, around the city, as well as in Walter Hall.

UTJO Conducted by Gordon Foote with Norma Winstone, March 2016, photo by Matt Forsythe

Tonight, the U of T Jazz Orchestra and 11 O’Clock Orchestra play with three time Grammy-nominee trumpeter Tim Hagans (the John and Claudine Distinguished Visitor in Jazz), performing Andrew Rathbun’s The Atwood Suites, which sets the poetry of Canadian icon Margaret Atwood in two three-part suites for vocalist and jazz orchestra. Undergrad Jenna Pinard and Doctorate of Musical Arts in Performance (DMA) student Meghan Gilhespy will be singing.

The DMA for jazz is new for the Faculty and in Canada. When Meghan completes her program, she will be the first woman to receive a doctoral degree in jazz performance in Canada.

From taking direction to giving direction: Constance Fisher, opera stage director #tbt

Constance Fisher, known to all who worked with her as Connie, began her musical studies at the RCMT with Alberto Guerrero (piano), and Weldon Kilburn and Irene Jessner (voice), as well as with Herman Geiger-Torel at the opera school there. She made her debut in 1957 with the Opera Festival of Toronto (later COC) as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel. A member of the COC until 1966, she sang Musetta in La Bohème (1963) and, in touring productions, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte (1963) and Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus (1964, 1965), among other roles.

Under the guidance of Herman Geiger-Torel and Boris Goldovsky, Ms. Fisher entered the field of stage direction as Assistant Director for both of these men and later as Stage Director and Instructor at the Banff School of Fine Arts.

In the 1967-68 season she made her directorial debut with the COC with a production of La Bohème and subsequently directed Barber of Seville, Tosca, and new productions of Il Tabarro and L’Heure Espagnol for the COC.

At the Banff School of Fine Arts she produced Orpheus in the Underworld, Madama Butterfly, Così fan tutte and Hansel and Gretel. Across Canada she directed for the Edmonton Opera Association (Die Fledermaus and Mikado), the Southern Alberta Opera Association (Die Fledermaus and the Barber of Seville), and the Manitoba Opera Association (Die Fledermaus).

Connie Fisher joined the Faculty of Music’s Opera Division staff in 1971 as a stage director and instructor, and then was designated divisional coordinator of the opera division in 1978. She was succeeded in 1983 by Michael Albano, who had begun as stage director in 1977. Albano and Fisher became associate coordinators of the division in 1987.

UofT Opera Production of Elixir of Love, January 1975,
UofT directorial debut of Constance Fisher

Her productions at the Faculty of Music include Elixir of Love, The Crucible (Canadian premiere), Don Giovanni, Orpheus in the Underworld, La Perichole, Katya Kabanova (Canadian premiere), Dialogues of the Carmelites, L’Oca delCairo, Gianni Schicchi, Sir John in Love (North American premiere), Albert Herring, and Cambiale di Matrimonio (Canadian premiere).

Quite a few of her productions were conducted by her husband W. James Craig who, in 1971, became head coach and conductor for the Opera Division. He had been a coach and conductor previously, 1958-64. In 1976, Craig became musical director for the Opera Division, and remained in the position in 1990.

James Craig in rehearsal, photo by Andrew Oxenham

Tonight is opening night of the Opera Division’s production of Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, conducted by alumnus Russell Braun and directed by Michael Albano.

While his career as a baritone performing on stages around the world continues, our Resident Operatic Performance Specialist Russell Braun makes his second appearance as a conductor with U of T.

UofT Opera Production of Patience, March 1990 with Valdine Anderson and Russell Braun

Article by Alexandra Brennan.