CPR Festivals | The Canadian Encyclopedia


CPR Festivals

CPR Festivals. A series of music and folk arts festivals held 1927-31 under the auspices of the Canadian Pacific Railway and organized by the railway's publicity agent, John Murray Gibbon, to explore the variety of Canada's cultural resources.

CPR Festivals

CPR Festivals. A series of music and folk arts festivals held 1927-31 under the auspices of the Canadian Pacific Railway and organized by the railway's publicity agent, John Murray Gibbon, to explore the variety of Canada's cultural resources. The festivals were of particular significance in the evolution of music in Canada, representing as they did an early and happy instance of support for the arts by a major corporation, an early attempt to promote serious composition by Canadians, taking into account, moreover, the folk material of the country as a source for such composition, and one of the early concerted attempts to acquaint Canada's many different musical communities and audiences with each other. The festivals, whose activities were centred in CPR hotels in Banff, Calgary, Quebec City, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg, also used Darke Hall in Regina, the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg, and the Basilica and the Auditorium in Quebec City for some of the concerts. The following chronological list cites dates, locations, co-sponsors, the names of the major individual and group participants, and the highlights of the programs, where such information has been available.


Quebec City
20-2 May. Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festival. Other sponsors: the National Gallery, National Museum, and Public Archives of Canada. Participants: Cédia Brault, Jeanne Dusseau, Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye, J. Campbell McInnes, Charles Marchand, Rodolphe Plamondon, the Bytown Troubadours of Ottawa, the Ensemble of Spinners and Folk Singers, the Music Makers of Toronto, Johnny Boivin (champion fiddler of Canada), and the Hart House String Quartet, which played Ernest MacMillan's Two Sketches for String Quartet (which, along with the first movement of the Sonata for cello and piano by Oscar O'Brien, had been composed for the occasion). After the success of this festival the CPR announced the E.W. Beatty Competition (Beatty was the president of the CPR), offering $3000 in prize money for compositions based on French-Canadian folksongs; winning pieces were to be heard at the next Quebec festival.


Quebec City
24-8 May. Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festival. Other sponsors: the National Gallery, the National Museum, and the Public Archives of Canada. Participants: many of those who took part in the 1927 festival, as well as Alexandre d'Aragon, Philéas Bédard, Gérard Gélinas, Wilfrid Pelletier, Léon Rothier, the Canadian Singers, and Les Disciples de Massenet. Special features included a performance of Jean Beck's realization of Adam de la Halle's Le Jeu de Robin et Marion, and the premiere of L'Ordre de bon temps (The Order of Good Cheer), B20, a ballad opera by Healey Willan, based on French-Canadian folksongs. Others who contributed to the festival, as composers and arrangers, were Hector Gratton, Alfred La Liberté, Ernest MacMillan, Léo-Pol Morin, Oscar O'Brien, and Leo Smith. The ethnomusicologist Marius Barbeau also assisted. Winning works in the E.W. Beatty Competition were an orchestral suite by Arthur Cleland Lloyd Suite canadienne by Claude Champagne, a Suite for string quartet by George Bowles, an arrangement for male voices by Ernest MacMillan (Six Bergerettes du Bas-Canada), and one arrangement each, for mixed voices, by Alfred Whitehead (Four French-Canadian Folksongs) and Irvin Cooper. The judges were Achille Fortier of Montreal, Eric De Lamarter of Chicago, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Sir Hugh Allen of London, and Paul Vidal of Paris.


23-6 January. Sea Music Festival. Participants: Poul Bai, Jeanne Dusseau, the English baritone John Goss, Frances James, Ulysse Paquin, the Hart House String Quartet, and Healey Willan, who performed in recital with Marion Copp and conducted a performance of his L'Ordre de bon temps. Two works written for the occasion were Bound for the Rio Grande, an operetta by Frederick William Wallace (on English shanties), and a Gaelic folk play by the Vancouver musician Ethel Bassin. Also featured were solo, choral, and instrumental pieces with connotations of the sea.


15-18 January. Sea Music Festival. Participants: the Amphion Society Choir and the Graham Morgan Singers (both of Seattle), John Goss, Herbert Hewetson, Herbert Heyner, Madame F.X. Hodgson, Frances James, Ulysse Paquin, Josephine Wood. Works presented included Willan's L'Ordre de bon temps, F.W. Wallace's Bound for the Rio Grande, and MacMillan's Three French-Canadian Sea Songs which had been written for the festival.


27-30 August. Highland Gathering and Scottish Music Festival. Participants: the Scottish baritone Robert Burnett, Jeanne Dusseau, Amy Fleming, Mary Stewart, and Theodore Webb. The program included performances of the ballad operas Prince Charlie and Flora and Prince Charming (with songs arranged by MacMillan).

While not an official part of the festivals, also worthy of note is a travelling series of six concerts of British and Canadian music organized and sponsored by the CPR 1929-30, and presented in CPR hotels in Calgary, Regina, Toronto, Victoria, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. These concerts featured John Goss, the Hart House String Quartet, Florence Hood, Winifred MacMillan and Jean Rowe, Frances James, Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, Stanley Maxted, and Lucien and Rodolphe Plamondon.

Banff, Alta

3-5 September. Highland Gathering/Scottish and Music Festival. Participants included J. Campbell McInnes, Jeanne Dusseau, Davidson Thomson, Ruth Matheson, and the Canadian Pacific Calgary Male Choir. Highland dancing and bagpipe competitions were included.


20-3 March. Great West Canadian Folksong-Folkdance and Handicraft Festival. Participants: Poul Bai, Charles Marchand, Selma Johanson de Coster (Swedish songs), Doris Williams (English folksongs), the accompanist Cyril Hampshire, and the music director Harold Eustace Key. This festival featured songs and dances of almost 30 ethnic groups.


30 August-September. Highland Gathering. Participants: Henry Button, Finlay Campbell, Herbert Hewetson, Frances James, Stanley Maxted, and Catherine Wright, all of whom appeared in the premiere of Willan's ballad opera Prince Charlie and Flora, B21, written for the gathering, staged by Alfred Heather, and conducted by H.E. Key.


13-18 November. English Music Festival (held to mark the opening of the Royal York Hotel). Other sponsors: the Lyceum Club and the Women's Art Association of Canada. Participants: Jeanne Dusseau, the Hart House String Quartet, the English baritone Herbert Heyner, J. Campbell McInnes (who spoke on English music), the Ottawa Temple Choir, the organist Harvey Robb, and the English cellist Felix Salmond. Special features were two performances of Vaughan Williams' Hugh the Drover, directed by Alfred Heather, conducted by Ernest MacMillan, and with Allan Jones in the title role; and a performance of F.W. Wallace's Bound for the Rio Grande.


23-30 December. Old English Yuletide Festival. Participants: Herbert Hewetson, Frances James, Josephine Wood. Included on the program were performances of the ballad opera Christmas with Herrick, music arranged by H.E. Key; and a premiere production of Willan's Indian Christmas Play, B24.


19-23 June. The New Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festival. Featuring songs and crafts of recent settlers of 'European Continental extraction,' this festival offered performances by 19 different national groups, including Black Forest dancers and singers and the Bellman Quartet (a vocal group named for C.W. Bellman, the 'Robert Burns of Sweden').


23-8 July. Indian Week at Banff. It featured ceremonial songs and dances, handicrafts, decorated teepees.

Banff, 31 August-3 September. Highland Gathering and Scottish Music Festival. Participants included Frances James, and also Marjory Kennedy-Fraser performing Hebridean songs. In addition to highland dancing, piping, and concerts of Scottish music, Robert Burns' 'Jolly Beggars' and other historic revivals were presented.


December. Old English Yuletide Festival. Participants included Frances James.


19-22 March. Great West Canadian Folk-Dance, Folk-Song and Handicraft Festival. Among the participants was a choir of Welsh miners.


29 August-1 September. Highland Gathering and Scottish Festival. This featured a performance of Willan's ballad opera The Ayreshire Ploughman, B22.

Quebec City

16-18 October. Canadian Folksong and Handicraft Festival. Participants: the singers Émile Boucher and Germaine LeBel, the Bytown Troubadours, Métis dancers from Alberta, the music directors H.E. Key and Oscar O'Brien. The festival featured performances of Willan's L'Ordre de bon temps and Alberic Bourgeois's and Oscar O'Brien's Une Noce canadienne-francaise (en 1830).

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