Dalton Baker | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Dalton Baker

Dalton Baker. Baritone, teacher, choir conductor, organist, b Merton, Surrey, England, 17 Oct 1879, d Vancouver 22 Mar 1970; ARAM 1903. He was a choirboy at All Saints, Margaret St, London, and a student at the RAM.

Baker, Dalton

 He was organist-choirmaster at the Chelsea Barracks 1894-6 and at St Mary Magdalen Munster Square, 1896-1903. After 1902, when he sang at a St James Hall Ballad Concert in London, he became known as a baritone of rare musicianship. In 1905, along with Mary Garden, Nellie Melba, and Giovanni Zenatello, he was commanded by Edward VII to sing at Windsor Castle at a state concert in honour of the King of Greece. He toured the USA in 1908 and, with Albani, the British Isles in 1909, and was described as Great Britain's greatest baritone.

Baker emigrated to the USA in 1913 and moved to Canada in 1914 as the first organist-choirmaster at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, Toronto, and singing instructor at the TCM. The critic of The World described his singing after a Toronto recital with Healey Willan at the piano, 1 Dec 1915: 'His voice is fine in timbre, his presentation sincere and unaffected, and his technical attack precise and accurate'. With Ernest Seitz, Baker began a series of Sunday musicales in 1916. He founded the 100-voice Orpheus Society in 1920 and was its director for the three years of its existence, disbanding it (after a final concert, 15 Mar 1923, at which the young Richard Crooks was guest artist) to open a studio in New York. He fell ill in New York and returned to Toronto in 1924. He was soloist that November in a performance - then thought to be the first in North America - of Bach's Watch Ye, Pray Ye (Cantata 70). That same year he rejoined the faculty of the TCM, retaining the post until 1932. During those years he was organist-choirmaster at St Peter's Church, where his 40-voice boys' choir specialized in Gregorian chant, and was singing master at Bishop Strachan School. In 1934 he moved to Vancouver, where he taught privately and was organist-choirmaster 1935-9 at St James' Anglican Church. He was conductor of the CBC programs 'Vesper Hour' and 'Eventide' from 1939 until his retirement in 1956.

Though primarily a performer and conductor, Baker also composed music for choirs. His compositions include a Sanctus, a Kyrie and Sanctus, a choral setting of 'Ave, verum corpus,' and various anthems, one of which - 'Shadows of Evening' - is published by Western Music.