Quentin Maclean | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Quentin Maclean

Quentin Stuart Morvaren Maclean, organist, composer, teacher (born 14 May 1896 in London, England; died 9 July 1962 in Toronto, ON).

Quentin Stuart Morvaren Maclean, organist, composer, teacher (born 14 May 1896 in London, England; died 9 July 1962 in Toronto, ON). Quentin Maclean was one of Canada’s most prominent organists. He was noted for the diversity of his musical interests, as well as for his taste, technical skill, and exceptional musical memory. He achieved wide popular success as a theatre organist in his native England and in Canada, where he performed regularly on CBC Radio. His compositions, many of which are held at Library and Archives Canada, are traditional in style, often with a modal tonality.

Education and Early Career

The son of composer and conductor Alick Morvaren Maclean, Quentin Maclean studied 1904–07 in England under Harold Osmund, F.G. Shuttleworth, and Sir Richard Terry; 1907–09 in Vienna under Hermann Graedener; and 1912–14 in Leipzig under Karl Straube (organ) and Max Reger (composition). During the First World War he was interned at Ruhleben (near Berlin), where he met Sir Ernest MacMillan. In 1919, he served as assistant organist to Richard Terry at Westminster Cathedral. He then toured British theatres with the newsman Lowell Thomas, providing background music for the lecture-film With Allenby in Palestine.

Career in Great Britain

From 1921 to 1939, he was theatre organist at many English cinemas; in 1925 he began to broadcast regularly on BBC radio. His performances included the British premiere of Hindemith's Organ Concerto in 1934, his own Organ Concerto in 1935, the inauguration of the BBC theatre organ in 1936, and hundreds of light-music programs and recitals.

Career in Canada

He immigrated to Canada in 1939 and continued his theatre organ career at Shea's Hippodrome (eight years) and Victoria Theatre (two years) in Toronto. During the years 1940–62, he was organist-choirmaster at Holy Rosary Church and taught at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music) and St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. He was heard regularly on CBC Radio, giving recitals and providing background music for plays, poetry readings and children's programs. Through his broadcasts he became one of the best-known organists in Canada.


Maclean maintained high standards in the composition and performance of serious music, both secular and liturgical. His works include concertos for organ (two), harpsichord, piano, electric organ (two), harp, and violin; a dozen pieces for orchestra (including Babbling, Parade of the Sunbeams, and Rondelet, published by Keith Prowse, and Algonquin Legend, 1942, manuscript); a setting of the Stabat Mater; 10 masses, a cantata, and numerous choral pieces; about 50 songs; 21 piano pieces; eight organ works; and a string quartet, three trios, and a violin-piano duo. Maclean's large music library and the manuscripts of many of his compositions are held at Library and Archives Canada.

Further Reading

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