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BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

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1. In Canada, as in most other countries, interest in serious music has increased phenomenally during the last twenty-five years. The perfection and the mass production of radio receivers and of phonographs has had an effect on music which may fairly be compared with the combined effect on literature of printing and, much later, of popular education. Although it is true that most of the music broadcast or recorded is of a light or popular nature, it is equally true that there is readily available to any Canadian genuinely interested in more serious works as much good music as he has time to listen to. There is evidence, too, for the belief that an increasingly large section of the Canadian public is acquiring a discriminating taste in music and has come to know the delight of great music worthily performed. We have been told that there has been a five-fold increase in the sale of recordings of classical music in the last fifteen years;1 and it is possible that there are now in Canada more private collections of good records than of good books. The opinion has been expressed to us that the improvement in taste in music is in part to be attributed to the C.B.C. In this section it will be noted that frequent reference is made to the C.B.C's work in Canadian music and with Canadian musicians.

2. The Canadian concert-goer is also well served. Either through the enterprise of local musical societies or through the national and international concert agencies he is able to hear many of the world's great artists at moderate expense. The principal symphony orchestras of Canada, although none is without financial worries, are now warmly appreciated by the public, and not infrequently attendance is limited only by the size of the auditorium available, a severe limitation indeed in many centres, as we shall be observing later. We have heard with great interest of the encouraging work in opera already well advanced in various Canadian centres, notably in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and London. The C.B.C. Opera Company, using the resources and facilities of the Opera School of the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, has aroused wide enthusiasm in Canada for its distinguished performances of Peter Grimes, Fidelio, Carmen and other operas. The demand for opera in Canada and the ability of Canadians to meet this demand are both well illustrated by the Société des Festivals de Montréal which for more than fifteen years has done so much for Canadian musicians and for the musical life of this country. Canadian music festivals have grown almost incredibly since


their inception forty years ago, as we learned from the brief of the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals, and are now held annually in almost one hundred centres throughout the country, revealing the musical resources of Canada and giving an enormous stimulus both to the activity and to the quality of our musical life. While the public sessions of the Royal Commission were being held in Ottawa in the spring of 1950, the Ottawa Musical Festival Association held its Fifth Annual Festival, and for a week our Capital City was made joyful with the cheerful music of the more than 7,000 competitors who took part. As one of the consequences of the greatly increased attention given to music in Canadian schools, choral societies and instrumental ensembles of non-professional musicians are flourishing, bringing great pleasure to their audiences and, what is more important, to themselves.

3. We have, in brief, been impressed by the many evidences of the vigour and of the variety of musical life in Canada, and, in spite of the many grave problems, we are able to bring in general a reassuring report to those who find in a nation's musical activities indications of that nation's well-being. This reassurance, however, does not extend either to the composer of serious music or to the professional musician in Canada, neither of whom, it is apparent, has benefited appropriately from the vast increase of interest in music in Canada over the last quarter of a century.

4. We suppose that in any country a composer of serious music, particularly if it is of an experimental and non-derivative character, must contend with certain severe handicaps. In Canada, however, in addition to the normal indifference or hostility of audiences to new music and in addition to the consequent reluctance of orchestras and of performers to present music with very limited popular appeal, the composer of serious music is confronted with certain peculiar disabilities and hazards. There are in Canada only four orchestras equipped to present the more serious and more elaborate types of symphonic music. Although these four orchestras, in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, have done valiant work in introducing Canadian music to the Canadian public, it seems to have been their experience that the Canadian hunger for music of Canadian composers is not difficult to satisfy. These four orchestras are all faced with more or less acute financial problems which can be readily aggravated if they venture to present what their audiences consider to be an excessive amount of modern music. A concert of Canadian music given by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in January 1948, although well advertised, was so poorly supported that it resulted in a deficit of almost $3,000.2 Part of this concert was broadcast by the C.B.C. and aroused considerable interest, but obviously no orchestra can undertake such a venture without some form of guarantee or subsidy.


5. Another significant event has been the Symposium of Canadian Music held in Vancouver in March of 1950 on the initiative of the conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and sponsored by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver; this was a great artistic success, and has been hailed by eminent Canadian composers as the most encouraging event in the history of musical composition in Canada. But, although the conductor gave his services to the Symposium and although much of the work of organization was done by voluntary workers, a considerable deficit had to be met by the Community Arts Council.3 This Symposium, which included four concerts of music by thirty-three Canadian composers, was largely ignored by the newspapers of Eastern Canada, but it has apparently given an impetus to Canadian composers and some hope that their work may be heard. As a direct consequence of the Symposium, the C.B.C. broadcast a fourteen-week cycle of Canadian Music, most of which was earlier submitted by the authors for the purposes of the Symposium.

6. In spite of this heartening development, it is true that serious music by Canadian composers is still too little known in Canada. It is doubtful whether many Canadians could give the names of six Canadian composers, and the composers themselves, through lack of a Canadian periodical on music and of funds to establish an effective association, have little knowledge of what their fellow-composers in other parts of Canada are doing. There is no published history of Canadian music; there is no adequate library of music in Canada; and although the two principal Canadian conservatories of music, the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto and the Conservatoire de la Province de Québec have strongly influenced Canada's musical life, we are informed that "no Canadian university . . . offers musical post-graduate courses in musical research".4 Only a small fraction of Canadian composition is available in published form and we are told that the larger and usually more significant works are unlikely ever to be published.

7. The Canadian composer of less elaborate works, for instrumentalists or for singers, finds that the Canadian concert stage is almost entirely dominated by artists with no particular interest in Canadian music who come to Canada from the well-organized and powerful concert agencies of the United States. As a consequence, the Canadian concert goer is privileged to listen without inconvenience or great cost to the world's greatest performers. But the Canadian composer, just as the composer in other countries, does not engage in musical composition merely as an aesthetic or an intellectual exercise. He must get his work performed to satisfy his own creative urge and to improve his craft, to say nothing of earning his living. But his chances of hearing his work adequately presented in a concert hall are probably slighter than those of his contemporaries in Western Europe or in the rest of the Americas. He will already have


been faced with the very difficult if not insurmountable problem of getting his musical compositions published. Until very recently, music publishing in Canada has been on a very small scale and has been largely controlled by British and American interests. It is usually quite beyond the means of the Canadian composer to have his works copied or duplicated, particularly when these are orchestral works. The situation in Canada is now slowly improving but it remains true that most Canadian composers must relinquish their manuscripts if their music is to be performed.

8. Canadian music cannot very well be promoted unless the works are available for distribution. For this reason the Canadian Music Council has set itself the task of establishing a library of carefully selected Canadian compositions from which any of the listed works can be supplied to interested orchestral organizations or performers. This library is to include published material if it is available, and efforts will be made to persuade music publishers to add to the list of existing publications. In this important work of establishing a library of Canadian compositions and in promoting their publication, the Canadian Music Council does not, however, have a permanent secretary since it was not found financially possible to retain the services of an able and experienced musician who, for a little time, acted in that capacity.

9. It is seen that the Canadian composer of serious music is faced with serious handicaps; interest in Canadian music, however, has apparently increased in some measure both in Canada and elsewhere. The International Service of the C.B.C. has done much to make Canadian music known abroad, not only by its broadcasts but by the production of recordings which, through the agency of Canadian diplomatic missions, are brought to the attention of music lovers in many countries. Within Canada the C.B.C. has given frequent broadcasts of Canadian works, many of them first performances. It has also commissioned and produced for broadcast extended works, and throughout the year it engages for a period ranging up to three or four months some twenty or twenty-five Canadian composers to produce the incidental or the principal music of its broadcast performances. We are informed that during one season's performances of the Wednesday Night programmes some ninety compositions by Canadian composers, ranging from songs to symphonies, are produced and performed by the C.B.C. The National Film Board also employs three Canadian composers as part of its permanent staff, and their work has attracted international attention. The Film Board also not infrequently engages additional Canadian composers on a temporary basis to supply background music for a specific production.

10. The orchestra of the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto has greatly encouraged young Canadian composers by giving both public performances and private readings of their works. The Composers, Authors


and Publishers Association of Canada told us in Toronto: "We have made grants annually for the past thirteen years to the Royal Conservatory, something like 1,000 dollars a year, and we have five prizes of one hundred dollars a year for composers".5 The winning works are usually broadcast by the C.B.C. The composition of Canadian music has also recently received an encouraging stimulus through the activities of Broadcast Music Incorporated. Within the last year or two there have been occasional broadcasts of all-Canadian programmes from certain of the larger broadcasting stations in the United States. Of late years several eminent Canadian conductors have presented programmes of Canadian music in Europe and elsewhere, and it appears that these programmes have been extremely well received. Very important and valuable work has been done by Dr. Marius Barbeau and others in bringing to light the folk-music of the country. We are informed that constant inquiries regarding Canadian music are received by representative Canadian musicians and organizations, both from within and without Canada. Indeed so great has been the volume of these inquiries that neither the Canadian Music Council nor any other organization has up to the present time had adequate machinery to deal with them. Much work must be done to collect, to preserve and to publicize existing Canadian music; and much more must be done if the composition of Canadian music is to receive the encouragement which it deserves. Existing facilities in Canada for the publication, the performance and the promotion of Canadian music are inadequate. We believe that the C.B.C., the National Film Board and Canadian orchestral societies have done as much for Canadian music as their means allow. Much more is needed if Canadian composers are to remain in Canada, and if there is to be a Canadian music.

11. The Canadian concert artist and the Canadian professional musician fare rather better than the Canadian composer since they find it not entirely impossible but only extremely difficult to gain a precarious livelihood from their art. As we noticed earlier, the Canadian concert stage is very largely dominated by concert agencies in the United States, although certain musical societies, notably in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, have consistently included Canadian artists in their concert series. No Canadian musician would wish to exclude or to impede the few incomparably great artists whose concert tours in Canada give great pleasure to Canadian audiences and an equally great stimulus to Canadian musicians; and Canadian audiences cannot be expected to be content with indifferent performers only because they are Canadians. But we have been assured that Canadian resident musicians are by no means inferior in talent, in training, and in experience to many of the visiting artists included in the concert series along with the few internationally known "names", and that Canadian musicians resident in Canada, however gifted, are never included in the concert series conducted by American agencies.6 There are concert


managers in Canada who now work on behalf of Canadian artists, but they are severely handicapped in competition with the powerful American organizations and unless the local committees in the more than 150 Canadian cities and towns subscribing to these concerts of American origin will insist that a reasonable proportion of resident Canadian musicians be included, there is some danger that the Canadian concert stage will present no Canadians except for a few expatriates returning briefly for a concert tour of their native land.

12. For the young artist at the beginning of his concert career, to whom frequent public appearances are an essential part of his training, the problem in Canada is particularly acute. He is entering into a highly competitive field largely controlled by agencies outside Canada which have at their disposal great resources in talent, finance and promotional skill. If, by some means, he can arrange a concert tour of Canada, he will barely meet his expenses, and for his livelihood will have to depend on the financially harassed C.B.C. and on his pupils whom he will be constrained to take in such numbers as to impair his artistic career. It is not surprising if he renounces sooner or later the unequal struggle and joins in the exodus to the South, where he has probably received much of his advanced training in one of the highly endowed and well equipped schools of music providing generous scholarships and other advantages to Canadian and American students alike. For in spite of the generosity of Provincial Governments, of musical societies and orchestras, of universities and of business organizations, Canadian scholarships in music are very inadequate for the needs of talented Canadians who deserve but cannot afford advanced study. A partial solution for the problem of the rising concert artist has been provided by the Department of Education in Ontario which for some years has organized and subsidized concert tours in smaller places where concerts are given in school halls. In the 1949-50 season 135 concerts were given with great benefit, no doubt, to musicians and audiences alike. A few Canadian communities have organized a Junior Series of Community Concerts where talented young musicians can acquire the discipline, confidence and experience which can come only from public performances. But much more can and must be done if we are not to lose our ablest musicians. We do not suggest that all Canadian musicians should remain in Canada, providing Canadian music by Canadian composers; but it seems to us unfortunate that so many of our best people should be compelled to go and remain out of the country for lack of opportunity at home.

13. The skilled professional musician, we are informed, is able to practise his art in Canada only because of the C.B.C. which in effect subsidizes our four principal orchestras; and in the opinion of an eminent Canadian musician it would be disastrous to music in Canada if radio were left entirely in private hands. A not unnatural consequence of the C.B.C.'s


zeal in fostering Canadian symphonic music has been the concentration of the most competent Canadian musicians in four centres, with serious effects upon the musical life in the smaller cities, as was ponted [sic] out to us very clearly and forcibly in Regina and Quebec City. It must be expected too that the establishment of television broadcasting in Toronto and in Montreal will further aggravate this problem. We were indeed told even in Winnipeg and in Vancouver that these cities were steadily losing their best musicians, particularly their singers, to Toronto and Montreal where there are more varied and more numerous opportunities for professional musicians. We are in full sympathy with the reasonable complaint that radio programmes from Toronto and Montreal, however excellent, are an inadequate compensation for the loss locally of the most talented musicians; but we can see no full solution for this problem unless the C.B.C is to have at its disposal much greater sums of money to subsidize local orchestras. It may be that private broadcasting stations, as we have said, could employ for sustaining programmes much more local talent than they have found practicable or desirable in the past. For example, as stated earlier, the Winnipeg Musicians' Association told us that none of their members had received any employment whatsoever for sustaining programmes on private stations in 1949;7 and a very well known Canadian singer had not been engaged by a private broadcasting station in fifteen years. But it is doubtful whether any effective measure could be found to stop this centripetal tendency which, of course, occurs, perhaps even more strongly, in the United States, in Great Britain and in France. Unfortunately in Canada this migration of skilled musicians does not end within our borders, and reasons similar to those which bring a musician from Victoria or Regina to Toronto not infrequently prompt him to continue to New York. We have been repeatedly told that this exodus would reach catastrophic proportions were it not for the C.B.C. which, it is apparent, is doing whatever is possible within its limited resources for Canadian music and for the Canadian musician.

14. Although our attention has been chiefly directed to the urgent problems of the Canadian composer and of the Canadian musician, we have been impressed by the representations which have been made to us on a number of impediments to the development of a musical life appropriate to a nation. This country is singularly deficient in concert halls. Without exception, in all the centres which we have visited, we have been informed that the musical life of the community is gravely handicapped through lack of appropriate quarters for concerts and recitals. Even in those rare cities which have an adequate auditorium, there is little accommodation suitable for studios, rehearsals or for concerts of chamber music. It was pointed out to us, for example, that probably no city in the world of comparable size is so inadequately equipped for the public performance of music as Montreal; and this inadequacy in varying degrees is character-


istic of the country as a whole. The view was expressed to us that there were more and better concert halls in Canada fifty years ago than at the present time. In general, the musical life of Canada is conducted in inappropriate and incongruous settings, in gymnasiums, churches, hotel rooms, school halls or in motion picture theatres rented for the occasion at ruinous cost. As a prequisite [sic] to the suitable presentation and enjoyment of music, Canada needs community centres, properly designed and adequately financed. This involves, of course, a subsidy from one source or another, and this country needs perhaps to be reminded that most great music, from Pindar to Prokofieff, has been composed and presented largely through private or public munificence.

15. There are other needs: the folk-music of our people which has come to us from all the countries in Europe should be collected and published; adequate scholarships should be available to our young musicians discovered each year in our competitive music festivals; manufacturers of recordings in Canada must be persuaded, we are told, to do something for Canadian music (there have been no recordings of the Toronto or Montreal orchestras for many years); there is a widespread demand in Canada for more films about Canadian music in response to the few excellent films on music produced by the National Film Board; the Canadian Music Council is eager and prepared, with very little aid, to organize an association of Canadian Music Clubs, an association of Canadian composers, an association of Canadian schools of music, and could lend its great authority and experience to the problems of the Canadian concert musician.

16. For these and other projects which voluntary organizations have already advanced to the limit of their resources, no great financial aid is needed; a relatively small amount of money, wisely expended, could put Canadian music on a footing similar to that in other western nations. It would be difficult to imagine a more profitable investment.

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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