100 years at the Music Library: 1941-1950

Submitted by shawreb on

In 1921, the University of Toronto took over ownership and operation of the Toronto Conservatory and its library collection became the basis for the present-day Music Library. In celebration of our 100-year anniversary, we are in the process of featuring 100 items from our library on Instagram and Facebook. All items were selected by current and past library staff. If you missed them on social media, here they are again. To see all items selected thus far, check out the blog series "100 years at the Music Library". To learn more about the past, present, and future of the U of T Music Library, see the series articles written for Open Shelf, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) magazine: "Becoming University of Toronto Music Library."

The following items were selected and curated by our Music Archivist, Rebecca Shaw.

1941: Kathleen Parlow

Parlow String Quartet

Violinist Kathleen Parlow (1890-1963) returned to Toronto in 1941 to teach at the Toronto Conservatory of Music after more than a decade in the States. Upon her return, she formed two ensembles: (1) the Canadian Trio, with Zara Nelsova and Sir Ernest MacMillan, and (2) the Parlow String Quartet, with Samuel Hersenhoren, John Dembec, and Isaac Mamott.

The Canadian Trio gave their first performance on November 28, 1941 (see program), and the Parlow String Quartet (pictured) gave their first public performance two years later on May 1, 1943 (see program).

Parlow expressed her interest in forming a quartet at the Conservatory in a letter to MacMillan dated January 19, 1941: “I would try to form a quartet. Whether you wanted that attached to the Conservatory or not could be decided later – in any case if it turned out to be a good quartet it would certainly do the Conservatory no harm!"

In the library:
Explore the complete Kathleen Parlow archives, much of which has been digitized

1942: "(There'll be Bluebirds over) The White Cliffs of Dover"

Kate Smith on the cover of The White Cliffs of DoverThe iconic WWII song "(There'll be bluebirds over) The White Cliffs of Dover" with music by Walter Kent and words by Nat Burton was written in 1941. Kate Smith (pictured on the cover of the sheet music shown here) had a top 10 hit with this song in America with her recording (recorded in 1941 and released in 1942). The English singer Vera Lynn made it famous in 1942.

In the library:
Sheet music (1941)

1943: "Leningrad" Symphony no. 7 by Dmitri Shostakovich

The Toronto Daily Star hailed the Canadian premiere performance of Shostakovich's "Leningrad" Symphony no. 7 (1941) by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as "the most momentous orchestral performance ever heard in Canada, [which] aroused the audience to cheers, recalling the conductor [Sir Ernest MacMillan] five times..."

Review of premiere performance

In the library:
Score (Moskva : Gos. Muz. Izd-vo, 1954)
Recording by the TSO (2008)

1944: Reference services at the Music Library

Do you have a music question? Ask the Music Library!

On March 19, 1944, Ben Sugarman, Warrant Officer 2 at the RCAF Station in Fingal, Ontario wrote to the Music Library to request information on “Fingal’s Cave” by Mendelssohn.

Letter asking for information on "Fingal's Cave" by Mendelssohn

Within a week, the Music Librarian (Molna O'Connor) had responded, enclosing the summary pictured below. The quote she provides, although not cited, was likely taken from the book "The Mendelssohn Family (1829-1847) from Letters and Journals" (published 1881). Today, you can view a copy of this book in our Internet Archive collection.

Information provided by librarian on "Fingal's Cave" by Mendelssohn

In the Internet Archive:
The Mendelssohn Family (1881), Vol. 1, p. 204

1945: How to Memorize Music by Charles Frederick Kenyon

Front cover of bookNeed help memorizing your music for your end-of-year recital? Charles Frederick Kenyon has some pointers for you! Published in 1904 and accessioned by the Music Library in 1945, his “little book does not pretend to be anything more than an introduction to a very fascinating, but little written about, subject,” as Kenyon writes in the Preface.

In the Internet Archive:
How to Memorize Music by Kenyon (London: W. Reeves, 1904)

1946: Robert Rosevear

Article announcing the new bandProgram from 1974 concert

In 1946, Robert Rosevear was recruited to the Faculty of Music to help develop the new music education program, which was created in response to a perceived deficit in music specialists teaching in Ontario school boards. The same year, Rosevear started a Symphonic Band to perform "the finest in wind band music in the best arrangements available." Membership was open to Conservatory students and qualified non-students. This band would later become the University of Toronto Concert Band.

In the library:
Article from The Varsity (October 7, 1946) announcing the new band
Program from Rosevear's last concert conducting the Concert Band (April 14, 1974). See the program and listen to the full concert in our Faculty Events collection.

Want to know more?
Listen to an oral history with Rosevear from the University of Toronto Archives

1947: Jean Lavender

Jean Lavender in the new music libraryJean Lavender became the Head Librarian of the Music Library in 1947, a post that she kept until 1973. One of her most notable achievements was overseeing the creation of the Edward Johnson Library in the new Edward Johnson Building. Here she is perched atop a couple boxes. At the time of the photograph, the entire library (80,000 volumes) was packed away in such boxes.

1946-1948: Opera School

Bartered Bride program Excerpt from Pergolesi score

UofT Opera (formerly the Opera School) was established in 1946 with Nicholas Goldschmidt as its conductor and Herman Geiger-Torel as the stage director. They presented their first performance in December 1946 and their first full-length production in April 1947 (Smetana’s The Bartered Bride).

The following year, in April 1948, they staged an English-language version of La serva padrona (The maid as mistress) by Pergolesi. At the Music Library, you can examine the vocal score that Geiger-Torel used for this production, including all of his annotations and alterations.

In the library:
Program from Opera School’s 1947 production of The Bartered Bride, with Elizabeth Benson-Guy as Marie
Excerpt from Geiger-Torel’s copy of the vocal score for The maid as mistress by Pergolesi.

Want to know more? Check out our collection of Geiger-Torel’s opera scores, which he used for productions at the Opera School and at the Canadian Opera Company.

1949: L'Histoire de Babar by Francis Poulenc

Cover of scoreWhat is your favourite children's storybook? Has it inspired a composition?

Poulenc's Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (London: J. & W. Chester, 1949) was a musical response to the well-known children's book Histoire de Babar by Jean de Brunoff (English-language version created by A.A. Milne, The Story of Babar). Written ca. 1940-1945 for solo voice and narrator, its reportedly began when Poulenc's young cousins asked him to "play a story."

In the library:
Score (London, J. & W. Chester, 1949)

Read more about this piece in Keith E. Clifton's article (2019) "Musique à la Mode" in the Journal of Musicological Research.

1950: Leslie Bell

Cover of The ChoristerIn 1950, Leslie Bell published the second volume of The Chorister: “Theory and Sight Reading for Vocalists.” Bell, a choir conductor, teacher, arranger, and composer, had joined the teaching faculty at the university in 1946. His archives are held at the Music Library, including his numerous arrangements and compositions for the Leslie Bell Singers.

In the library:
The Chorister, Vol. 2
Leslie Bell fonds